In this post, Tanya Notley reports on an interview with Jessica Mayberry and Stalin.K, from Video Volunteers, one of the network members. Tanya asks Video Volunteers about how they define and understand Video for Change and how and why they measure the impact of their work.

About Video Volunteers
Video Volunteers is based in Goa, India and was registered in 2006 by Jessica Mayberry, a television producer from the United States after she had spent a year training rural women in India in film-making. The organisation was developed in partnership with Stalin. K., a documentary filmmaker, media trainer and human rights activist from Gujarat, India. Today Video Volunteers have a core staff of around 25 and they work with more than 100 local video reporters based all over India, who they call ‘Community Correspondents’.

Video Volunteers and Video for Change
Stalin says that for Video Volunteers, using video as a tool for social change is ultimately about “forging discourses on untold/underrepresented issues” and in this way  “’change’ is an inseparable part of the ‘video’”. To this Jessica adds:  “it’s also a way to see a more equitable society because policymakers will have access to the needs and knowledge of communities.”

Jessica further explains that Video Volunteers is seeking to address a lack of diversity in news reporting in India:  “One of the problems we’re trying to solve is that there is 2% coverage of rural issues in the mainstream media on any given day. The poor are utterly excluded from the national conversation. The media houses talk about how the stringers network is totally broken in the country. They also talk about how there is no push mechanism, only a pull mechanism. What’s going to change the media? We’re trying to work that out through the models we develop.”
Video Volunteers has changed and developed their model for supporting Video for Change a number of times since their inception. In the most recent model (their IndiaUnheard Community Correspondents model), which they began implementing in 2010, the underlying principles are focused on: supporting local reporters to create concrete impacts their own community, providing local reporters with an income so their community reporting is sustainable, supporting independent media production that is not tokenistic and is sustainable, and creating videos that can ‘work’ in mainstream media while also creating local impact. The model includes both a supported, national network of Community Correspondents and an online platform for sharing the content they produce. Jessica explains that the IndiaUnheard model emerged after they began by asking: “what would it look like for every district, every village in this country to have access to a reporter whose loyalty is to that community rather than a corporate media house?”

Since 2010 Video Volunteers has trained 150 community correspondents of which around 120 are actively producing videos. This model costs much less to sustain than past models they have implemented and is considered to be “more entrepreneurial” since it runs “like a stringers network” with each community correspondent being given two weeks of training and a low-cost (US$100) flipcam to use as well as ongoing mentoring. The correspondent then receives RS1500 (US$26) for each video they produce and around RS5,000 (US$88) as a bonus for when they have mobilised action to address the rights violation they have identified in the video. In the past 24 months at least 50 IndiaUnheard videos have achieved the impact they sought in their video ‘call to action’.

Video Volunteers and Measuring Impact
Video Volunteers identifies four key areas in which they want to measure their impact: 1) impact in terms of addressing the specific rights entitlements violations identified in videos; 2) impact on the Correspondents themselves as they move into jobs that use their local knowledge, not just their manual labor; 3) impact on the community in terms of having their own community correspondent/s; and 4) impact on addressing more systemic social issues (like untouchability and land grabbing). While they have a process in place to accurately capture the first and second forms impact, measuring the third and fourth kinds of impact are far more challenging.

To help measure impact, Video Volunteers has two Impact Managers whose job it is to identify and support impact around videos and to track, document and measure impact. They are planning on hiring seven more Impact Managers this year, for each of seven states where they are now establishing community video hubs. The Impact Managers have developed a list of around 50 indicators that they use to capture the impact of videos and the possible causes for it. These indicators help quantify outputs, outcomes, and impacts including: the number of members from the community involved in the process of making the video, the collaborations formed, legal and statutory bodies who were approached and those who facilitated the process, screenings/meetings held, the number of people directly impacted by the change created. Less tangible things they find more challenging to measure are: the impact of having a community reporter you can trust in your community, the impact of having your story heard and responded to, and the impact of collecting and making available lots of videos from and about a community (or an issue) over time.

In terms of what motivates a desire to invest resources in measuring impact, Stalin explains that the primary desire comes from a need to be accountable to the people and communities they work with. “Video as a medium and tool is intrinsically prone to be voyeuristic. In the human rights arena communities have witnessed many photographers, filmmakers, journalists scooping down on disasters and pathos and flying away without a trace. Video Volunteers believes in empowering communities. Our method and approaches, therefore, cannot be disempowering [and] our approach should be to hold ourselves accountable to the communities. So, committing to create positive change/impact comes from that desire to be respectful and accountable to the communities we work with.” It is also critical that Video Volunteers knows what works since, as Jessica adds, “this is necessary for program improvement.” Video Volunteers know that when a video has impact- more people get involved in screenings and in responding to the call to action in the next video made by the Community Correspondent. In this way creating impact and understanding what creates impact is also about further refining and then creating sustainability for their model for creating change through the use of video.

Key Learnings

  • One way to conceive of levels of impacts may be discrete one-off changes to specific violations (schools get the required number of teachers or new schools get built) and broader systemic changes (the government passes an order to reform a part of the education system)
  • Valuing and measuring impact at a broader community level is difficult but important to understand. For example, how can you value and measure the impact of what it means to the community that they have a reporter in their community that will expose local rights violations?
  • A key challenge is to move beyond measuring the impact of one video and instead looking at the impact of a set of videos, filmed over time.
  • Sustainability of a video for change model is very important to Video Volunteers. How could or should the sustainability (of a video campaign, a project, a model) be measured and critiqued?

In our next post… Video Volunteers Case Study.