One of the main decisions WITNESS made in our recent strategic review was to work more with, and learn more from networks where the cumulative efforts of using video at local, regional, and international levels can create tremendous change. This decision led to a new partnership format that we’re calling “network campaign partnerships.” (I’ll be posting more on these campaigns shortly, and in the next month my colleagues Bukeni Waruzi and Ryan Schlief will be blogging much more about this process so expect to hear much more in the future from all the WITNESS team as we move ahead in this exciting new direction).

A central finding in our strategic planning process was that while more people and groups are using/creating video, more video in itself does not equal more strategic use of video for change. WITNESS will continue to focus on closing that gap in collaboration and partnership with existing local and international movements for change.

Here’s how we arrived at our new campaigning format:

Teams of WITNESS staff have spent time over the last six months focusing on how to maximize our impact supporting movements to use video for change.

We looked for opportunities to complement strong networks of local voices speaking out for change. We looked for the potential to achieve impact through the innovative use of video in multiple forms. And we know that to generate momentum victories need to be both along-the-way and also sustainable and long-term. So we’ve been looking for opportunities for both kinds of success. And since visual storytelling is at the heart of our mission, we’ve been looking for issues that lend themselves to the powerful combinations of images and words that move people to action. As part of a growing wave of video activists worldwide we also looked for opportunities to complement and enhance any existing efforts to use video for change.

Within our work we strive to retain a commitment to a balance between emerging, established and neglected human rights areas across our campaigns, so that’s been a factor in our thinking. And where possible we are looking for issues that are relevant trans-nationally/North-South and across a range of degrees of political freedom and societal open-ness. Of course, given our organizational values and commitment to the grassroots –  the right to ‘be heard,’ active participation and challenging exclusion are critical. And in thinking about this, we knew that WITNESS existing expertise and experience, as well as staff, Board, ally and funder commitment and energy are critical.

More recently the project teams have chosen and begun exploring the two theme areas which we picked after a review process that included over twenty-five potential areas of focus. These two areas are:

i) Gender-based violence in the context of armed conflict and political repression
ii) Forced eviction of communities from their homes/lands because of large-scale development projects (also sometimes referred to as “development-induced displacement”)

In upcoming posts we’ll share more about why we’re excited to be focusing significant effort in these areas.

Challenging exclusion

In addition to these two network campaigns we will continue to maintain a strong focus on excluded, marginalized and criminalized groups within all our campaign partnership work  – for example, supporting people fighting for the rights of migrants, people with disabilities, people living with AIDS,  the urban poor and LGBT persons. Across our work we continue to prioritize challenging exclusion and supporting inclusion, supporting active participation and the right to communicate, and promoting access to information.  You can learn more about our recent work in this area by following, for example, our recent work coordinating support to video advocacy by groups from across Central Asia, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia leading up to the upcoming International AIDS Conference.

A continued focus on individual campaign partnerships

Outside of our network campaign areas we will continue to support a smaller number of individual campaign partnerships with groups whose issues do not lend themselves to the networked approach, who are innovating in video advocacy, and where there are opportunities for real impact in promoting change in human rights policy, law, or practice. To see some recent updates on this work check out – for example, our work with HOPS in Macedonia on challenging police violence towards sex workers, or our work with NCOA in the US to promote laws to protect elder people from abuse, and the ongoing work to support the brave team at RAU to confront politically-motivated violence in Zimbabwe.

One thought on “WITNESS’ Commitment to the Power of Networks

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