Hi.  Chris Michael here, the Video Advocacy Training Manager at WITNESS.  I’m excited to start off this training-related series of posts with an overview of what we’re up to with our new training initiatives.  All of the posts in this series will feature some behind the scenes work we’re doing – and we’re inviting you to collaborate with us by providing your feedback, suggestions and ideas to help us enhance our work.  (You can start by filling out this survey!)

If you’re new to WITNESS, we’re a 28 person organization that works internationally to train, equip and support human rights advocates to strategically use video.  We empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.

In our 18-year history, WITNESS has enabled thousands of human rights organizations and defenders in over 70 countries to tell stories of human rights violations that would otherwise remain unseen and unheard. These stories are then used to create lasting change and end abuse.

To amplify and share WITNESS’ lessons learned, best practices and case studies, we are creating an interactive video advocacy planning toolkit that lies at the foundation of our partnerships and successful advocacy videos.  This post is sharing an overview of the Toolkit project and we invite you to help us make it an optimal resource (so please keep reading!).

Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit – Coming Winter 2010

Outside our core campaigns, WITNESS is shifting from a hands-on training model to a more scalable model, with an expanded focus on online training, training-of-trainers and knowledge sharing with peers.  This shift will allow WITNESS’ expertise and tools to reach a much broader audience.  The goal is to create and exchange tools and tactics with our allies and others participating in video for change to meet the needs of a fast-changing field (read more about our new training initiatives).

The Video Action Planning Toolkit is our first initiative.  Based on the VAP, the Toolkit will be a multi-lingual, interactive and open-source toolkit designed to help advocates develop a successful video advocacy strategy.  Designed for both online and offline use, we are working to ensure it reaches an even greater number and range of activists through a streamlined, customizable and self-directed learning experience.

The focus of the Toolkit is to support users, primarily human rights defenders, interested in creating advocacy videos.  The guide, which is a step-by-step series of questions, is broken down into two parts: Planning (from pre-production through evaluation) and interactive exercises.  For clarity, the Toolkit will not be a primary resource for production-related exercises (how to get good audio whilst filming, for example).  There are a host of great resources that we will point folks to (if you have suggestions, please add them in the comments).  Users will answer questions throughout the guide and upon completion, users will have an in-depth downloadable (it’ll be a PDF) VAP that they can share with colleagues, allies and funders.

Throughout the VAP, where appropriate, users will be able to add their own examples of video advocacy – videos they have worked on and want to share as well as ones they have seen or used in their advocacy work.  In addition to the VAP, users will be provided a host of additional resources and information via internal and external links, ranging from case studies and sample budgets, to tips on safety and security and resources to help plan and evaluate the impact of their video.

WITNESS Methodology

WITNESS’ core methodology is “video advocacy”, an approach we pioneered to use video as an integrated tool in human rights campaigns.  Our experience with our partners has proven that powerful images and stories have an unrivaled candid authority that can help prompt awareness and action when seen by the right people at the right time and place.

Video advocacy is about using visual media as a targeted tool that will engage people to create change.  Video isn’t a magic advocacy tool – it is optimally used together with other activities, such as press conferences, newsletters, brochures, lobbying (a focused effort to have government authorities or elected officials take some action that you want them to take), etc.

Videos made by WITNESS and our partners have told dozens of critical and untold human rights stories, and have galvanized grassroots communities, judges, activists, media, and decision-makers at local, national and international levels to action (see WITNESS case studies).

Snapshot:  5 Core Principles of Video Advocacy

  1. Video for a specific purpose, not about something
  2. Know your audience – whose eyes, not how many eyes, is what matters
  3. Know the action you want your audience to take
  4. Choose the best message and messengers to move your audience to action
  5. Choose the right time and the right place to ensure your audience sees your video

“Hey Chris, What Does this Have to Do With Training?”

That’s an apt question, so let me elaborate.  For 18 years, WITNESS and our partners, allies and collaborators have been developing and enhancing a Video Advocacy Plan (VAP).  The VAP is the bedrock of our partnerships and video work – a comprehensive planning tool to help our partners and trainees plan and swiftly execute everything from the (often neglected) pre-production of a video through the distribution and impact evaluation.

It is a beast of a document – a 25-page questionnaire.  We haven’t promoted it too much without the benefit of contextual introductions – in a training, via a presentation, our in WITNESS’ book Video for Change, etc.  However, it remains the best video advocacy planning tool that we have, so it’s no surprise that when we went through a strategic planning process (read all about it),  we heard we should do more to make it available and useful to folks we cannot reach directly through our partnership work.

Please Join Us and Help Us Make the Toolkit a Great Resource

Though we have established an expertise in video advocacy and trainings, this is our first endeavor in e-learning and interactive training tools.  Fortunately, we are working with UX Interactive, a  developer partner to augment our gaps.  But, we do not want to develop this Toolkit in a vacuum! After all, it is intended to support many of you and the human rights activists that we all want to support.

So, here are five ways we invite you to get involved

  • You can start by filling out this survey!
  • Share – help spread the word by sharing this post on Twitter, Facebook, etc. to help us spread the world about this new initiative;
  • Volunteer – join the early-early user testing and give feedback on content, case studies and the flow of the Toolkit;
  • Translate – we always are looking for experienced translators to help translate all of our training materials; and
  • Ask – please add your questions and ideas below in the comments field, which I’ll incorporate in the next posts – the next one addresses the primary audiences for the Toolkit.


6 thoughts on “Training Series: WITNESS is Creating a Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit and We Want Your Input

  1. Here is the field guide to audio and video recording the legal side http://www.newmediarights.org/page/field_guide_au… , which New Media Rights can help filmmakers with at any time just call 619-591-8870 or email me at mera @ newmediarights dot org

    Also I really like the 10 Tactics video which discusses different tactics you can do to expand your human rights campaigns using communication strategy and tech tools, http://www.informationactivism.org/en/viewonline

  2. Simply just wanted to point out I really enjoy your work on this blog and the top quality articles you make. These type of post are generally precisely what keeps me going through the day. I uncovered this post after a good friend of my own recommended it to me. I do some blogging and site-building personally and I am always grateful to observe others giving top quality data towards community. I most certainly will absolutely be following and have book marked your web blog to my personal myspace account for others to check out.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Cody. Up next on this series will be a more in-depth look at the folks we are working to reach, and how we're hoping to reach them. If you come across sites or projects you think are fantastic, especially related to video advocacy, please do send them along or share via the blog.

  3. This is an awesome way of getting a great toolkit together for human rights advocates involved in video production. Right now I am working on bringing Mozilla's Drumbeat initiative to California through an event. I have found using the Drumbeat wiki and sharing information, being transparent is very useful to other organizers. Also I am working on emphasizing the importance of Article 19 through a campaign and encouraging people to create videos on the site. I would love to help out with this toolkit, let me know how I can help.

    1. Thanks Mera. Can you share more or a link about your projects? We are looking to share our 10-day video advocacy curriculum and invite folks to remix and use it; so, I'd love to see how you're building your site(s). And, we'll be in touch regarding the Toolkit and for testing. Thanks!

      1. Hey Chris, I would love to speak with you more about this via my email meraszendro at gmail dot com. The Drumbeat wiki is here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Drumbeat/events/SanDiego , another site that I work on with my job is http://www.newmediarights.org/ where we offer free legal assistance on copyright and online publishing, we create guides about creative commons and fair use as well. Also we focus on media policies to get ppl involved in demanding media policies for the public interest. If you email me I will let you know where the Article 19 site is where we will look to gather video submissions and blogs about how ppl feel about their right to communicate. We are looking launch this site in about a week or so.

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