Witness unveil the Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit.

Last summer I completed an internship with the not-for-profit organisation Witness, based in Brooklyn, to develop the Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit, which went live last week. The toolkit incorporates Witness’ decades of experience training rights advocates worldwide to use video in bringing about positive change. By shifting this training online Witness can reach many more activists, as demand for training far outstripped capacity. Under the watchful eye (and moustache) of the marvellous Chris Michael, I was involved in the initial stages of development and drafting the text; the task was to find a workable solution to an ambitious and complex technical need. Read Chris’ introduction on the Witness blog for the science bit.

Witness was set up by Peter Gabriel (of Genesis and ‘Sledgehammer’ fame) in 1992 after he videoed personal stories of those he met while touring with Amnesty International’s Human Rights Now! tour in 1988.  The police beating of Rodney King in 1991, captured on a handycam by a member of the public and beamed around the world, cemented the role of video as a valuable tool in defending human rights and exposing perpetrators; Witness was born.

Making and distributing a video has become technically easier over the years; anyone can pick up a video camera or mobile phone, press record and upload it to YouTube. However, the skill in effectively delivering an advocacy message in that video requires thought, patience, more time (and probably money) than you would initially imagine and asking tough questions of yourself and your organisation.

The Video Advocacy Planning Toolkit is not a ‘how-to’ guide to film making, although there are links to resources advising on getting the best out of your video visually, but taking on board Witness’ expertise on strategy, security and distribution are a must before picking up a camera. Is making a video the right medium? Who is the target/primary audience for your video and how will they see it? Does your primary audience have the power to influence change? How will you protect the safety and security of your crew and contributors? The toolkit asks searching questions which in the end will give your video more impact.

The toolkit is split into 12 chapters to take you from the initial planning stages to distribution. There are instructional videos, links to further resources and case studies from other advocates who share their experiences in making a video for advocacy.

You can save and return to the toolkit at any time and your plan can be downloaded to share with others. It may look like a lot of work to start with, but completing this plan will save you time and money in the long run and ensure all those working on the video are working to the same message and strategy.

The toolkit was released at the end of September and Witness will need your feedback in order to make improvements and ensure users are gaining a valuable resource.  Witness will be giving away flip cams to the first toolkit users and providers of in depth feedback, so have a go and report back to them. Good luck and well done Witness!


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