Thursday, November 25, 2010

YouTube + Wikipedia = Social Change

WASHINGTON, DC -- What do you get if you combine the video-sharing power of YouTube, the depth of information of Wikipedia and the social change aspirations of an advocacy website? Something called, as I found out last week when I attended its formal launch at AED headquarters here.

U.S. independent television broadcaster, Link TV, launched “the next generation multimedia platform for global development” that combines powerful video stories with the latest “semantic” technology that allows a person, after viewing one of the many powerful short videos showing "good news" development stories, to extract more information about that issue, and then to take action in a variety of ways. is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

After watching a video, you have three options: “Watch More” (as in, watch more videos), “In the News” (to explore an issue in more depth) and “Take Action” (which presents you with a variety of concrete actions ranging from taking political action, donating to a cause or writing a letter to the editor). Every video is tied specific actions that the viewer can take. goes way beyond YouTube, where the end point is the merely emotion elicited by the video. With, the idea is that after the viewer is moved emotionally, the viewer will be moved practically to action.

We got a taste of how good some of the videos are at the AED event when Link TV announced the winners of the ViewChange Online Film Contest. The $25,000 Grand Prize Winner went to a film that tells the highly inspiring story of Kakenya Ntaiya who makes her dream of becoming the first girl from her Maasai village in Kenya to go to college come true. And then she goes one step further. You have to check out this amazing film called “Vital Voices: Kakenya.” After this film was screened, Kakenya stepped forward and told how the film has changed her life.

I was especially captivated by a film called “Burning in the Sun” about Daniel Dembele who returns to Mali to start what is believed to be the first company in West Africa to produce solar panels from local materials. I have a special place in my heart for the beautiful country of Mali, where I spent five years and funded several projects in appropriate technologies like improved stoves and solar fruit dryers.

View all the contest winners in the categories of empowerment, leadership, local/global and sustainability.

A questioner in the audience pointed out that it is possible to make similarly inspiring films on the cheap, without sending out the film crews that were employed for some of these professionally made films. One of the panelists readily agreed and even pointed out that over-produced films can sometimes be counter-productive to the goals of evoking emotions and provoking actions.

People and organizations can share these stories with a variety of audiences, including directly with media and policymakers. They can collect relevant videos, articles and actions into playlists, which can then be shared with appropriate communities via social networks and email. The site offers HTML5 video, adding standards-based support for mobile devices and browsers that do not support Flash.

I am still trying to find out how global health non-profits might be able to take advantage of the power of For example, I was told that will have a constant need to update its videos and I want to find out how we can submit original videos to tap into the power of There are many non-profits with powerful stories to be told, and who have not told them.

Has a new era of video-inspired advocacy action been born? We shall see, and I intend to find out more about this technology and how it can be used, especially for smaller non-profits that lack the means to tell their

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