VV’s Background – A Community Media Model

What is Community Media? Community media is media that is for and by communities. It empowers those who produce it (and appear in it) with a voice; it builds the social capital of a community to address critical local issues and it gives people full control over their own narratives. And often, it communicates people’s needs to authority and leads to concrete resolution of local problems.

Our History Since our inception, the leaders of Video Volunteers, Jessica Mayberry and Stalin K.,have been asking one key question: what kind of model will enable community media to scale to every local community in the world?

Before devising our current model, IndiaUnheard, we prototyped several different models of community-owned media. These all, to varying degrees, included the following four crucial elements we identified: the intellectual, creative, and leadership development of community media-makers; Community ownership of the content creation process; solution-oriented stories; and community discussion and viewing of the content.

Our Different Models

Community Video Units: In these hyperlocal media units, a group of 6-10 Community Producers produced a monthly 30 minute Video News Magazine and then screened it in the same 30 villages each month. 13 Community Video Units were set up with 13 leading NGOs in India.

Video for Livelihoods: In the favelas of Sao Paolo, Brazil, young people learned to set up video businesses. This program built on our research with the Indian Institute of Management- Ahmedabad into how a local media unit could be sustainable through wedding videos and other forms of commercial production. We trained 10 young people with the arts organization Casa das Caldeiras.

VideoActive Girls: We developed a toolkit for NGOs that work with adolescent girls to start their own media empowerment programs. The project was done in partnership with the DC-based Global Fund for Children, and two Girls Media Groups were started with the NGOs Kolkata Sanved and Hyderabad-based Mahita.

Women Monitoring Women’s Empowerment: This community media model attempted to invert business-as-usual in development sector ‘monitoring and evaluation.’ Instead of outside experts studying whether poor women are ‘empowered’ by a particular intervention, in our project, program recipients instead used video to say whether and how they thought they were being empowered. 20 women were trained as part of a UNDP-IKEA self help group initiative called Swayam.

NGO Media Units: Between 2003 and 2005,17 different NGOs in six different countries invited us to give them technical assistance on media projects in six countries. These volunteer-led efforts to build the video capacities of NGOs taught us much about the challenges and promise of community video.

Videoshala: In the Videoshala (literally ‘Videoschool’) project, local community members were trained to produce educational videos on citizenship, diversity and democracy and to screen them to children in their classrooms. The project was started in response to the increasingly right wing educational content that was put into textbooks after the 2002 Gujarat riots. The initiative was funded by the QUEST Alliance and the International Youth Foundation (IYF).

Community Radio: Video Volunteers’ director Stalin K. has helped to develop the field of community radio in India and the structure of several community radio initiatives, and served for over five years as the convenor of the Community Radio Forum in India.

A Globally Scalable Model All of this experimentation and learning helped us ideate our current model IndiaUnheard. We believe this is a globally scalable model that can contribute significantly to the global movement to democratize the media. Why? Financial scalability. We are now producing in a way that is financially viable for both local producers and the media industry. In a global media environment in which ‘citizen journalism’ means either intensive, expensive short term documentary workshops or the ‘accidental video’ produced by citizen journalists during high profile crises, Video Volunteers has created something new – an innovative, scalable, low cost model for empowering large numbers of marginalized community members to regularly publish articulate stories. This provides a template for what a ‘media industry at the base of the pyramid’ could look like.

Want to know more? Check out our annual reports to read about other campaigns, projects and initiatives with other technologies we’ve undertaken over the years.

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