Friday, October 10, 2008

Democracy Is...

As the economy careens further into recession, more nonprofits are starting to experiment with citizen-made "cause videos" to invite mass collaboration from supporters and rally new ones to the cause. What's key is the community-building and buzz that comes from this kind of crowdsourcing. (Click here to see Part 2—posted today—of the 4-part series on social media that I've been directing and producing with colleagues Cristina Maldonado and Richard Balestrino for Contribute Online and Click here for Part 1.)

Cause videos are one of the least expensive ways to create emotionally resonant engagement with supporters, new media experts agree—and it's no wonder. It's one thing to talk about a problem; it's another for people to be able to share what they see. "A lot of the power of the Web isn't in the technology," says NYU new media professor Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody. "It's in the ability that the Web is unleashing for people to come together, to share things together, to collaborate, to take collective action."

One of the most ambitious, recent examples of this comes from TakingITGlobal, a Toronto-based international youth nonprofit co-founded by Michael Furdyk. Last month, he helped to launch Democracy Video Challenge (DVC), a video-engagement initiative, through his nonprofit's new video-sharing network. (That network, called Youth Media Exchange, invites visitors to "make a video in three minutes or less and join the conversation with youth around the world.")

DVC is inviting people from around the world to make a 3-minute video that completes the phrase, "Democracy is..." Submissions are due January 31. For more on the project—itself a collaboration with 10 other nonprofit and educational groups, including the U.S. Department of State—go here. Says Natalie Rodic, TakingITGlobal's video project coordinator: "What's important for us is the discussion that takes place around the videos."

And speaking of engagement, Furdyk's is one of 7,065 sites (as of today) with a collective audience of some 9.7 million readers taking part in Blog Action Day next week, on October 15, for bloggers who wish to talk about relevant issues in the world. This year's topic is poverty. For more information about this annual, nonprofit event, check out this video below:

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

(Illustration: "Paint Hands" by David Franklin)

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Blogger Matthew Marotta said...

Congratulations on the blog Marcia! I definitely will be checking in regularly to find out what's going on with Cause Global. I also may have some young tech/activist types you might want to meet. Keep up the great work.

Matt (your old pal from China Institute)

P.S. I am living in New Jersey right now. Should be in the area for at least a year or so.

October 10, 2008 at 9:15 AM  
OpenID santiagoschildren said...

Nice blog!
About the videos, I agree it's a great idea and it's a cheap way to reach a lot of people. But it's true as well, that we have the video platforms overflooded with videos.
We have to be careful in a society with information saturation.


October 14, 2008 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Thanks for blogging about this Marcia!

However, I think some of the information is incorrect. The videos need to be under 3 minutes long, and the Democracy Video Challenge is hosted by the U.S. Department of State, and TakingItGlobal and Ymex are partnering with State to help spread the word about this exciting contest!

For more information and to enter please visit:

October 15, 2008 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Marcia Stepanek said...

Val: Thanks for your post. You're right -- they need to be no longer than 3 minutes. Thanks for your eagle eye! I believe, though, that we got the rest of it right when we said that many organizations are involved. But just to be fair to the State Department, I just added them into the post as one of the organizations also participating. Thanks, Val, for your interest and input. We really appreciate it at Cause Global and hope you'll keep reading! Check out the links in the post to find out more! And definitely let us know if you're producing a video, yourself. We plan to start running some citizen-generated feeds onto Cause Global very soon as part of our expansion.

The Editors/CauseGlobal

October 15, 2008 at 12:41 PM  

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