June 7, 2012

New YouTube channel shines light on human rights

People are harnessing the power of video to tell their stories

Target audience: Human rights advocates, NGOs, cause organizations, foundations, nonprofits, social enterprises, journalists, educators, public.

Guest post by Matisse Bustos Hawkes

When I first started working at WITNESS almost exactly nine years ago, Web video was still in its infancy. YouTube was still a dream and two years from launching and “user-generated content” was three years away from being declared Time magazine’s coveted “Person of the Year” (with the emphasis on the person being “you”).

WITNESS was founded on the belief that powerful personal stories about human rights abuses shared via video could inspire change. We partnered with human rights organizations around the world, provided cameras, trained them in the basics of filming, how to conduct interviews and gather B-roll, and eventually, produce videos. The videos became part of their campaigns and messages directed at decision-makers in government, business, communities and courts to advocate for specific and lasting change, for justice and accountability.

WITNESS provided 25 cameras like these SonyHandycam Hi8 to its first partners in 1993.

I share this background to how we operate in the world because, as any reader of Socialbrite will know, the last few years have brought tremendous and fast-paced change in video technology, how it’s used and who it’s used by. And that last point is perhaps what is changing what we do at WITNESS the most. Continue reading

September 23, 2010

Witness: Putting a face on human rights

Witness: Documenting human rights from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAlot of people don’t think of video when they talk about social media, but it’s a critical part of the landscape. “Witness was founded on the idea of testimonies and powerful stories,” says blog editor Matisse Bustos Hawkes. “Formulating a story that can reach your intended audience is an incredibly effective way of putting a face on an issue.”

You’ve likely heard of Witness (they prefer the all-caps WITNESS), the international nonprofit that provides video storytelling training to human rights organizations around the world. Witness was founded in 1992 by musician and activist Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation as a project of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First.)

While Brooklyn-based Witness is not a political organization, “there are a lot of things happening in the current events landscape, the news cycle, that can be seen or thought about in a human rights context,” Matisse said, citing the Iranian street protests of 2009-10 and the Saffron revolution of fall 2007 in Myanmar (Burma).

Witness helps frame and shape a story with the objective of reaching a target audience with a specific goal in mind. But Witness does not exist simply to convey the news. “We are telling a story from a particularly perspective,” as a documentary filmmaker might — from an advocacy perspective framed with the lens of human rights, she said during an interview at Personal Democracy Forum 2010.

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo. Continue reading

July 9, 2010

Where to volunteer this summer, and beyond

From Fabien Cousteau’s Plant a Fish site.

This is part of The Causemopolitan‘s summerlong series of guest posts that will inspire you to get involved and give back. For more, see Cause It’s Summer!

Guest post by Susan McPherson

This summer I seem to have even more enthusiasm and energy to support the causes that I’m passionate about. I can’t pinpoint the exact reasons why, but perhaps it’s knowing that I’m shortly embarking on a new career as well as reading the blaring daily headlines about the tragedy in the Gulf.

So here’s my thought: What if we could take the extra 3-4 hours of sunshine that we are so graciously provided every summer day and use that time to give back to some of those fabulous organizations that need help? For every interest, passion, category, location that exists, there is a worthy nonprofit organization that is dying for volunteers and support – young and old.  

Below, I’ll share some of my favorites:

Plant a Fish: ‘Replanting’ key species

Have you ever thought of planting a fish, an oyster or another sea creature?  Intrigued?  If so, check out Plant A Fish, a new nonprofit founded by Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the legendary ocean explorer, Jacques Yves Cousteau.  Fabien’s goal is to help children and communities around the world “replant” key species in their local waterways – rivers, lakes and oceans.  

The organization will also be helping with the relocation of various sea animals affected by the Gulf Oil Spill.  If you are passionate about our planet, the outdoor world and the environment, I encourage you to sign up today.  Within the next few years, there will be Plant A Fish communities created in cities around the world. Follow on Twitter: @plantafish.

Bpeace: Help women affected by war & conflict

Job creation.  Nice thought, don’t you think?  Have you ever considered how much holding a job can mean to someone?  We often take for granted the fact that a paycheck comes every week or so, but there are millions around the world who aren’t so fortunate.  What if you could help women in areas of the world affected by war and conflict, build their businesses and create employment – places like Afghanistan, El Salvador, Rwanda and Bosnia?  What if you could use the skills you have acquired over the years to help train others to run more efficient and profitable businesses?  

Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) is a group of businesswomen dedicated to helping women in regions of conflict and post-conflict build businesses to sustain their families and strengthen their communities. Whether you choose to visit one of the above-mentioned countries and provide expertise on the ground, or work while at your laptop or mobile device, Bpeace can truly use your brainpower. Follow on Twitter: @bpeacehq Continue reading