ICT doesn’t just play a role in our project; ICT is the project. Video Volunteers’ mission is to give journalistic, creative, and technical skills to disadvantaged communities so they can generate a local media service that gives voice to the issues affecting their lives. This has been possible only with the use of technology. We have trained over 100 ‘community journalists’ in video production. Initially these videos were shown to their local communities through widescreen video screenings in villages. However, we have also established an internet based distribution system to complement our local work. We have two big programs; the Community Video Units that function as local media units in villages, and India Unheard, which trains individual video journalists. Both of these use technology to educate people and create knowledge networks that can be easily tapped into.
Video Volunteers’ vision is a global social media network, which provides solutions-based media for marginalized and poor communities around the world. Our goal is to train 500 community correspondents and we want to achieve that in 5 years. In 2006, we started the first 6 Community Video Units. By 2010, we had 100 full time community producers working with us.
We do this because we believe equal participation of all sections of society in development. Lacking access to information and local platforms for the dialogue necessary to devising solutions, poor communities in India rarely participate much less lead the political and development initiatives that affect them. Indian mainstream media fails to focus on issues relevant to poor people, or on the actions of their elected officials. CVUs are already creating local media units that serve about 30 villages each, and we hope to expand these units as we grow.
Another very important milestone for us was the launch of the ‘India Unheard’ program, which is an evolution of the ideas of CVUs. We have trained 32 individuals from villages and small towns in video-journalism so that they can cover local stories that feed into a central network. This program already functions as a stringer network and in the long term, we want stringers in each state of the country.
We are exploring how community media can be used to increase the knowledge base and awareness in the country, and through that advocacy, and to that end we feel we have taken some important steps in the right direction.
The basis of our programs is video, and distributions platforms have increasingly started using the internet to create a more widespread impact. We have encorporate mobile telephones for sms based news and for updating twitter accounts. But to our minds, the real innovation is that we produce community-generated content, and that is what is generally missing in the overall media landscape. The use of ICT is to democratize the media and make it more accessible to people, even if they are uneducated. ICTs have been identified by many international development institutions as a crucial element in developing the worlds' poorest countries, by integrating them into the global economy and by making global markets more accessible. We believe this to be true and therefore are experimenting with these technologies to create a more equitable society.
Also, the most important contribution our project is making through ICTs is enabling the poor in creating its own media, and that facet is what is unique about Video Volunteers and India Unheard.
Our target group is the rural poor, grassroots activists, Indian NGOs and through India Unheard, the larger Indian and world community at large. Through local stories, told by local people, we are hoping to create an impact. Already, one of our stories about the lack of health facilities in the North East has prompted action from an NGO. Both stories (including impact) is on our website.
Our flagship scheme, Community Video Units, reach 300 villages of India who receive regular news and information through us and this is a target population of around 500,000 people.
Video Volunteers is active in the US, India, and Brazil, and has partnered with such organizations as Witness, the Global Fund for Children, Pangea Day, MTV, and India’s leading business school, the Indian Institute of Management, among others.
We are one of 19 winners in 2008 of the Knight News Challenge, a prestigious journalism award that generates over 3,000 applications.
We have won a Tech Museum Award for Equality, a TED Fellowship and an Echoing Green Fellowship, and were short-listed by the Development Gateway Awards.
In 2007 we won the NYU Stern Social Business Plan Competition for our ideas on how a global media industry made up of the poor could become financially viable.
In 2008 we were one of the five shortlisted organizations for the King Baudouin Foundation (of Belgium) International Development Prize.
In 2009, we were awarded a Manthan Award for South Asia for Community Broadcasting.