Dimensions of Impact | CMSI's "Designing for Impact"

In this installment of the Dimensions of Impact series, we look at another report from the Center for Media and Social Impact: "Social Justice Documentary: Designing for Impact." Written in 2011 by Jessica Clark and Barbara Abrash, this report attempts to advance models for measuring the impact of documentary film by synthesizing previous efforts and developing a framework for evaluation in a complex networked media environment.


CMSI's 2009 study "Social Issue Documentary: The Evolution of Public Engagement" highlighted the expanding "circuits of circulation" through which a documentary and its messages could travel - including websites, social media channels and non-theatrical screenings. "Designing for Impact" reflects further on the rapid shifts in media during the past decade, including the multiplying number of screens (theaters, televisions, computers, mobile phones etc), platforms for distribution, and "potential publics" that can form around a film. "Documentaries travel differently in this new media ecosystem," the report argues. "And they can also play a role in shaping its development."

Video4Change Indonesia Gathering: The Process

On 24 and 25 March, 12 video activists from Jakarta, Bandung, Cilacap, Cirebon, Purwokerto, and Jogjakarta came together at the first Video4Change gathering in Indonesia to share their experiences in making videos for social change with a focus on impact. The gathering was designed as a participatory process where the participants discuss and arrive at their own definitions of terms and indicators of impact based on their knowledge, experiences and contexts.

Video4Change Indonesia Gathering: What is Impact?

On 24 and 25 March, 12 Indonesian videomakers met in the city of Yogyakarta for first Video4Change regional gathering in South East Asia. The first global Video4Change gathering also took place in Yogyakarta almost two years ago. The major focus of the gathering was to discuss the impact of videos made for social change. As such, we looked at impact indicators, assessments, and various new ideas.

Dimensions of Impact | BRITDOC Foundation

In our previous posts, we examined two seminal reports on the social impact of documentary films. The Fledgling Fund's 2008 "Assessing Creative Media's Social Impact" introduced a framework in which compelling stories create social change by going through stages of expanding awareness, deepening an audience's engagement with an issue and thus building stronger movements. In Fledgling's rubric, each of these stages comes its own goals and metrics for success. In "Social Issue Documentary: The Evolution of Public Engagement," the Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) further developed these concepts with in-depth case studies of audience engagement campaigns tied to films that took advantage of diverse "circuits of circulation" constituting what CMSI calls "Public Media 2.0." This is a valuable approach for thinking about how a film's messages, rather than just a film itself, are embedded within a larger media ecosystem and are distributed through both "top-down" and "bottom-up" approaches.

Two years after CMSI's report, UK-based BRITDOC Foundation published "Beyond the Box Office: New Documentary Valuations," a report that picks up on this dialogue around the social impact of documentary films by undertaking an extensive evaluation of the Oscar-winning climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth. BRITDOC has been a leading organization in the burgeoning impact field, both supporting social issue filmmakers directly and building new funding and distribution models through partnerships with Channel 4, Bertha Foundation, Puma and others. They've also helped launch a successful series of live pitching events called Good Pitch that connect documentary filmmakers with activists, organizations and funders working on the same issue. These events have helped formalize some of the recommendations made by both Fledgling and CMSI, creating a forum where filmmakers and activists can meet and forge new collaborations.

Better Practice in Participatory Video Webinar Series

Our friends at InsightShare are getting ready to host a series of webinars on participatory video practices. Email them for more details and stay tuned!


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