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Why WITNESS and Other Nonprofits Are Adopting the Serious Business of Monitoring and Evaluation

By Sara Federlein Last month, The New York Times “reviewed” the still-in-the-works Participant Media Index designed to measure the impact and engagement of social issue documentaries. Anyone in the nonprofit world knows that “impact” and “engagement” are the buzzwords du jour. But more than a passing fad, impact evaluation is serious business — one that many of us in the social change realm grapple with every day. This has not always been the case in the 18 years I’ve worked in the sector. Funders have increasingly driven the trend, asking grantees to not just monitor our progress, but also develop innovative ways to quantify that progress and share our learnings more broadly. In this way the nonprofit world is catching up with the fields of medicine, psychology and education — all of which have embraced “evidence-based practice” over the past two decades.

Video4Change Indonesia Gathering: Interviews

A video featuring interviews with the participants of the first Video4Change gathering in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The young and productive video-makers were keen share their experiences on how to measure the impact of their work.  

Video4Change Indonesia Gathering: Evaluation

Since our recent Video4Change gathering was the first of its kind in Indonesia, we made some observations and received feedback on design of the gathering. We gathered video makers from different backgrounds with varying level of expertise. This became a plus point for us because there provided diverse perspective to the discussions. But it also posed a challenge, however, as they had different level of understanding and awareness about video its use in advocacy. So, instead of going deep into discussion about impact, we had to start with an open forum to ensure everyone understood basic concepts. Our recommendation for other such gatherings would be to start with basic discussions about video, advocacy and impact at the very beginning so everyone is familiar with the concepts and terminology.

Video4Change Indonesia Gathering: Personal Impact

"From this film, we recognized our own situation," Muna Rif'Atil, a member of the Qariyah Tayibah community learning center said in comment to the film 'Lost Identity'. The film tells the story of young people in Salatiga, Central Java, who have lost their cultural identity in the face of rapid modernization. Most of the participants of the video for change gathering in Indonesia were not able to clearly define the impact of their video, though they all had an understanding of their goals or the reasons for producing their films.

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. While past Video4Change (V4C) materials and research findings were used as guidelines, we found that self-definition was crucial to keeping the process more realistic and reachable.

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