Documentary & Policy Final
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Documentary & Policy Final

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A CSW brief on simple narrative and documentary in policy-making.

A CSW brief on simple narrative and documentary in policy-making.

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  • 1. How Documentary Can Help Craft Policy and Advance Social Change Everyday,  Corporation  for  a  Skilled  Workforce    (CSW)  works  with  policy  makers,   community  leaders,  and  change  agents  dedicated  to  improving  –  even  reinventing  –  the   systems  and  services  that  help  people,  firms,  and  communities  thrive.  Together,  we  find   ways  to  create  new  opportunities  for  working,  learning,  and  engaging  communities  in   building  prosperous  futures.       We’ve  been  there  to  hear  the  “ah  ha”  moments  that  turn  skeptics  into  champions.   We’ve  witnessed  large  groups  of  people  move  from  making  demands  to  offering   contributions.    And  we  know  the  hard  work  it  takes  to  make  even  the  most  elegant,   data-­‐rich,  and  universally  supported  plans  and  strategies  come  to  life.     But  these  victories  do  not  lend  themselves  to  simple  narrative  description.  While  we   have  long  been  eager  to  share  our  experiences  and  lessons  with  colleagues,  peers,  and   partner  organizations,  our  traditional  reports  simply  did  not  convey  the  richness  of  our   experience  in  community  interactions  leading  to  change.     So  we  began  experimenting  with  video.     Early Experiments Mid  Michigan  Innovation  Team.  In  early  2007,  with  the  support  of  a  federal  grant,   education,  economic  development,  and  workforce  partners  from  13  counties  launched   an  effort  to  reimagine  and  reinvent  their  region.  Partners  focused  on  aligning  strategies   and  investments  across  five  industry  sectors  in  ways  that  also  supported   entrepreneurship  and  sustainability.  It  was  a  tall  order  for  this  largely  rural  region  with   no  large  metropolitan  center,  no  shared  identity,  and  little  precedent  for  working   together  on  such  a  comprehensive  agenda.       CSW  supported  the  Mid  Michigan  effort  in  a  variety  of  ways  –  including  embedding  a   “Documentarian”  (Melodee  Hagensen)  in  the  region  to  capture  stories  and  lessons  from   the  initiative  as  they  emerged.   Over  time,  we  captured  hundreds  of  hours  of  video.  We  interviewed  initiative  leaders,   board  members,  project  leads,  students,  teachers,  even  “people-­‐on-­‐the-­‐street”  (at   farmers  markets  and  in  parks  and  other  public  venues).     Almost  immediately,  the  value  of  this  approach  became  evident.   First,  video  combined  the  perspectives  people  from  across  the  13-­‐counties  into  a  single   narrative  helped  leaders  from  across  the  region  focus  on  what  their  communities   shared,  rather  than  how  and  why  they  were  different  from  one  another.     Second,  it  provided  a  reference  point  for  conversations  and  ideas  –  partners  could  ask   each  other  how  their  plans  would  help  address  the  concerns  of  the  region’s  residents  as   expressed  on  video.   Third,  the  simple  act  of  recording  partners  forced  them  to  think  deeply  about  how  they,   personally,  were  invested  in  change  and  why  –  it  shifted  their  attention  away  from   CSW        900  Victors  Way,  Suite  350,  Ann  Arbor,  MI  48108        734.769.2950          skilledwork.org             startgrowtransform.org    
  • 2. “compliance  with  the  terms  of  the  grant”  and  helped  them  see  new  opportunities  to   leverage  resources  for  community  benefit.     Over  time,  we  built  a  library  that  tells  many  stories  –  how  this  community  thinks  about   collaboration,  the  meaning  and  impact  of  its  automotive  heritage  and  capacity  for  the   industries  of  the  future,  its  commitment  to  a  home-­‐grown,  yet  globally-­‐competitive   innovation  and  entrepreneurship  culture.  We  can  now  draw  content  for  many  different   purposes  from  this  library,  sharing  or  contributing  it  in  ways  that  enhance  shared   understanding  and  advance  common  aims.     Building a Documentary Practice We  have  since  built  documentary  work  (video  and  otherwise)  into  many  projects  in  a   variety  of  ways.   Enhancing  Communications:  Innovation  Frontier  Arizona.  In  Southern  Arizona,   community  leaders  launched  a  regional  initiative  to  nurture  talent,  entrepreneurship,   and  collaboration  for  economic  growth,  and  asked  CSW  to  assist  in  communications  and   community  engagement.  Early  on,  we  recognized  that  the  formal  interventions  were   necessary  but  not  sufficient  to  accomplish  the  bold  goals  of  the  project.  Informal   activities  were  needed  to  grow  entrepreneurial  culture  and  encourage  collaboration.   We  embedded  a  local  documentarian  and  social  media  expert  to  raise  awareness  of   these  efforts  by  sharing  video  and  creating  communications  platforms  to  support   collaborative  work.       In  projects  where  we  embed  documentarians,  partners  can  request  that  we  cut  a  brief   video  from  our  library  to  help  illustrate  any  topic.  Sharing  this  video  across  media   platforms  helps  us  create  a  more  whole  story.      Integrating  video  helps  spice  up  presentations  at  meetings  and  conferences  to   keep  audiences  engaged  and  build  support.    Adding  video  to  an  electronic  newsletter  increases  the  number  of  readers  who   open  and  click  through  to  view  the  material,  improving  the  chance  that  partners   stay  updated  and  involved  in  the  project.      A  shared  video  channel  allows  new  participants  to  be  quickly  brought  up  to   speed  and  “meet”  the  other  members.    Inviting  participants  to  share  their  videos  helps  build  a  shared  sense  of   community  and  involvement  in  change  efforts.   Designing  Events,  Supporting  Communities  of  Practice.  We  employ  video  as  a  method   for  engagement  in  events  or  websites  we  help  to  design,  plan,  or  staff.  For  example,  we   partner  with  the  National  Governors  Association  (NGA)  and  the  National  Sector   Strategies  Partnerships  to  build  and  maintain  www.sectorstrategies.org    which  houses  a   toolkit  for  workforce  practitioners  who  are  working  to  advance  sector  strategies  in  their   states.  By  adding  video  interviews  with  leaders  from  11  states,  we  were  able  to  mak  the   toolkit  more  personal,  bringing  connecting  information  seekers  with  experienced   practitioners  sharing  their  insight.     Promoting  Innovation  and  Experimentation.  In  Mid  Michigan,  where  we  are  working   with  regional  leaders  in  education  to  support  a  budding  entrepreneurial  culture,  we   have  used  YouTube  competitions  to  reach  out  to  students  in  the  region  to  understand   the  work  that  they  are  doing  to  create  new  enterprise.  We  also  used  video  to  share  the   stories  of  how  colleges  and  universities  can  be  drivers  of  entrepreneurship  in  the  region.   Documentary,  Policy,  and  Social  Change       2  
  • 3. Building  Capacity.  We  are  not  “videographers.”  We  help  build  the  capacity  of  our  peers   and  partners  to  understand  and  use  video  –  and  not  just  as  a  broadcast  mechanism  but   a  vehicle  for  engagement,  learning,  understanding.  We  work  with  our  partners  to   identify  documentarians  in  their  communities  who  can  work  with  them  –on  their   budgets.  We  may  manage  student  interns  or  professional  documentarians,  helping   them  identify  and  capture  important  storylines  as  they  develop.  Other  times,  we  have   introduced  leaders  to  simple  tools  for  creating  their  own  videos,  by  using  simple  tools  to   capture  exciting  experiences  in  their  work.  Our  partner  organization  in  Mid  Michigan,   the  Prima  Civitas  Foundation,  now  regularly  integrates  video  into  overall   communications  and  engagement  efforts.       Increasing  Transparency.  We  continue  to  experiment  with  new  ways  to  visualize   policymaking,  systems  alignment,  and  social  change  work,  making  it  accessible,  and   ultimately,  more  effective.  We  call  this  “working  out  loud.”   Lessons and Learnings While  how  we  use  video  depends  on  the  nature  of  specific  projects  and  the  goals  we   seek  to  accomplish,  we  have  identified  some  general  purpose  lessons  we  try  to   incorporate  into  all  of  our  work.    Consider  specific  fit  and  application  of  video.  Video  is  fun.  Having  a  camera  can   make  everything  look  like  a  potential  video.  But  video  is  at  once  a  medium,  a   method,  and  a  product:  polished  video  takes  time  to  produce  and  makes  people   proud,  but  unedited  interviews  can  also  meet  the  need.  Thinking  about  the   specific  ways  in  which  video  will  be  used  and  in  what  form  can  help  insure  that   the  process  and  product  meet  stated  goals,  affordably.    Integrate  planning  for  shooting,  editing,  and  producing  video  up  front  –  at  the   beginning  of  a  project.    When  we  first  started  integrating  video  into  our  work,   we  did  so  tentatively  –  capturing  the  formal  side  of  events,  and  then  wishing   afterward  that  we’d  also  captured  the  informal  side.  There  were  also  times  we   were  asked  to  shoot  video  at  a  culminating  project  event,  but  had  no  footage   from  the  project’s  launch  to  compare  or  integrate.  Over  time,  we’ve  become   more  disciplined  about  treating  video  work  in  the  same  way  we  treat  data   collection,  policy  analysis,  facilitation  planning,  or  any  other  product  or  service.    Encourage  others  to  shoot  video  and  share  it.  Often,  partners  are  already   creating  video,  or  can  become  excited  by  the  possibilities  when  introduced  to   simple  tools  and  technologies  that  help  them  share  their  piece  of  the  story.   Creating  a  space  for  sharing  video  allows  us  to  reveal  where  others  are  already   carrying  our  message  and  to  encourage  their  support  and  connectivity  more   deeply.        Announce  your  intentions  and  carry  necessary  permissions.  People  are   comfortable  at  events  where  documentarians  are  filming  and  interviewing  when   they  know  why  the  filming  is  happening  and  how  it  will  be  used.  When   introducing  an  event,  share  this  information  with  the  audience  and  invite  them   to  get  involved  in  the  interviews  and  let  them  know  how  they  can  use  your  video   after  the  event  as  well.  Get  the  blessing  of  community  members  before  you   begin  filming.  Carrying  image  release  forms  allow  you  to  formally  recognize  this   permission  whenever  an  opportunity  to  film  arises.     Documentary,  Policy,  and  Social  Change       3  
  • 4.  Have  fun  –  and  don’t  let  the  technology  get  in  the  way.  The  very  act  of  creating   video  is  a  shared  experience.  Try  to  be  part  of  it  even  if  you  are  holding  the   camera  –  the  craft  of  video  is  more  about  understanding  than  using  the   technology  so  let  the  camera  be  a  bridge  and  not  a  barrier.       Conclusion Video  has  helped  us  to  be  better  listeners,  more  inclusive  community  engagers,  and   better  learners  about  the  change  processes  of  which  we  are  a  part.  As  producers  of   video,  we  have  become  more  aware  of  how  stories  are  shaped  and  told,  the  language   that  diverse  stakeholders  use  to  communicate,  inspire,  and  take  action,  and  the  impact   that  this  powerful  medium  can  generate.     As  we  continue  integrate  this  visual  and  auditory  medium  into  our  work,  we  expect  it   will  become  the  norm  rather  than  the  exception  in  the  ever-­‐more  more  transparent,   networked,  and  socially-­‐mediated  world  of  public  policy  2.0.       Where to find us: (People)   Kristin  Wolff:  kwolff@skilledwork.org  (@kristinwolff)   Melodee  Hagensen:  mhagensen@skilledwork.org  (@melodeekay)     (Websites,  blogs)   www.skilledwork.org   www.startgrowtransform.org   www.ifawired.org/     www.wetoo.org/          (Video)   www.youtube.com/user/Co4Skilled   vimeo.com/user343070     (Twitter)   @skilledwork_org   @wetoo       Documentary,  Policy,  and  Social  Change       4