Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Leverage Networks and Change the World - with only $5,000

I majored in Communications a long ago.  My senior thesis was a film portrait of a United Farm Worker boycott organizer. I was also volunteering to help picket Safeways and liquor stores selling Gallo wine.  Later on, I joined up with a well-known documentary filmmaker, Peter Adair, and served as producer for several works he directed under the Adair and Armstrong banner. Until last year, with the exception of a 40th birthday surprise for my wife, I hadn’t directed a video since my college days.

A couple of years ago, the Ohana Foundation, funded by musician Jack Johnson, awarded Roots of Change a grant of $5,000 to help create a more sustainable food system in the U.S. After thinking long and hard about how to use the money to create a significant impact, we came up with the idea of a call-to-action video, presenting some of the sharpest sustainable food issues and offering a brief review of some of the efforts to change course.  ROC's key mission, in my mind, is to support the work of other organizations from many issue areas connected with food and farming: social justice groups including labor and healthy food access, environment, and production agriculture. That’s why we decided the video should also serve as a showcase for key food and farming groups and offer viewers a chance to connect with them and support their efforts.

I woke up with a vision for the video a little over a year ago: just text and still images over a Bo Diddly drum beat.   We hired Adam Goldstein to search for and edit the images.  At first we tried combining the images and text but Adam convinced me of the wisdom of separating them so that the viewer could focus on one thing at a time.  Daniela Aceves and Shoshona Bochner dug for dozens more photos until we were satisfied. Daniela cleared the rights, contacted all the organizations, and set up the webpages.  Michael Becker, our composer from the old Adair and Armstrong days, created the sound track pretty much as a favor.  ROC President Michael Dimock provided the food system expertise and editorial guidance. The title “Food Movement Rising” was inspired by Michael Pollan’s article in the New York Times book review section. He generously allowed us to use the name and Tweeted his support.

Many people find the video too fast to absorb. My hope is that the speed and power of the images trigger an emotional engagement so that they’ll watch multiple times and spread the word to their friends. 

To me, the most critical and compelling aspect of this campaign is what happens after the video.  ROC offers a web page with logos and descriptions of 26 organizations and the chance to simply check a box to connect with as many of them as you choose.  We did this without requiring any of the organizations to promise to publicize the campaign. At the same time we hope these groups and many other people see its value and lend their support: by publicizing this one video and connection page, you are really supporting the overall movement.   This fits well with ROC’s role to encourage a wide variety of organizations to work together to change the food system. And it communicates our message that all the issues need to be dealt with simultaneously to create very basic, system-level change.

I’ve now moved on from ROC but I'm still supporting their efforts.  So far, the video has almost 4,000 hits on YouTube. I’d appreciate any feedback and, of course, any promotion of the video and campaign that you feel you can muster. Here's the link to the ROC -  After the video, click on Connect.  Thank you.  

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