As 2009 comes to a close, we celebrate our collaboration on the Transmedia Activism site and the launch of our new transmedia design consultancy that is thriving as we turn to 2010. To mark a good year for us, we give props to some great, innovative initiatives by others working at the intersection of media, arts, culture and social change. Each of these projects immerses us in a new world through a compelling story, crosses sectors and disciplines to create a rich experience, and/or presents a new idea or solution designed to lead to positive change.

This is not a “best of” list as much as it is a survey and an appreciation. (A list isn’t our usual m.o., since our usual pathway through ideas grows in a spherical, not a linear, direction.) After enjoying the following projects we found particularly noteworthy (presented in no particular order), please add projects and sites that inspired you.

+ 3 Generations **
http://3Generations.org
3 Generations works with survivors of genocide and crimes against humanity to provide opportunities for them to share their stories. In April 2009, the organization launched a beautiful cross media platform that is a study in storytelling as well as a tool for activism that distributes global information about genocide and details “cultural regeneration” as a crucial part of recovery process. The organization launched its new multimedia online platform to create a narrative thread that highlights our common humanity, presenting survivors’ stories, news and information, and culture-based initiatives, such as documentary film, oral history, witness testimony, creative writing, narrative film, fiction and photography.

+ Pray the Devil Back to Hell Global Peace Tour 2009 and International Peace Day
http://praythedevilbacktohell.org
On September 21st, 2009, individuals and organizations around the world celebrated the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. As an extension of Pray the Devil Back to Hell’s September Global Peace Tour, Fork Films, Film Spout and the filmmakers organized a series of successful community screenings to spur discussion and create support for international peace-building efforts. (Special mention to the curriculum the filmmakers created for inclusion with the DVD to support discussion and learning about women, peace and security.)

+ Hope House/Kids with Cameras House Parties **
http://kids-with-cameras
On October 2, 2009, 75 hosts celebrated Gandhi’s birthday by holding house parties around the world and raised more than $25,000 to support Kids with Cameras’ construction of Hope House, a facility that will provide a state-of-the art learning environment and a safe haven for up to 100 girls from Calcutta’s red light district– the area depicted in Born into Brothels– to live, go to school, and develop the strength and skills to change their own circumstances. The organization has created a thorough and easy to manage party/screening hosting kit that they continue to provide to interested donors and supporters.

+ Disrobing for Climate Change
2009 saw a lot of people taking their clothes off to get you to act about climate change and environmental degradation. Greenpeace (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HNnWnfOkzg and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOikDujAdTc&feature=related) and 350.org (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdz555JBIwY) did PETA one better in getting our attention. While not always effective (we’ve heard a few people say they would support global warming if it meant watching models take off their clothes– besides being a sort of distracting, though not unpleasant visual while trying to learn about fluorocarbons), we give kudos to each for their originality, engagement and targeted action-setting.

+ Behind the Veil
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/behind-the-veil/
Through online videos and interviews, the Globe and Mail’s series Behind the Veil tells the story of the women of Afghanistan, who live under conditions of constant violence and repressive social codes. As the Globe and Mail editor notes, “Like us, these women hoped the intervention of the outside world would improve their lives; like us, they have been largely disappointed. In fact, for many of the women of Kandahar, what was to have been a march toward a brighter future has turned into a retreat back to the past and in some cases, back to the burka.” But the site moves beyond a mere effort to raise awareness by not presenting only all that is wrong in these women’s lives– it too creates a connective narrative thread between the women and the larger world around them by exploring “places where our lives intersect around family and work, around their hopes for the future that aren’t much different than ours.”

+ The Age of Stupid
http://www.ageofstupid.net
This was perhaps one of the most innovative and robust cross platform campaigns of the year. On May 22, 2009, The Age of Stupid team launched the “Indie Screenings” (http://www.indiescreenings.net/) distribution model, which allows anyone to purchase a license to screen the film. Licensing fees are set on a sliding scale according to the purchaser’s means, and licensees can charge for tickets and keep the profits. (The film’s distribution model generated 682 screenings in the first four months and approximately £55,000 in revenue.) The film’s launch on May 22 was followed by a panel discussion about climate change, which was broadcast online. Add the green carpet, carbon footprint stats and the soundtrack that includes Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Boots Are Made For Walking, and you have some pretty good karma released.

+ The End of the Line
http://endoftheline.com/
This documentary’s Take Action page and information handouts at screening were direct, to-the-point and easy to follow. The question of overfishing is given its due in stark, clear terms and the solutions to that are presented in the same way. Moving beyond “ambient awareness,” the film’s engagement and action plan can claim a direct link between its efforts and the decision of Marks & Spencer, one of the largest chains in the U.K., to turn its back against unsustainable fish.

+ Resist Network **
http://resistnetwork.com
This initiative has created a participatory social action platform dedicated to rectifying divisions brought about borders and walls through the idea of resistance, and presents content toward the fight against systemic poverty and issues related to forced migration. The site engages participants to contribute crowdsourced ideas toward an upcoming film on the US/Mexico border wall and systemic poverty, and presents videos, art and infoactivism ideas and solutions.

+ Chez Bushwick **
http://Capitalbushwick.wordpress.com
This interdisciplinary arts organization has created a cross‐sector coalition dedicated to creating and demonstrating social impact in the neighborhood of Bushwick, using cultural assets that are distributed across a variety of channels.

+ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Mapping Initiatives
http://www.ushmm.org/maps/
An amazing site rich with vital information employing media-rich maps that document historical and contemporary accounts on global genocide. The site features the World as Witness, which provides citizen reports of genocide and related crimes against humanity ongoing today, using the web and Google Earth. With ongoing updates from at-risk areas, you can see on the ground reports of both who is targeted and efforts of response to the violence. The site also has Google Earth maps of key Holocaust sites with content from collection demonstrating the scope and impact of Holocaust. (This work started before 2009, but is ongoing and noteworthy — so we are including it.)

+ Human Rights Watch Multimedia: http://www.hrw.org/en/multimedia
The organization relaunched its website this year, building on thirty years of work utilizing both investigation and targeted advocacy in defense of human rights around the world. Noteworthy for both the scope of their work and impartial reporting, their recently relaunched and more easily navigable website in 2009 sets their rich media resources squarely at center stage and presents a rich area with podcasts, audio, photo essays as well as crucial textual documentation on diverse array of topics, such as maternal mortality in India, living with landmines across the globe, Burmese resistance to government dictatorship, and Burundi’s criminalization of the LGBT community.

+ Living Galapagos
http://www.livinggalapagos.org/
This bilingual, interactive, multimedia storytelling site produced by students at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism explores humans’ impact on the Galapagos Islands. The beautifully made site uses a map platform to guide the user to discover the devastating results of environmental degradation, the introduction of non-native species, illegal fishing and unsustainable tourism.

+ Wasteland
http://www.bombayfc.com/wasteland/
Bombay Flying Club, an independent media company in Denmark, this year launched the Wasteland project, a series of web documentaries about industrial pollution, with the first film presenting the story of illegal coal collection workers in Jharkand, India. The site is gorgeous– almost too much so, relying heavily on the seductive power of imagery over the solidity of information or ideas– but is compelling in its fully-realized storytelling elements and presents stories of people most of us (even we savvy activists, mediamakers and academics) rarely consider.

+ Digital Democracy TV
http://www.digital-democracy.org/ddtv/
This fledgling organization develops information and mobile- and internet-based communication tools to address the needs of vulnerable members of communities where they work, aimed at strengthening social bonds and fostering networking and civic participation. They’ve created a rich cross-media approach to engage participants, donors and beneficiaries, concentrated primarily through their video blog, broadcast online, as well as their website and social networking sites.

+ Filmmaker-in-Residence (NFB)
http://filmmakerinresidence.nfb.ca/
A collaborative cross-media project initiated by The National Film Board of Canada, this innovative project places mediamaking into the hands of citizens. For the first project, the filmmaker is detailing the stories and challenges related to health care and is working with doctors, nurses, researchers and patients to access and create media.

+ Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films **

http://bravenewfilms.org/

Long at the forefront of innovation of documentary form in digital era, particularly with an array of tools using social media/networking or as they say “activism 2.0.” Absolutely tireless with ongoing important updates sent via website, twitter, Facebook on contemporary political issues, from health care to war in Afghanistan, Greenwald and company recently launched Brave New Educators, generously sharing footage and resources from the recent documentary Rethink Afghanistan: http://rethinkafghanistan.com/ for university students to analyze critically and remix with complete freedom. In Los Angeles, USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy and Occidental College both partnered this fall with Brave New Films.

+ Open Youth Network
http://www.openyouthnetworks.org/
A program of the Department of Interactive Arts and Media at Columbia College designed “to help bridge the digital participation gap by educating girls and urban youth to use emerging technologies, games and social media so they can make a better future for themselves and their communities.” It partners with community organizations, non-profit media centers, schools both in Chicago and nationally. Check out the site especially for great blogs from the youth participants.

+ Tactical Technology Collective
http://tacticaltech.org
This Bangalore-based international NGO helps human rights advocates use information, communications and digital technologies to maximise the impact of their advocacy, through a rich series of resource guides, toolkits, events and web-distributed videos– including the effective “10 TACTICS” site, http://infoactivism.org, which details ways for rights advocates to capture attention and communicate a cause, including a film documenting inspiring info-activism stories from around the world and a set of cards with tips and advice. Chapters of the film and cards are serially released on the website every week.

Special Mentions:

TED (http://www.ted.com/), for their distribution of video talks, which cross the spectrum of ideas dealing with technology, design, arts/culture, science, global concerns. TED talks are consistently interesting and inspiring insights into cross-sector discussion, and innovation and innovators.

Pop!Tech (http://www.poptech.org/), for its dissemination of ideas via their information platform, linking an interdisciplinary and global network of those interested in ideas around the social impact of new technologies. The site features videos from broad ranging areas of arts, technology, design with special focus on innovation with concrete outcomes for positive social change. Pop!Tech, besides sponsoring a conference and platform, places great emphasis on collaboration and cross-media project-based solutions-building throughout the year through its sponsorship of innovation fellows and an innovation lab.

Business Innovation Factory Story Studio (http://businessinnovationfactory.com/iss) Another rich collection of videos featuring stories of innovation, the BIF website is a great model of spreading ideas for social innovation with material organized by innovator, theme, and channel.

P.O.V. (http://www.pbs.org/pov) for presenting interesting mission media and documentaries supported by a direct-action online platform which is engaging and entertaining.

Social Edge http://socialedge.org from the Skoll Foundation for links to multiple blogs on social innovation, as well as a rich stream of information via Twitter.

Stanford Social Innovation Review http://ssireview.org Rich with ideas and solutions-based social innovation projects, in text, podcasts and a blog.

Changemakers http://www.changemakers.com/ site features storytelling from around the globe that is focused on grass roots, community-based change.

Think Social http://think-social.org/ non-profit initiative supported by The Paley Center for Media dedicated to advancing the use of social media in the public interest.

And finally, a special mention to these academic projects:

Iraqi Doctors Project http://iml.usc.edu/iraqidoctors/ university undergraduate class multimedia project led by IML Associate Director, Virginia Kuhn, and documentary filmmaker D.J. Johnson, which saw students remixing Johnson’s documentary film into a variety of audio-visual essays based on their particular academic area of study/interests. The result was a model we used in the Rethink Afghanistan remix class this year.

Negarpontifiles from her site http://negarpontifiles.blogspot.com/ and twitter feeds @negaratduke, Negar Mottahedeh keeps us updated on latest news from Iran, but also all things interesting and innovative in social media and education. Oh yes, and she organizes the twitter film festivals as well, now in its second year! http://twitfilmfestival.blogspot.com/

Digital Storytelling in and with Communities of Color http://blog.lib.umn.edu/afroam/storytelling/ Walt Jacobs and Rachel Raimist co-taught course produced a wonderful site that features both student projects, but also a thoughtful front page video on pedagogy of digital storytelling.  Professor Raimist, now at University of Alabama, also was instrumental in putting together a classroom/open lab  at University of Minnesota for Gender Studies, that is now named after her, Rachel Raimist Feminist Media Center http://gwss.umn.edu/resources/media.html

(** Note: professional affiliation)
(Cross-posted at http://linasrivastava.blogspot.com/2009/12/mission-media-in-2009-presenting-ideas.html)

Advertisements