By Adam Searing, North Carolina Justice Center
Recently my colleague Adam Linker and I had the opportunity from our friends here at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families and Atlantic Philanthropies to leave the North Carolina Justice Center and travel to other state capitols around the country. Packing our bags and braving airport security lines, we visited several state collaborations of organizations working on improving the health and well-being of children.
Our mission in going to Mississippi, Texas, New Mexico and Florida was threefold: First, bring the excitement and experience we have creating and using short video clips to our fellow advocacy organizations. Second, show how easy it is to use basic video and editing equipment. Third, have a conversation in each state how this powerful tool can compliment all the other hard work child and family advocates do every day. As we traveled however, our mission expanded. We hadn’t realized how much we would learn from our fellow advocates and how other organizations’ work would be so relevant to our own efforts here in North Carolina.
This made our trips around the country an enormous privilege that extended well beyond the welcome break from our regular profession of health care advocacy that turning into self-appointed video experts for a few days provides. Across the country at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty we learned how quick “person-on-the-street” interviews turned up large numbers of compelling stories of New Mexicans’ reliance on Medicaid for family health coverage and what happens when that coverage goes away – a technique that went well beyond our own story collection efforts. At Texans Care for Children we saw how different groups working together for children could more easily speak with one voice through using video to highlight their success.
Over at the Mississippi Center for Justice advocates showed us how they were already using colorful animated charts to bring home the enormous effects extreme poverty combined with hurricane-driven devastation have had on the state. And in Florida, an enormously challenging environment with substantial loss of health care dollars means an intense focus on really high-quality production of stories that illustrate the devastating effects of such huge budget cuts on children and families.
We brought these insights back to North Carolina along with another big return on our investment of time. In every state, even advocates who had been using video in their work already were amazed at how our collection of relatively inexpensive camera equipment and basic knowledge of Apple’s iMovie editing program could help make anyone a video expert. In fact, in our own office some of the most successful community organizers and advocates at using video have never picked up a video camera or had much use at all for fancy computer programs. Watching advocates in other states come to the same realization was probably one of the more rewarding results of our efforts.
The other overarching theme from our travels was the enormous work ethic, unrelenting optimism in the face of substantial challenges and the passion for improving the lives of children and families present in every state. Pushing for change, especially for lower income families, is never an easy task. With the recession this has become even harder. But knowing other states are dealing with exactly the same problems we have here in North Carolina with grace and resolve gave us hope in our own work. Clearly use of short video clips to tell personal stories, build collaborations, and compliment our other work is becoming an increasingly important technique. But without the commitment of the people doing the work it simply becomes one more tool among many.
To learn more about our video work you can download our Video Training Manual for Advocacy Organizations and see our Behind the Scenes video where we show how easy it is to shoot and edit a simple personal story video.