Monthly Archives: August 2018

Film-Making and Communications: Twin Powers that Can Effect Social Change

Research need not be confined to ivory towers, nor films to Bollywood.  Make them application-oriented; and they can very well be used to our advantage in ‘communications to drive social change’.

Making place for differentiated skill set in communications for social change

Here is a sector brimming with stories waiting to be shared (with stakeholders, or internally), and decisions waiting to be made, (whether in boardrooms or production studios).  We lend the narrative a framework for visual storytelling, and/or collect and analyse hard data from the field, something the decision makers can thoroughly rely on.

Films and its variants for the social change sector

Few formats have the ability to bring an issue to life the way a film does.  Use them to share experiences, explore, persuade, and create awareness.  In a jiffy, your viewer is magically transported to the place of the action – whether in the heartlands of Uttar Pradesh or the highlands of Manipur.

Use films to document processes – either through a fictionalized format or a series of live shoots, you can document the ground work, processes and outcomes of a particular project.  When implementing the same in a new region, simply get your new partners together and watch the film through a neat 15-20 minutes and it tells all.  Films have an added emotional dimension; and case study films give us a peek into the lives of the people we feature.


Next, the promotional film creates awareness about a project. Tight and succinct, it can help bring different players of the sector on the same page, share knowledge and perspective, and garner support to work towards a common cause. Finally, when films are made to study impact, it combines perspectives and experiences of people who have benefited from an intervention and also the learning and experiences of the planners and executors of the project.

Research and its applications

Using research is the best way to help organizations invest their funds in the right place.  Use it also to determine the future course of your projects.  By and large, research can be clubbed into baseline or endline surverys, need and impact assessments. While qualitative research comes with smaller sample sizes and uses interviews, case studies and focus group discussions, the quantitative kind uses larger sample size with statistical analysis.  Some situations demand combining the two, and this is where research design comes in.  By using research, a radio station could profile its audience and understand programme preferences, for example.  Or go into the tribal pockets and examine how agricultural patterns have changed – if you’re looking to understand what kind of training would be most suitable for the farmers.

And then there are by-products of these formats: case studies, photo-features, articles, reference guides.  A customized product can emerge using any permutation and combination and even be a stand-alone product. In creating all of this, we combine the academic, journalistic and the creative, drawing from its skills and capacities, values and philosophies. As much as it brings value for the company who employ these skill sets, it creates an equally soul-searching and fulfilling experience for us communication professionals.

International Youth Day 2018: The OP Open Thread on ‘Safe Spaces’ with Mohammed Ali

12th August has been christened ‘International Youth Day’ by the United Nations, and this year’s conversation was around ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’. The UN especially recognises the importance of such spaces as part of the ‘2030 Agenda’ for Sustainable Development.

On Purpose took this opportunity to raise some questions on what safe spaces are and how they can be made to fulfill the intentions with which they are created. The answering voice was that of human rights activist, Special Correspondent Officer in the Department of Women and Children, UN, and manager of two safe spaces in Lebanon and Turkey for LGBTQ refugees, Mohammed Ali, on an open call to questions on a Facebook thread which used the hashtag – #SafeSpaces4Youth.

Let’s catch up on some things that stood out from the discussion:

What Safe Spaces are:

A safe space is a space which caters to specific needs of a certain group of people who are marginalised in mainstream communities. They are free from “racism, bias, conflict, or threat from external forces.” They usually cater to a specific cause and, therefore, a certain group attached to it.

The DAD logic:

Mohammed says that this is the recipe for a safe space that can sustain.

Determination to keep it going no matter what, Attachment with the space and its people, and Dedication to spend time and effort to run the space and seek help from people who are equally “determined and attached” to it. Ambitions and needs of the community are worked on as common goals in a safe space and the will to make a difference should light your way.

It is also crucial that a safe space be free of any personal, communal, racial or political opinions that digress from the focus of the gathering and even hurt the sentiments of some members.

An Emotional Haven:

An emotional safe space strives to work towards supporting individuals emotionally and mentally. The inevitable requirement is freedom from demeaning judgement towards the stories of fellow members and encouragement of conversation around mental health with assurance of confidentiality.

Listening Is Your Way of Meeting Halfway:

Communication is an art form and it can be instrumental in leak-proofing a strategy to make sure it aligns with the interests of the community. Ample field work and one-to-one conversations bring us closer to the simple needs of the group, and just the intent of getting to know the community and their aspirations is a good place to start the conversation.

An Oasis for The Unheard:

It isn’t impossible to imagine an effective space even in the midst of a city like Delhi. A peaceful and green public park, Mohammed mentioned, can be an ideal place to begin a meet-up if the basic elements and principles stand in place. Spaces sometimes can be anxiety-inducing and take a toll on people who are introverts. Change of place is also important, as it refreshes people and their minds. “A potluck can unite people and food brings people together.”

A lot of spaces do not advertise themselves as ‘safe spaces.’ But, many organisations work in collaboration with or run their own safe spaces that can be found online or by getting in touch with them.

Safe spaces are essential because while their existence is a measure of the gap that still persists between communities, it also signifies the extent of effort that a society puts into bridging that gap. They become centers of mental and emotional development and ready people to face life’s challenges. In Mohammed’s words, “Foster dreams and foster spaces, and you will foster great minds.”