Pledge On Camera: How Anti-Genocide Student Activists are Ushering-In a New Era of Video Advocacy

Video is not only the medium of our time, it is the primary medium that student and youth activists are creatively and effectively harnessing to advance social change. With the Pledge on Camera campaign, we are seeing the ‘YouTube generation’ in action – and this month, we’re seeing them change how citizens are lobbying Congress.

Pledge On Camera is designed to remind Congress of the moral and political imperative to ensure that genocide will not occur on their watch or in the future – to make “never again” a reality once and for all.

To support this message, student anti-genocide activists from STAND, WITNESS’ partner and the student-led division of Genocide Intervention Network, are mixing and using a variety of increasingly accessible tech tools – from webcams to mobile phones – to amplify voices from their state calling for legislative action to end genocide and mass atrocities.

From November 6-9, nearly 1,000 student anti-genocide leaders from around the country will convene in Washington as part of Pledge2Protect, a conference designed to educate, empower and highlight the work of activists who are driving the movement to prevent and stop genocide and mass atrocities.

On the last day of the conference, Monday, November 9th, activists will screen and hand-deliver 100 personalized videos on the Hill – one for each U.S. Senator – as part of the largest lobby day in genocide prevention history.  In this first phase of the campaign and in support of the lobby day, students have created 500 video messages for their Senators.  Chapters in each state will choose the best messages from their state and integrate them into the core video below that STAND and WITNESS have produced (see full credits).

This video playlist features a few example student messages to their Senators

And this is the core video that they’re remixing…

So why video and why now?

Recognizing the change in the use of video for advocacy and the power of STAND’s 850-plus high-school and university chapters across the US, we wanted to see how video could not only be made for a group of key decision makers – but individualized for each decision maker.  We wanted to integrate video into this campaign to see how a decentralized, motivated network could quickly create, share and edit multimedia content targeted to key decision makers – in this case U.S. Senators.

Through our years of video advocacy at WITNESS, we know how video can be a powerful medium for storytelling for change and bolstering advocacy efforts. Additionally, we’ve learned how useful video is to bring people into a room on lobby day, so we wanted to see how activists could invite citizens in their state to add their voice to prevent genocide – from friends and family to faith and community leaders.

We also wanted to use some of the content in WITNESS’ Human Rights Archive, which has over 3,000 hours of human rights footage. In addition, we wanted to partner with other archive projects like Voices of Rwanda, which is dedicated to recording and preserving testimonies of Rwandans, and to ensuring that their stories inform the world about genocide and inspire a global sense of responsibility to prevent human rights atrocities, to ensure key decision makers not only heard from policy experts and advocates, but also from survivors of genocide and mass atrocities.

Because WITNESS could not do trainings with each of STAND’s cross-country network of chapters to support them in their process of creating videos, from planning through production, it created “Video for Change: An Online Guide to Video Advocacy.”  This comprehensive online toolkit has some of the best content from WITNESS’ training curriculum, re-created and re-purposed for STAND and the campaign’s priorities and needs.

Though the online guide will be repurposed for other campaigns, it was an alpha-test for WITNESS to see how training materials and resources could be used and adapted for online, decentralized video advocacy. From the beginning, we at WITNESS wanted to try this model of decentralized, online video creation – from training to filming to editing – to see how we, our partners and those interested in using video for change could create personalized videos for individual decision makers.

We will be writing a report after the lobby day to not only share what happened, but to share the lessons learned so others can take up this model of video advocacy and remix and enhance it.

Stay tuned, but you can take action now!

If you want to help make “never again” a reality, join the national anti-genocide chorus and call 1-800-GENOCIDE to reach your senators’ offices TODAY and ask them to take the lead on making genocide prevention a national priority.

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