Tag Archives: Videos for Good

This USAID Video in Haiti Shows USAID is Working to End Poverty

Based in Washington, DC, USAID is the world’s premier international development agency. USAID works to help improve lives, strengthen communities, and advance democracy. As its website says, “USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity; demonstrates American generosity; and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.”

So we at Dorst MediaWorks were proud to have been selected to work with subcontractor Nathan Associates to tell the story of USAID’s investment in Haiti’s private sector.

Our Washington, D.C. video production team set off for Port-au-Prince to spend a week documenting Haiti’s progress. What we encountered was a country that is still mired in extreme poverty, but with certain bright spots of hope.

This video production shows the experience of one factory employee, Hermine, who after suffering the devastating effects of the Haiti earthquake, is one step closer to her dream of owning her own home and providing a solid education for her son.

Hermine’s company received a grant to upgrade its equipment and open up a new business unit making t-shirts for sale to American companies. As a result, our hero, Hermine, gets promoted and takes on more responsibility. We see her training staff on the production room floor. Ultimately, with her salary increase, Hermine buys a small plot of land (to replace the house that was destroyed in the earthquake).

USAID’s investments in Haiti’s private sector help empower women and youth. This creates trading partners for American companies and helps Haiti on its path to self-reliance.

 

Dorst MediaWorks | Videos for Good. We are a video production company in Washington, D.C. We make videos for US-based international organizations. We’ve been to more than 100 developing countries, and are committed to treating our clients, subjects, and crew kindly, especially across cultural and language barriers. We aspire to authentic character-based storytelling and exemplary service. So, when its time to raise awareness, do some fundraising, or simply show results, call Dorst MediaWorks. Let’s make some Videos for Good.

Vietnam Documentary Videos

One of the benefits of making a video in Vietnam is elbow room.

I’m flying Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, reportedly the busiest air traffic route in the world, with 20 daily flights. Our 787 Dreamliner must seat 500 people, and there’s not a free seat in sight. But far from cramped, I feel fine.

At 5’10” 165 pounds, I’m the largest person on the plane.

Vietnam video team

I’m in Vietnam to make a series of short documentary videos for the International Monetary Fund to chronicle their cooperation with the Vietnam Government. It’s a bit of a success story, with millions of people escaping poverty in the last generation alone.

One of our first stops is the National Economics University, where in addition to interviewing the director, I visit some classes and talk with students.

Smart and bilingual, these 20-year-olds couldn’t have timed it better. They’re coming of age when Vietnam is opening up to the world.

They are a testament to how the country’s strong education system is positioning it well to take advantage of the opportunities that are brimming in the world’s biggest regional economy, which stretches across southeast to east Asia and represents half of global production.

How far they’ve come! It’s insane to consider is that their parents very likely suffered through the famine of 1984, and their grandparents endured the “War of American Aggression.” Their great-grandparents resisted the French occupation as subjects of French Colonial Indochina.

Indochina map Vietnam

Life is changing fast here, but these young adults are not looking back. They’re practical, motivated, and good-natured.

One of their dream jobs is working for Samsung, which has hired more than 160,000 employees in Vietnam and is set to export $50 billion worth of phones, TVs, and other goods this year alone.

After the Government’s sound economic management, such foreign direct investment is the single biggest factor in a resurgent economy.

Anna Saigon, 5 stars on trip advisor, is bubbling with internationals. Shaking beef (bo luc lac) and pork chops are the stars, and the Bia Saigon beer is light enough to down two at a time (ummm, it’s hot and humid here, don’t judge)!

Steve drinking Vietnamese beer

The next day, back in Saigon, we hit up Sax N Art jazz club, which has an international cast of legit jazz artists. Sebastien is on keys and trombone — sometimes both at the same time! He stole the show, but hey, as a a pianist, I’m partial. The owner, Tran Manh Tuan, is on a multi-country tour. A prominent jazz saxophonist, he’s created something special here in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City.

Sax N Art Jazz Vietnam

 

 

 

Organizations That Do Good: Here’s How To Communicate Results

Because we’re all hard-wired for story, focus on people and their passions first, not on your own programs.

It’s been more than 4 years since I first wrote about Kinote, a coffee farmer in Meru, Kenya who was working hard to build a larger house for his family.

For a DC-based client, I was in rural Kenya to tell Kinote’s story. The larger context was the agricultural extension agent (and his NGO) who was helping the farmers improve yields and sell direct-to-market.

Despite the many differences between us, Kinote’s quest to grow his business and provide for his family was something I identified with.

His story came rushing back to me as I added new clips to my company’s updated reel, “Videos for Good.” [Dorst MediaWorks Reel 2018].”

That’s because Kinote’s two young daughters are the first two people you see in the video, wiping sleep out of their eyes crawling out of bed.

Kinote’s not alone. Every person in the reel brings back a torrent of memories for me, usually their hopes and dreams.

There’s a lesson there.

I’ve been to 25+ countries to tell stories for organizations that do good. The topics are diverse and sometimes complex—capacity building in the Agricultural Ministry in Afghanistan, microfinance in Lebanon, and corporate governance in Colombia, Egypt, and Azerbaijan.

How do you tell these stories? I mean, corporate governance and capacity building are super abstract.

It’s the people and their passions.

I don’t recall the details of the programmatic interventions on any of these project, but I definitely remember the hopes and dreams of the people I chose to film.

LeCow is a Brazilian teenager from a sprawling favela who’s dream is to become a musician (13 seconds.)

Sara wants to grow her clothing company and export from Ethiopia to America (34 seconds. Spolier: She succeeds, and I see her products at The Gap at a Maryland suburban mall 12 months later!)

Rabih’s chief ambition is to grow his fishing business in Lebanon (At 38 seconds.)

The beautiful thing about the documentary video process is that you give voice to people. Done properly, it’s founded on listening. You look people in the eyes. You follow and observe them. In their own voices, whether that’s Meru, Arabic, or Tagalog, they share what matters to them.

Why do I remember LeCow, Sara, and Rabih like we met yesterday?

Because we’re all hardwired for story.

 

Focusing the lens at the cusp of change

As a storyteller for organizations that do good, my focus wasn’t always on people and their passions.

Early on, I found myself writing scripts that featured the organizations that hired me, rather than their beneficiaries.

My big “aha moment” came during a strategy session with a big multilateral client that does a lot of work throughout Latin America.

They were understandably focused on programmatic nuts and bolts: logistics, buzzwords, metrics. They were in their own world.

I just wanted to learn about the people they serve.

Fortunately, the Director of Communications had just spent a week in the field and she had a lot of great stories.

The people we want to focus on, we all agreed, are no different than you or me. They have jobs and families. They have a past and a future.

Finally, the makings of a script outline! What if we just show their before and after, I proposed, and be honest about how your organization is helping them achieve their dreams?

Exactly.

Kinote is doing his best to increase coffee production so he can build a three-room house, tripling the size of his current house.

Rabih (00:38), the fisherman: “My dream is to expand my business, and buy a larger boat.”

Maxima (00:41) who I met in the slums of Manila: “I intend to keep working to provide a better future for my grandchildren.”

Kinote, Rabih, and Maxima are agents of their own change. Today, their families and communities are better. Our project helped them along the way.

That’s the story.

 

Organizations that do good: a conduit of authentic communications

So much of successful communications by organizations that do good is simply getting out of the way.

Are you the SCR arm of a Fortune 500 company working in your own community? Let the people you help tell their own story in their own voices (and minimize the product placement on your branded t-shirts in the video!).

Are you a large issue-oriented nonprofit, focused on water or nutrition or women’s reproductive rights? Your best stories feature the people benefiting from your activities.

Are you a foundation funding 501(c)3s? Is there a way that people can help illustrate the larger issues you care about?

The Dorst MediaWorks reel “Videos for Good”  speaks to these creative choices, with animated text: “What is your greatest dream … goal … hope … desire.”

Hala in rural Lebanon: “I started alone in this (flower) business. But today I have four shops and four employees.”

Success!

Anthony, in Kenya: “Visiting them (the farmers) you’ll see bigger smiles, because there’s hope now.”

Success!

Again, animated text: “My health … civil society … conflict … economy … education is better.”

“My governance … agriculture … rule of law … job …is better.”

It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing nonprofit marketing, a fundraising video, or nonprofit media of any kind.

Focus the lens on the people you serve. Help them tell their own stories in their own voices. In so doing, you’re connecting your audiences with hopes and dreams that resonate.

“My life is better.”

Like Kinote.

 

Lessons Learned

  1. Let the people you serve tell the story
  2. Their passions are the secret sauce in impactful storytelling.
  3. When they achieve their hopes and dreams, with a little nudge from your organization, this illustrates results.