08 December 2010

ViewChange We Can Believe In? A (Video) Tool With Great Potential

I was contacted by ViewChange to discuss the release of their new website and tool for sharing videos amongst the aid/development community.  A partnership between LinkTV and the Gates Foundation, ViewChange,
brings together powerful, evidence-based videos that demonstrate progress in global development. Working with non-profit organizations, film distributors, and individual filmmakers, we combine at one site documentaries, news reports, and viewer-generated films of varying length and style.
The following post is based on my discussions with ViewChange and are my own thoughts and observations about the site.
ViewChange presents a tool which is aimed at people who are within the NGO and nonprofit circles.  By bringing together videos onto a single site, ViewChange people the opportunity to more easily access what has already been published and use the available resources when communicating in the capacity of outreach, marketing and advocacy.  The site has a lot of potential, but could use some minor tweaking in order to meet the needs of its intended audience.
VC Front
The front page (left) is simple and intuitive.  A user can select a video based on topic and has the ability to see what videos are featured in the prominent center icon. However, from here it begins to get a little tricky as there are few labels and instructions on the site.  I was fortunate enough to have someone guide me through the site, but found it to be useful to have the explanation.  This means that I would have likely missed out on some features if it were not for the help.

For example, when clicking one of the subject options a similar screen appears with two distinct differences.  First, there appears a new column on the right hand side (see below).
Full Pg 2
This allows the user to to see the selected topic and the number of videos available. Hovering over “Narrow By” is simple as it will allow the user to pare down the options into selections based on sub-topics and/or location.  This is a rather simple and useful function as it can allow for specific sorting.

page turn

On the right-hand side appears a bar with a single dot, 1/2, and a circle of dots (see left). This is how you would “turn the page.”  Hovering over the selections will come up with “Zoom Out (next page).”  In looking through the site before talking with ViewChange I both did not know what to do with this feature and largely ignored it.  It did not give me the indication that it brought up the next set of videos and it was so small that I barely noticed it.  Simplicity is great, but for me this is a bit of a miss. 

Getting to the videos themselves, I was happy to see their high level of functionality.  I would suggest going to the site to see the set up, but also take a look at the video below to see the functionality of their videos and the ease with which they can be shared.
What I find particularly impressive is the way that ViewChange has integrated the ability for a user to access similar videos, news articles and make the step towards action.  The potential of this is exciting since it can provide access to education about the issue and give someone interested the ability to act immediately after watching the video.  By being a step removed from the producer of the video (ie. the NGO), an individual can be presented with different opportunities in regards to what do to next that will allow for the ability to make better decisions.

I was explained that ViewChange had formed partnerships with various organizations to provide the information for the “Take Action” tab and hope that they will be forward in looking for organizations which provide rights-based and sustainable approaches to development.

Although they did not mention it, I think that this can become an education tool for students who do not know where to go when researching a topic.  It is not at the level of sophistication for a PhD candidate, but is perfect for a high school junior writing a paper on microfinance in India.  By having an easy way to search for the topic and the access to supplementary, the student can begin researching the topic with a much stronger foundation than a Wikipedia article.  

The uses for education are great, but that does not meet the intended target of NGOs and nonprofits. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I would like to see their focus to be spent on engaging students, bloggers and journalists.  As I often discuss on this blog, there is a large crevasse between the realities of development and public perception.  ViewChange can be the opportunity to fill the crevasse.

What encourages me most about the potential to provide education is the fact that since they are a part of LinkTV, ViewChange has the ability to reach a larger audience by airing episodes focused on development on LinkTV.  This means that development related issues, examined in depth, can be reaching households on a regular basis.  Some might call that a 'game changer.'  I was told that it is still in the process of development, but the episodes would provide further information about the videos and stories on ViewChange and by doing so can take people beyond a five minute clip.  As a person who strongly feel there is a need for more education when it comes to the field of aid and development, the potential for this idea is enormous and exciting.  This reason alone, not forgetting the good videos already available right now, is why I think you should keep tabs on ViewChange over the next year.


Thank you to Lina Srivastava for fine tuning assistance for this post