Youth media projects do not always need to be long-term, ongoing programs to have impact. Many youth media professionals question whether it is worth doing a project if it can only bring a one time opportunity to young participants. Thus, waiting to launch a lasting, more continuous youth media initiative is often seen as more productive.
Yet, any opportunity for young people to creatively express themselves using and constructing media is effective. Because of its ability to be replicated quickly and less-expensively, short, one time youth media projects may be just as effective as long term youth media projects.
For example, theoneminutesjr. project—initiated in 2002 by the European Cultural Foundation, the One Minutes Foundation and UNICEF—offers 5-day workshops where experienced video artists train people ages 12-20 on basic camera skills, story development, directing, and production skills. At the end of the workshop, each young participant has made his or her own one minute film. All three organizations that helped launch this project have numerous other initiatives, but the oneminutesjr project is a model that has provided opportunities to bring out young people’s voices without having to commit to major long term planning or funding.
Short Projects, Easy to Fund
As funding is a pressing issue for most youth media projects, one of the benefits of short-term media projects is that the price tag is lower, which makes a project more accessible. If an organization wants to develop a long-term youth-empowerment-through-media program, it must invest a lot of time and money. Sometimes, the initial investment becomes so prohibitive that the project has to be cancelled. With a short-term, less expensive project, young people have a better chance of getting access to the project in the first place. And if it succeeds, there is also a better chance of the organization getting more funding to continue similar projects.
theoneminutesjr. began focusing projects mainly in the European regions, but recently expanded to a global initiative. In 2007, UNICEF planned the first pan-African oneminutesjr. workshop in South Africa, inviting young people from South Africa, Burundi, The Gambia, Sierra Leone and DRCongo to participate in the process. The films produced—all on the theme of the Rights of the Child—were so popular that UNICEF was able to fund three more workshops in the Philippines, Jordan and India.
Planting the Seed
Even though long-term programs typically provide more in-depth experiences, an organization’s time, energy and money is often devoted to only one place. Short-term media projects allow organizations to visit numerous communities and bring opportunities to a wider range of young people. UNICEF and its partners are able to share the oneminutesjr. experience with at least 20 countries a year. In 2007, UNICEF sponsored workshops in South Africa, DRCongo (2), Russia (2), Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, India (2), the Philippines, Jordan, Ukraine, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates. As a result, over 250 kids in 14 countries had the chance to make their own one minute films.
Short term projects plant the seeds and open opportunities for this work to spread—especially projects that publicly present the final product. If you bring a small-scale media project to a community where young people can get excited and adults see the power of youth media as an experience, there is more of a chance of engendering on-the-ground support for future work.
For example, in a workshop in Amman, Jordan, 16 young people ages 12-19—half of who spoke English and the other half Arabic—inspired facilitators by their fresh ideas and ability to translate for one another. Their final 16 one-minute films were high in quality and screened to a packed house, which included family, friends and even Princess Reem. After the screening, representatives from the Royal Film Commission, which had generously given the space for the workshop, were so impressed with the process and the product that they started discussing the possibilities of continuing the project on their own.
Connecting Young People Around the World
Short term projects offer opportunities for young people around the world to express themselves. Seeing the affect of youth media in one city is powerful; but to see this experience reach multiple cities around the world is expansive. Whereas long term projects are often limited due to resources to working within one country or community, short term projects offer opportunities for cross-cultural connections and inter-dialogue because of quicker results and diverse locations.
A 5-day workshop is a way to link young media makers all over the globe. For example, in theoneminutesjr. initiative, each workshop starts off by showcasing work from around the world, which typically expresses both the personal views of young people and the cultural perspectives that naturally arise from the setting, locale, language, and traditions in each film. The participants get to watch and discuss what kind of thoughts and perspectives other young people have. Knowing young people produced such great films inspires youth to believe they can create similar work. To effectively link young media makers together, all finished films are uploaded onto theoneminutesjr. website and young filmmakers become part of its’ worldwide network—enabling youth to view work and comment on-line.
Young people in countries around the world have creative potential but the opportunities are not there for them to explore it. Developing a high-quality, long-term program is certainly desirable, but often takes time and significant expense to implement. With short-term projects, young people are introduced to what it means to have their voices heard. They learn what it’s like to be given responsibility to think for themselves and be listened to and respected by adults. Even five days of media empowerment can embolden young people to seek the next step and feel more confident to express their dreams.
Karen Cirillo is the executive producer of Children’s Broadcasting Initiatives at UNICEF. She manages the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting and the ICDB Award and coordinates UNICEF’s global oneminutesjr. project.