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Video for Change and our “Taxonomy of Impact”

This post considers the types of impact Video for Change practitioners can contribute to. It also discusses how our 'taxonomy of impact' has been integrated into the early development of our Video for Change Impact toolkit.

Last week the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) wrote an article about their “ongoing quest” to define and measure impact. CIR is a non-profit organisation based in the United States that believes “journalism that moves citizens to action is an essential pillar of democracy.”


CIR’s article begins by explaining that they don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring impact. At the same time they explain that they want to be able to define what they mean by impact and make decisions about how they might best measure it. For CIR impact is: “ a change in the status quo resulting from a direct intervention.” In order to measure their own impact, CIR have been working on identifying types of impact that they believe they have and might directly contribute to. After compiling their list, they then categorised these changes into groups including: legislative action, institutional change, media response and collective action.


This article closely aligns with our current thinking on the Video4Change Impact project. Over the past 12 months, in drafting our first draft of a guide that seeks help Video for Change practitioners design for and evaluate impact, we also came to the conclusion that there could never be a one-size-fits-all approach; even among our own network we have found we had many different types of change or impact we are seeking. Each type of impact requires it’s own indicators for success and this in turn means different impact evaluation methods are also required. This process was at least in part informed by earlier work developing a genealogy of Video for Change approaches

With this realisation, we began writing our guide by first drafting the types of impact we believe Video for Change practitioners can create. We then tested this list across a dozen Video for Change projects. Eventually, we came up with a list of 8 “types of impact”. After looking through the first draft of the BRITDOC Impact Field Guide we later decided to adapt their  'categories of change’, which we  added to and ‘fleshed out’ with our own list.


Categories and types of impact that Video for Change practitioners might be seeking to create:

1. Changing Structures


    • The abolition or alteration of existing government, institutional or corporate policies or the creation of new ones  (policy change)
    • The abolition or alteration of existing laws or the creation of new ones (legal change)
    • Altering the practices of governments, companies or institutions (practice change)

2. Changing Minds and Behaviours


    • Altering individual or collective attitudes and behaviours (behaviour change)
    • Altering the way certain groups are represented in the media and/or public sphere (representational change)


3. Building Movements


    • Creating relationships, either by building or sustaining them (relationship change)
    • Supporting new interaction and dialogue, by creating new spaces for communication (discourse change)


4. Building Capacities


    • Increasing people’s knowledge/skills/access to resources (changing capacities)


The additional category that we added to BRITDOC’s impact category list was ‘building capacities’ and it’s a type of change that we’d say is always missing from the vast array of impact guides that have been released over recent years by film for change practitioners and donors. Realising this affirmed to us that this is one of the key factors that makes the Video for Change field different from documentary film, investigative journalism or many other media forms focused on contributing to social change. Supporting marginalised or disadvantaged communities to witness, document and to tell their own stories is a core aspiration of many Video for Change organisations. 


After creating our draft list of types of impact we needed to figure out how to go about measuring impact. Our early research and needs assessment with our network showed us that while measuring impact was considered important, having the right support to design for impact was considered even more critical. Therefore, like BRITDOC with their Impact Guide, we have been building Theory of Change activities and processes into the development of our Video for Change Impact guide to help in practitioners design for impact. Along the way we are developing our own Theory of Change model for Video for Change practitioners.


But there is also another category of impact that we also believe is rarely, if ever, mentioned by the current crop of media and impact guides: unintended and negative impacts. We raised the question among our network: what if you had a policy or law changed but people who spoke out in your video were harmed because you did not think through safety and privacy risks? This led us to discussions about the ethics of Video for Change and again we felt there were unique commitments and practices that we needed to integrate into our Impact Guide.


In particular we have identified that critical to the network and therefore to the design of our own Impact framework is a careful consideration of: who is included, who we are accountable to and the development of good practices and a strategic plan for the mitigation of potential risks. We are currently drafting sections into our Guide to help Video for Change practitioners carefully think through these issues when they design for impact in planning their initiatives.


We’re still in the draft stages with our impact guide and plan to test this draft on projects later this year. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts! 

• Have we captured the taxonomy or types of impact Video for Change initiatives seek? Is there anything missing? 

• Are we right in saying that ethical practices must be integrated into Video for Change frameworks that seek to help with both the design and evaluation of impact? If so, do you have any thoughts on how we might best do this?


Thanks to Ingrid Kopp of Tribeca Film Institute who, via an email list, alerted us to this article by the Center for Investigative Reporting.


Great stuff really! I'm excited with the prospects of this impact guide. It's a huge contribution to the video for change sector.
I particularly agree with including the category 'building capacities', and I would add in there supporting people to grow in critical consciousness and self-confidence, as a crucial component to empowerment.

I can't agree more with the need to include a category called 'unintended and negative impacts' to help us measure if we have created harm and the consequences of the projects we are involved in. I think it's highly connected to the ethics section you are referring to, which is also essential, and I'd suggest to mention there that to avoid that from happening the practitioners should monitor unintended consequences as the project is unfolding, and not necessary wait to measure it at the end. This can help revert the situation on time.

I think the guide can have a special section for ethical practices or can provide advice in text boxes alongside the section that requires practitioners to think about them.

Really appreciate your response Sole. On your point about 'ethical tips' throughout the guide: I think this is a great suggestion to integrate ethical considerations throughout. I wonder though if we ought be counting our ethical practices as impact....I guess this means seeing the way we work as a form of impact. It's a challenge to 'measure' or count this but perhaps it's the best way to ensure something V4C folks generally think is quite critical, is really emphasised in the way we talk about impact?

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