January 2017 Newsletter

Story Movements, one of CMSI's major highlights from the past year, brought together filmmakers, advocates, and more for a discussion on how stories amplify the media, influence attitude and actions, and mobilize grassroots networks.
On behalf of all of us at the Center for Media & Social Impact, greetings! We hope this trip around the sun brings you new opportunities for meaningful work and fulfillment. On our end, we have many updates and projects to share, so we hope you'll check out our "CMSI in 2017" blog post for all the details.

Just a few highlights and previews of things to come:
  • Story Movements, focused on story-led movements for social change: Our inaugural convening and case study publication will be out in in a month or so. Stay tuned. Also, please check out our conference speaker videos and Story Movements highlights video. Look soon for the launch of a new Story Movements project, an ongoing effort to curate and analyze the role of story and storytellers in social change efforts.
  • When Movies Come to Washington: Documentary Films & Public Policy in the United States: The first investigation and filmmaker/advocate toolkit in our two-part series will be published in soon (within the next month), with more to follow later in the year.
  • The Laughter Effect: The [Serious] Role of Comedy in Social Change: How and why can comedy be leveraged in social and civic issues? Look for the official launch of our project early this spring, with an inaugural report, The Laughter Effect, and a new study that examines Samantha Bee’s ability to generate empathy in tough social challenges. We’ll continue to expand this work in 2017 with new projects and collaboration with groups like the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).
  • Community Voice Project: CMSI’s local community storytelling project will continue in 2017 with new fellows and new opportunities to showcase Washington, D.C.’s diverse communities.
  • Rise Up Media & Social Change Project @CMSI: Announcement preview:  We’ve created a partnership project with the Rise Up Social Impact initiative of Univision and Fusion’s networks, called the Rise Up Media & Social Change Project @CMSI. We’ll be working with entertainment and documentary producers to provide entertainment-education research and story framing for TV and digital projects around social issues. More coming soon!
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Fellowship Program: CMSI is thrilled to again sponsor seven graduate students from the School of Communication, along with the Film & Media Arts and Public Communication divisions, to participate in this special fellowship program hosted by the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina (April 6-9). Look for CMSI folks and AU School of Communication students there in a few months.
We’ll also continue our efforts to examine diversity in public media and documentaries (check out our 2016 “Docs So White” study, which will be expanded in 2017) – along with the Dangerous Documentaries focus on curating resources for documentarians working in an investigative capacity. Our work in fair use and intellectual property will continue and hopefully expand.

And, here are a few 2016 projects to highlight, just in case you missed them:
  • State of the Documentary Field Study: In September, in collaboration with the International Documentary Association (IDA), we published a first-of-its-kind study that examines documentary filmmakers’ lived experiences, challenges, motivations, funding realities – and more – at an evolving moment in the streaming media era. It’s the first in an ongoing series.
  • Impact Study for PBS’ Emmy-Award-winning film, The Homestretch: Review the CMSI study that examines a public policy audience response to the PBS Emmy-Award-winning documentary, The Homestretch. The study is the first to examine ITVS’ synchronous viewing platform, OVEE, to enable media evaluation.
  • Case studies and analyses of storytelling for social impact, available at our blog, Media That Matters.
There's more, of course, so read it on our blog.

As we look back and forward, we are tremendously grateful for our recent and current program funders, including: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms program, Fledgling Fund, Atlantic Philanthropies, Odyssey Networks, ITVS, Univision/FusionD.C. Humanities Council, and more to come.

We couldn’t do what we do without our talented American University School of Communication graduate students – researchers, creative makers, and writers who are inspired by the intersection of media and positive social impact. At the start of the year, we love having a reason to give them a shout-out.

Finally, our colleague Brigid Maher has stepped down as CMSI co-director to focus on her role as division director for the School of Communication’s Film & Media Arts division. Happily, she will continue as a CMSI senior fellow and director of CMSI’s participatory storytelling project, Community Voice, created by Nina Shapiro-Perl, our filmmaker-anthropologist colleague.  We’ll continue our ongoing collaborations with our founder, the venerable Pat Aufderheide, and our senior research fellow and senior advisor, Larry Kirkman, faculty research fellows (Aram Sinnreich, Laura DeNardis, Benjamin Stokes) and many others.

Please stay in touch. Do you have a project or film or event to share? Drop us a line at so we can include it in our newsletters and social media.

With gratitude,
Caty Borum Chattoo
Director, Center for Media & Social Impact

The Center for Media & Social Impact

The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University is an innovation lab and research center that studies, showcases, and creates media for social impact. Focusing on independent, documentary and public media, the Center bridges boundaries between scholars, producers and communication practitioners across media production, media impact, public policy, and audience engagement. The Center produces resources for the field and academic research; convenes conferences and events; and works collaboratively to understand and design media that matters.

Learn more about CMSI.
Copyright © 2017 Center for Media & Social Impact, All rights reserved.

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