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Social-Issue Documentary 3.0: Tackling Global Poverty with Link TV's ViewChange

[Ed Note: This article first appeared as a guest blog post on]


ViewChange.orgCan social-issue documentaries play a role in helping to end global poverty?

Link TV thinks so.

Almost one year ago, the nonprofit global affairs media organization and broadcast network launched a project based on the idea that documentary storytelling, combined with social actions and the latest news, could make a meaningful contribution to the challenge of global poverty. The idea became, an online portal built on the foundation of semantic Web technology that connects documentary stories to news and social actions in global poverty. In other words, in one place, people can watch character-driven stories, read the latest news about issues covered in the films, and then connect directly to action campaigns around each social issue. It’s a site and tool that’s primed for grassroots awareness and action.

The platform is now a curated documentary hub with more than 400 short- and long-form character-driven documentaries from around the world – and all of them illustrate real progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, which together comprise the world’s “blueprint” for ending global poverty. The portal site now includes the best stories from top global development organizations and filmmakers around the world.

I work on the project in a kind of hybrid role that combines documentary producing, communication campaign strategy and partnership cultivation with top global development organizations, including Devex, InterAction, Save the Children, UNICEF, PSI, Global Health Council, ONE, Comminit, Bread for the World and more. And thanks to the expertise of these groups, combined with the amazing repository of films now licensed to, we’ve started producing half-hour TV specials in partnership with several top global development organizations – the ViewChange TV series. For each show, the narrative is informed by the expertise and objectives of the partner organization, and the main story and outreach campaign are developed simultaneously against the backdrop of the group’s organizational (and sometimes advocacy) objectives, creating a powerful campaign-style approach.

But one key to the project is simple and so powerful for those in the social-justice community to organize around specific issues – the fully-sharable/embeddable formatting of the acquired films and the final jointly-produced shows. By giving the videos, films and global development shows to groups and blogs to embed and share for their own purposes, we’re offering a tool that’s useful not only in our own campaign outreach, but for others to use in theirs. Interested in raising attention about the connection between climate change and drought in developing nations? Want to support innovative hunger relief programs in poor areas of the world? Need a documentary story that can be used in your own awareness/activist campaign to organize for purposes of advocacy or other goals? Navigating through the tool provides all of these opportunities.  

ViewChange: Challenging HungerJust last week, one of these jointly-produced documentary specials premiered on Link TV (Friday, August 12 and 16) and on Working closely with Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy organization, the “ViewChange: Challenging Hunger” documentary special combines filmmaking from Bread for the World itself, along with short films from Oxfam and the Sundance Institute. In this particular show, the organization’s advocacy goals – to use foreign aid more effectively to help poor and hungry people – provide the narrative thru-line.

The call to action is urgent: With more than a billion people suffering from chronic hunger, the timing of potential budget cuts would be particularly devastating to developing nations. And the special debunks a key foreign assistance myth and provides new insight into the ripple effects of chronic hunger: Most Americans believe that about 25 percent of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign assistance, but, in fact, less than 1 percent supports crucial foreign assistance programs—including anti-hunger programs and food aid. The funding is vital to the continued development and management of innovative programs that provide long-term solutions to hunger.

The outreach includes a grassroots campaign to reach out to Bread for the World’s network of thousands of individual members, churches and denominations around the country, as well as reaching out through its college-age hunger activists group. Teams at both Link TV and Bread for the World are working jointly in an integrated strategic communication campaign model that includes traditional media outreach, blogging, sharing the show via embeddable links, outreach to top global development influencers, and social media.


To support Bread for the World’s work directly, check out its fact sheets and advocacy opportunities on its site: Tell Congress to create a circle of protection around funding for programs that are vital to hungry and poor people in the US and abroad.

Follow ViewChange on Twitter @ViewChange and at


You can watch and share the full show here:



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HIV 30 Years Later: ViewChange Spotlights What's Working in Global Prevention

HIV Prevention - Looking Back & Moving ForwardThirty years after the CDC confirmed the first cases of HIV, millions have died, particularly in developing nations. But there's hope. Innovative HIV prevention programs -- including a peer education program from hair stylists in Zimbabwe and a media campaign promoting male circumcision in Africa -- are contributing to a decrease in the global rate of new HIV infections.


These and other stories of effective programs on the ground in developing nations are showcased in a new TV documentary, ViewChange: HIV Prevention - Looking Back & Moving Forward, that premieres on Friday, July 29, from Link TV and international global health organization PSI (Population Services International). Debra Messing, actor and PSI ambassador, narrates the half-hour show.


You can view ViewChange: HIV Prevention - Looking Back & Moving Forward online at


You can also watch the documentary on Link TV (DIRECTV channel 375, DISH channel 9410) at the following times:

  • Friday, July 29th at 7pm ET/4pm PT
  • Tuesday, August 2nd at 11pm ET/8pm PT


We hope you'll join us in marking this key milestone, and that you'll spread the word about what's working in global HIV prevention.


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Breakthrough in the Fight Against HIV

(Al Jazeera English: 0125 PT, May 13, 2011) The fight for global access to anti-Aids drugs has been given added urgency as a research study found that people with HIV who start taking anti-retroviral drugs early can dramatically reduce the danger of passing the virus to their partners.




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Doctors Treating Protesters Face Prison and Death

(Democracy Now!: May 4, 2011) The Gulf nation of Bahrain has announced that 47 medical workers who treated pro-democracy protesters during the nation's popular uprising will be tried before a military court on charges of acting against the state. Democracy Now! speaks with Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights. He recently traveled to Bahrain to document the situation there, and is the co-author of a new report, "Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients."




(Al Jazeera English: 0100 PT, May 5, 2011) Communities in the western Nafusa Mountain range of Libya are under siege by Muammar Gadaffi's forces. The town of Nalut was reportedly bombarded with grad rockets on Thursday. A team of medical professionals from all over the world had the chance to leave before the siege, but they chose to stay. Learn more in this report.




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Chernobyl 25 Years Later: Screw Up or Cover Up?

Today, on the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, Link TV's original production Earth Focus released a detailed exposé about the possibility of a massive cover up surrounding the 1986 nuclear disaster. According to the report, international agencies, the nuclear industry, and governments all ignore critical scientific data about the real impact of the fateful accident at Chernobyl.

Authors of a new book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment say that almost a million people worldwide have died since Chernobyl-- not 4,000 as officially claimed by theInternational Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization. Watch the following report for an indepth look at the real consequences of the fallout from Chernobyl -- including birth defects, mental handicaps, and diminished human intelligence -- and for how long these effects will last:



Watch more episodes of Earth Focus.


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