A youtube's worth a thousand words

My kids introduced me to youtube, mainly through happy family moments watching unfortunate things happen to cats. But now Oxfam’s amazing audiovisual team have boiled down 500 pages of ‘From Poverty to Power’ into a 2 minute video.

The team is led by film maker Sandhya Suri, who made an award-winning documentary about her family, ‘I is for India’, an extraordinary insight into the human reality of migration.

The video gets hard boiled aid professionals choked up by reminding them why they are in this business – all too easy to forget sometimes. It also makes a great last slide addition to the ‘From Poverty to Powerpoint’ presentation, which I can now deliver in my sleep. And it’s the first thing I’ve ever been associated with that gets rave reviews from my kids.

However, our interactive gurus tell me that even two minutes is probably too long for it to ‘go viral’ – the phrase for youtube videos whose number of hits suddenly leaps from hundreds to hundreds of thousands, as people add them to their social networking sites, circulate them etc (I’m a little vague on the details). The secret here seems to be one simple, shocking message, 90s seconds or less – have a look at Amnesty International’s video on waterboarding or Greenpeace on palm oil and deforestation (both nearly half a million hits). World Vision’s great video on dirty water (15,000 hits and counting) shows promise too. Would love to hear about other examples of youtube on development, human rights and environment that have got big numbers.

They’ve all got a long way to go to match the talking cat though (10 million hits on various sites). If we could just train a cat to talk about development…..

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One Response to “A youtube's worth a thousand words”
  1. Duncan —

    Thanks for the video “From Poverty to Power” ending up with Evo Morales as the hero, as well as the intro to “Funny Cats.” In Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, the new concentrations of power may end up worse than before. Remember your own Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    “Capturing power” may be a deadly objective. I strongly urge you to read the work of John Powelson, Prof. of Economics Emeritus at the University of Colorado, and his observations about the need for DIFFUSION of power, based on his study of history in all regions of the world over the past ten centuries, trying to answer the question of why some countries prosper, while others do not.

    Originally published in 1994 by the University of Michigan Press, as “Centuries of Economic Endeavor.” Powelson’s book is now available in full on the internet at the website of The Quaker Economist, a newsletter which Powelson started several years ago to try to educate big-hearted and well-meaning Quakers in how the world really works. The newsletter is on the web at: http://tqe.quaker.org/ and Powelson’s book is there, under the title, “A History of Wealth and Poverty,” at: http://tqe.quaker.org/wealth-and-poverty/

    John Sullivan at the Center for International Private Enterprise, wrote a good short piece about Powelson on the CIPE website at: http://www.cipe.org/pdf/publications/fs/article4411.pdf

    For those of us who believe strongly that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, Powelson’s book is required reading.

    You may also be interested in a paper, “The African Conundrum — What Would God Have Us Do?” which draws from the work of John Powelson to point out that it takes far more than teaching a man to fish so he will have fish for a lifetime; what really matters is whether or not the governance environment allows him to receive and enjoy the fruits of his labor. This paper is a follow-up on a longer presentation I had made at a World Bank/Anglican Church week-long conference in March 2000 in Nairobi on “Alleviating Poverty in Africa.” (This was a follow-up on the 1998 Lambeth Conference which James Wolfenson, then president of the World Bank, had attended at the invitation of Archbishop Carey.) My assignment in Nairobi was to talk on “Establishing an Investment Climate in Africa.” I think my audience was a little surprised when I suggested that creating a hospitable investment climate was the most important topic on their agenda, because the poor benefit from the same climate desired by investors — and they were even more surprised when I suggested that God might even be the ultimate businessman.

    My original presentation was condensed as a chapter in “Faith in Development: Partnership between the World Bank and the Churches of Africa,” published by the World Bank in August 2001: http://publications.worldbank.org/ecommerce/catalog/product?item_id=391967

    The African Conundrum paper observes that outsiders cannot do much to help Africa develop until there are changes in the power structure, changes that have to come from within each country, and where perhaps the church can play an important role. I suggested to the Bishops that if God, the All-Powerful, chose to give up power in creating man with free will, then we, in turn, who are created in His image, must try to do likewise by empowering all the people, not just a few chosen ones. The Bush administration’s Millennium Challenge Account approach to foreign aid makes much sense from this point of view. ou can access it on the internet at the World Faiths Development Dialogue website: http://www.wfdd.org.uk/articlesandtalks.html#johnson

    For more on governance: http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.asp

    Again, many thanks for your stimulating and challenging blog and video.

    — gordon

    Gordon O. F. Johnson
    3512 Saylor Place
    Alexandria, VA 22304

    PS: Hernando DeSoto in Peru says he also drew from Powelson’s work in writing “The Mystery of Capital,” his ground-breaking work on lessons learned fighting the Shining Path terrorists, with advice that anyone wanting to bring about meaningful systemic change within a country must focus early on establishing titled property rights, noting that some $1.3 trillion is locked up in the hands of the poor who are excluded from using their capital to better their own condition on their own. If you want to learn more about Hernando DeSoto go to the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) website (http://ild.org.pe/en/home) where you can read about his work and access the first chapter in your choice of 14 different languages! The English version is at: http://ild.org.pe/en/books/mystery