Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary

2012 Convenings

2012 Convenings

January 24-27, 2012 - Sundance Film Festival
Park City, Utah

This year at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation hosted the Stories of Change Convening. The convening was comprised of a series of private workshops focused on storytelling strategies as well as nightly networking events, film screenings and panels with the intent of creating a framework for defining entrepreneurs’ unique personal and organizational stories. A select group of Skoll Foundation-awarded social entrepreneurs and filmmakers participated in the 2012 Convening:

Organization Participants

Gene Falk is the President and Co-Founder of mothers2mothers. He brings an unusual background to this role: he helped develop m2m while working as a senior executive in the media industry before leaving a long career in New York and moving to South Africa to oversee m2m's roll-out and expansion.

After a successful 15-year Emmy Award-winning career in the entertainment industry as a producer/director/writer, Robin Smalley co-founded mothers2mothers, a Cape Town based NGO providing education, empowerment and support for pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Living and working in Senegal since 1974, Molly Melching has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women and their communities in some of the poorest regions of Africa. Tostan, the organization she founded in 1991, has developed the Community Empowerment Program, a unique, three-year education model using local language, culture and tradition to enable communities to manage development projects and lead movements for positive social change.  

Gannon Gillespie serves as Director of Strategic Development of Tostan, where he works on helping the organization build upon its existing and emerging areas of work and navigate its strategic growth.

In 2005, Gannon became Tostan's first full-time US Representative based in Washington DC

Adalberto Veríssimo is a senior research and cofounder of Imazon, the first independent deforestation monitoring system for the Brazilian Amazon. He holds a Master Degree in Ecology from the Penn State University and graduate degree in Agricultural Engineering from the Federal Rural University of the Brazilian Amazon.

Carlos Souza, Jr. and his co-founder Adalberto (Beto) Veríssimo, are recognized leaders in rainforest conservation, developing, in Imazon, the first independent deforestation monitoring system for the Brazilian Amazon. Beto co-founded Imazon in 1990, and Carlos joined shortly thereafter to head efforts in technical mapping and satellite imagery.

Gary White is CEO and co-founder of Water.org. His entrepreneurial vision has driven innovations in the way water and sanitation projects are delivered and financed, and these innovations now serve as a model in the sector.

Chevenee Reavis works to drive Water.org’s revenue growth and facilitate new types of collaboration and methodologies in the water and sanitation sector.

Reavis has nearly a decade of experience developing and implementing a range of successful strategies and campaigns that helped advance the social impact of leading foundations, government agencies, Fortune 500 corporations, and nonprofit organizations.

Convening Media Advisors

Dr. Neal Baer Executive Produced the CBS series A Gifted Man. He was the Executive Producer of the hit NBC television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from 2000-2011. Dr. Baer graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed his internship in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. Dr. Baer is also a Senior Fellow at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism and is a Lecturer in the School of Arts and Sciences at USC.

Joslyn Barnes is a screenwriter and Emmy® nominated producer. Among the films Barnes has executive produced or produced since co-founding Louverture Films are the award-winning features Bamako and Salt Of The Sea, Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner and Oscar and Emmy nominated Trouble The Water, and the award-winning Black Power Mixtape.

Wendy Levy is a Senior Strategist at Tomorrow Partners, an innovative creative agency in Berkeley, California with a focus on human-centered design, sustainability and social change. From 2004 - 2011, Wendy was Creative Director at BAVC where she created and directed the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies, The Impact Dashboard project, The Mediamaker Fellows Program, and The Stream, a multiplatform public media series focused on interactive documentary, emerging technology and human rights.

Andrea Meditch is an award-winning documentary film producer and creative advisor for media companies, universities, filmmakers and festivals. In 2009 she executive produced both Academy Award winner Man On Wire and Academy-nominated Encounters At The End Of The World. She is president of Back Allie Entertainment, which has produced several documentaries, including Buck, and is an advisor to Michigan State University’s College of Communication, where she is working to build a Center for Creativity in Storytelling.

The Convening featured panel discussions, screenings of selected films from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, gatherings with filmmakers and jurors from the US and World Cinema documentary competitions, conversations and engagement between all the participants.
Below is a sample of the SFF 12 Convening schedule activities:

  • A private, non-theatrical preview Screening & Discussion of The Island President with director Jon Shenk.
  • Group attendance at SFF12 public screenings of Mark Kitchell’s “A Fierce Green Fire” and David France’s “How To Survive A Plague”.
  • Dinner events organized each night for networking purposes.

During the day the group attended panels at the Filmmaker Lodge and special events such as:

“Moving the Masses” Panel
What is a movement made of? We live in an age when, for the first time in history, millions of people are engaged in movements urging equity and justice for others. From civil rights to the environment, to the recent ‘Occupy’ movement, strides and setbacks have marked our history. Join activists Peter Staley, Naomi Wolf, Lois Gibbs to explore changing nature of making change. Moderated by Richard Kim (Writer/Editor, Nation magazine).

March 28-30, 2012 - Skoll World Forum
Said Business School, University of Oxford

The seventh Stories of Change convening at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England reflected a significant presence of the Stories of Change partnership, including a Stories of Change Preview and Panel Event which gave viewers an insiders ‘sneak peek’ at a selection of Stories of Change supported films, several storytelling workshops and individual meetings with a range of social entrepreneurs and Forum delegates.

The Oxford convening featured five Sundance DFP-invited documentary filmmakers and film professionals:

Neal Baer Executive Produced the CBS series A Gifted Man. He was the Executive Producer of the hit NBC television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit from 2000-2011. Dr. Baer graduated from Harvard Medical School and completed his internship in Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles. Dr. Baer is also a Senior Fellow at USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism and is a Lecturer in the School of Arts and Sciences at USC.

Maren Grainger-Monsen  is a physician, filmmaker-in-residence and director and founder of the Program in Bioethics in Film at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. Maren directed Hold Your Breath (2007) and Worlds Apart (2003), a large-scale project on cross-cultural conflicts in medicine, which was broadcast on national public television and is currently being used in over 60% of US medical schools.

Wendy Levy is a Senior Strategist at Tomorrow Partners, an innovative creative agency in Berkeley, California with a focus on human-centered design, sustainability and social change. From 2004 - 2011, Wendy was Creative Director at BAVC where she created and directed the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies, The Impact Dashboard project, The Mediamaker Fellows Program, and The Stream, a multiplatform public media series focused on interactive documentary, emerging technology and human rights.

Nicole Newnham  is a documentary filmmaker and writer, currently co-producing The Revolutionary Optimists with Maren Grainger-Monsen as a filmmaker-in-residence at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics Program in Bioethics and Film.

Cori Stern  divides her time between international NGO work and producing film. Additionally, Cori is known for her work as a social entrepreneur and innovative strategist for poverty alleviation. Her projects have been featured on BBC, NPR, and Oprah. She was named by ABC World News as “Person of the Week” and O Magazine as “Good Guy of the Month.” She is currently working on a documentary about Partners In Health, non-profit health care organization dedicated to providing a preferential option for the poor.

Throughout the three days of the Forum filmmakers participated in panel discussions, formal networking lunches and dinners, and extensive informal networking opportunities for the filmmakers and social entrepreneurs.

As part of the 2012 Skoll World Forum, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) and the Skoll Foundation presented a sneak preview of three films created as part of their joint “Stories of Change” program. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with participating filmmakers and social entrepreneurs and led by Sundance Institute DFP Director Cara Mertes.

The three films that were previewed included:
Barefoot Engineers – an observational documentary that follows three women of limited formal education as they travel from their villages in Africa and the Middle East to India in order to receive the training needed to become solar engineers. Directors Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief, Producer Mette Heide, Social Entrepreneur Bunker Roy.
Untitled Partners in Health Documentary – follows a remarkable public health charity organization operating in thirteen of the poorest countries around the world and the man who founded it. Director Kief Davidson, Producer Cori Sheperd Stern, Social Entrepreneur Paul Farmer.
The Revolutionary Optimists  – a lawyer turned social entrepreneur empowers children to become “health minders” in the slums of Calcutta.  Directors/Producers Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newham, Social Entrepreneur Amlan Ganguly.

Additionally, the Stories Of Change partnership was proud to unveil the ‘Stories Of Change: Story and Impact Fund’ at the 2012 Skoll World Forum. The Fund will provide modest financial resources for Skoll-supported social entrepreneurs and/or Stories of Change (SOC) filmmakers to identify and develop opportunities in film and multi-platform storytelling designed to leverage more effective impact for social entrepreneurs and their issues.

On the final day of the Forum, DFP Director Cara Mertes took part in the Forum’s “Storytelling for Impact” Session along with NPR’s Science Correspondent Christopher Joyce, Senior VP and Publisher of HarperOne Mark Tauber and Senior Strategist at Tomorrow Partners Wendy Levy.

DFP Staff and attending storytellers also took part in a series of ‘Mirror Sessions’ prior to the World Forum, in which a group of social entrepreneurs signed up for a 60-minute one-on-one feedback session with DFP-invited Stories of Change media and storytelling experts. After reviewing existing assets like the organization’s website and video, Facebook, and other available story content., the Advisors prepared feedback  on when, where and how storytelling is moving a mission and driving impact, as well as some thoughts on how to improve entrepreneurs use of story strategies. Participating Social Entrepreneurs included:

Amy Low, Landesa
Michael Chertok, Digital Divide Data
Martin Fisher, Kickstart International
Molly Melching, Tostan
Jenny Bowden, Half The Sky
Quartulain Bakhteari, Institute for Development Studies and Practices
Ned Breslin, Water For People
Jan Lubbering, Street Football World
Dan Viederman, Verite
Bart Weetjens, Apopo
Heidi Kuhn, Roots of Peace
Mark Plotkin, Amazon Conservation Team
Rebecca Onie, Health Leads