Documentary Impact Dialogue

by Angelica Das

Inmedia_impact_funders recent weeks the documentary community has been abuzz with rich conversation about impact assessment and who sets the standard. At the Center we encourage everyone to explore their options, and provide a forum for ideas-sharing through our annual Media That Matters conference. We’re also turning to Media Impact Funders, who has a handy list of research and resources on all things impact, in addition to practical analysis by Jessica Clark.”

Clark’s recent article tracks how the conversation has come out from behind closed doors:

The on-the-record reservations that these seasoned outreach experts express mirror a groundswell of off-the-record concerns expressed by makers and culture-shifters, who say they’re reluctant to critique impact methodologies advanced by the large foundations that support their work.

But perhaps most significantly for filmmakers who are in the weeds, Clark emphasizes that there is “Room to Grow.” Impact evaluation is daunting, and the last few years have seen a flood of tools and methods in the documentary community. More and more filmmakers are making themselves a part of the process of developing these tools. Clark reminds us that “these tools are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing.” Use all or one, but only if it makes sense, and build the evaluation to match your goals from the start. (For more on strategy, see Clark and Abrash’s report “Social Justice Documentary: Designing for Impact.”)

At the Center we’re keenly senstive to the overwhelming wealth of information and sometimes academically-mired methodologies. Led by our creative director and long time impact producer, Caty Borum Chattoo, we’re developing a white paper that will help to map the available tools and offer a “how to” on why you might choose a particular approach.

Stay tuned in late September 2014 for our paper release, and save the date for conversation in person at Media That Matters, February 19-20, 2015!


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