About the Center for Media & Social Impact
The Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI), based at American University’s School of Communication in Washington, D.C., is an innovation lab and research center that creates, studies, and showcases media for social impact. Focusing on independent, documentary and public media, the Center bridges boundaries between scholars, producers and communication practitioners across media production and business, media impact, public policy, and audience engagement. The Center produces resources for the field and academic research; convenes conferences and events; works collaboratively with media organizations and philanthropy; and works to understand and design media that matter. CMSI is directed by Professor Caty Borum Chattoo.
Since its founding as the Center for Social Media in 2000 (re-branded as the Center for Media & Social Impact in 2012), CMSI has established successful models for showcasing media for public knowledge and action; has become a leader in the evolution of documentary film and video in the digital era; has developed and established best practices in fair use for creative communities; has launched creative efforts to highlight the role of storytelling and social justice; has published research about the societal effects of storytelling; and has documented and helped to elevate public media for dynamic and engaged publics. Working with foundations, media companies, scholars, philanthropists, media producers, communication professionals, and innovators, the Center has contributed vital resources to media makers of all kinds, especially civically-minded creatives, and has forged trusted connections between media practitioners, public media, scholars and issue experts.
In 2017, CMSI launched The Laughter Effect, a research and creative initiative that examines the intersection of comedy and social justice. Featuring research, case studies, and original creative comedy projects, The Laughter Effect aims to build a body of awareness and evidence for the use of comedy in service of public engagement in serious social problems.