Negotiating the Impact

After a screening of 10 Tactics at the University of Yucatan in Merida, Mexico, was cancelled at the last minute, IEPAAC (The Self-Managed Popular Research and Education Organisation) offered to host the viewing at its office. Since then, the organisation, which advocates for children’s rights and disaster management, has screened 10 Tactics again twice to local civil society organisations.

Nicolas Alonso Lopez, who works in communications for IEPAAC said, “It has helped us a lot in visualising the capacity that technology has.” He added that when screening the video for other civil society organisations, the reaction has been inspiring.

“[Some said] ‘Wow, so many things can be done!’ For others it was, ‘Wow, yes, I knew all those things could be done, but I did not know they could be used for those ends.” Nicolas said although a lack of access to equipment and lack of understanding of computers are obstacles to using technologies in their work, IEPAAC is coming to understand the importance of digital tools for spreading their message, seeking funding, and getting in touch with the media.

For example, three days after watching 10 Tactics for the first time, the group created a Facebook page that has been used to promote events. Nicolas feels the first tactic “Mobilise people,” which encourages the use of social media for bringing people together online and offline, has turned out to be “the most successful of the tactics.”

IEPAAC also used online tools to coordinate a memorial ceremony on the one-year anniversary of the ABC Day Care fire in Hermosillo, Sonora, that left 49 children dead. Nicolas felt it was important to see more localised examples of info-activism, which inspired IEPAAC to delve into video production, making short videos for the IEPAAC YouTube channel. One such video is a selection of photos of youths involved in an environmental campaign. Another, aimed at encouraging youths living in an area with high rates of migration to study and get involved in their community, received more than 1,000 hits in just two weeks.

Nicolas said, “What continues surprising us a lot is the impact of the videos that we have on YouTube. It’s impressive.” Nicolas feels that using new technologies and strategies like 10 Tactics is important and that research and analysis of the potential of these tactics is needed. Nicolas reflects the opinion of a growing number of info-activists who feel the same way.

“What we don’t understand exactly is what the impact is of each of these tools,” he said. Also, because of technological limitations of the populations IEPAAC serves, Nicolas said he would continue to utilise non-digital tools.

For example, IEPAAC has found the use of theatre productions and printed magazines to be an efficient way of reaching out to and informing communities. Nicolas feels the key is to see digital and non-digital tools as complementary.

Technologies, he said, are “opening a new possibility” alongside their existing work. “I do not believe that the simple impact of having a page on Facebook or a channel on YouTube by themselves will be what accomplishes the impact,” he said. “...I believe the value that these technologies have is that they can be catalysts for other processes. They can create other processes if they are accompanied and backed up by a wider vision.”

Story by Summer Harlow