Gillian Caldwell
Exec. Director, Witness; Human Rights Advocate
02:57

Re: How do you contribute?

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Harnessing technology to advance human rights.


Gillian Caldwell

Gillian Caldwell is the Executive Director of WITNESS, an international human rights organization that provides training and support to local groups to use video in their human rights advocacy capaigns. Caldwell was a Co-Director of the Global Survival Network (now WildAid), where she coordinated the two-year undercover investigation into the trafficking of women in Russia that culminated in her 1997 film, Bought and Sold. She is the leader of the Witness to Truth video project in Sierra Leone that urges the government of Sierra Leone to implement TRC recommendations. Caldwell was the reipient of the 2000 Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership award and has been named one of 40 Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs by the Schwab Foundation, a 2003 Tech Laureate by the Tech Museum, and a Special Partner by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Caldwell received her BA from Harvard University and her JD in human rights law from Georgetown University. Her videos have been shown as evidence in legal proceedings, such as the international war crimes investigation against Slobodan Milosevic, in the Sierra Leone Truth Commission proceedings, and at the UN. Ideas recorded on: 8/13/07

Transcript
Well I mean I think . . . I think that I really strive to be committed to evolution personally and institutionally. And I think that the last 10 years that I’ve spent at Witness I hope has been a testament to that commitment. When I got there in 1998, there was one other staff person. We had a budget of $100,000. The organization became independent. We spun it off in 2001, and now after just under 10 years, we have a budget of $4.7 million, a staff of 30. When we started . . . When the organization started in 1992, and even when I arrived in ’98, we were just getting past a focus on equipment provision and into a focus on training. And the training even at that stage was very focused on the technical aspects of how you shoot video; not a deep look at the strategic dimensions of using video as evidence to educate and activate an audience around a cause for use in the media; and most importantly as a vehicle for targeted screenings before key decision makers. So the organization has really evolved from an initial mission focus on technology transfer towards a focus on enabling and empowering people to use technology in innovative ways. And metaphorically speaking towards using a very open source approach to how we grow not a heavily bricks and mortar approach to going to scale as it were. Because what we’re trying to do is to scale the impact and the power of the methodology by demonstrating powerful uses of that methodology. And I think, you know again, to reinforce the commitment to evolution as the organization has grown quite rapidly over these years and has evolved continually during my involvement, we are now poised to launch in the fall of 2007 the Hub, which will be like a YouTube or MySpace for human rights where anybody anywhere can upload visual imagery from their handheld devices or a laptop. They can meta tag it. They can connect it to campaigns, and groups, and discussions, and into a community that cares about the issues that they’re working on. So I think really the Hub represents, you know, the ultimate innovation for us at this stage in the game given how dramatically technology has evolved since our inception in 1992, and what I hope will be a very lasting legacy for the organization.

Recorded on: 8/13/07


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