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Participate!
Micki Krimmel, 26 Dec 05

Happy Holidays, Worldchanging readers! With the New Year ringing in, this is the perfect time for a little bit of introspection. What have I accomplished in 2005? What have I learned? And more importantly, what am I going to do to make 2006 even better? For my part, that first question is easily answered: Participate.net.

In early 2004, I was lucky enough to join a brand new film company called Participant Productions. Our little team grew quickly and in 2005, we exploded onto the scene with four major film releases: Murderball, Good Night, and Good Luck, North Country and Syriana. Our first three feature films have received 8 Golden Globe nominations! Not bad for our first year with films in release.

Founded by Jeff Skoll, former President of eBay, Participant’s mission is to create social change through media. The idea is simple: that well-told stories have the power to drive social movements. We live in such a media-driven society that our entertainment has great influence, and therefore, responsibility. At Participant, we work with filmmakers and studios to help important feature films and documentaries get made and distributed. I know the idea of “issue movies” makes many people cringe. But we’re doing things a little differently. First and foremost, our mission is to create compelling entertainment. In order for a film to reach its potential as a catalyst for change, people need to see it. The goal is to create commercially-viable films that are potent enough to inspire viewers to take action.

So we’ve put out some great movies and they’re sure to make people think about some important issues. But how do we take the awareness driven by the film one step further and translate it into direct action? It’s that second part of our mission that inspired my work in 2005, the creation of Participate.net. Participate.net is our social action community where filmmakers, issue experts, activists and movie-goers come together to discuss the issues presented in our films and to take direct action. For each film, we partner with nonprofit organizations to provide relevant information and tools for direct action. We also reach out to issue experts and bloggers to contribute to the campaign blogs to spark discussion within the community.

We’ve got a pretty impressive list of bloggers for our campaign associated with Good Night, and Good Luck, including the film’s producer Grant Heslov, Tim Karr from Free Press, Norman Lear, Casey Murrow, JD Lasica of OurMedia.org, and two of the subjects of the film, Shirley Wershba and Milo Radulovich. Watching Ms. Wershba and Mr. Radulovich interact with the community has been one of the most exciting parts of the entire adventure!

And it has been an adventure. We were under tight deadlines to launch the site since we had two movies coming out in October. Thanks to the bright minds at Adaptive Path and some really amazing contractors, we were able to make it happen and have a really great time doing it. Participate.net runs on Drupal, an open source content management system. Thanks to the many community-driven features Drupal ships with, we were able to save time and money and concentrate on the custom modules developed by Jeff Robbins and Matt Westgate.

We're proud to be active within the Drupal community by funding new module development and updating existing ones. We’re currently working on a metrics module that allows an administrator to help understand what their users are doing over time on the site. By committing our resources to developing features for the Drupal platform, we hope to give back to the online activism community.

As Participate.net grows, we are learning every day. It’s been an amazing experience so far and we’re getting a lot of feedback. It’s been really interesting watching the users interact with each other and some of them are really taking ownership over the community. Every single day, I am impressed at the level of involvement and commitment from our community members. The discussions are extremely thoughtful and often really intense. Several of our participants have recommended new action items which are being implemented in the campaigns. To us, that’s the greatest example of organic social change coming right out of the community.

Things are really heating up since we’re getting into some hot button issues. We recently launched our campaign associated with the film Syriana: Oil Change, a campaign to reduce our dependence on oil. We partnered with the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club to create a holistic action campaign with fundraising events, publicity, and direct tools for action online.

But we’ve still got a lot to learn. As we move forward, we have plans to improve the community features of the site, allowing users to interact more easily and highlighting new content for return visitors. We welcome your suggestions! We’re also working on integrating a mobile technology component with wireless text donations and campaign updates. With any luck, 2006 will be just as exciting as 2005!

2005 also marked my entrée into Worldchanging. Already a huge fan, I met Alex at SXSW (I may have stalked him a little). It’s been a great honor to count myself among such an amazing group of people. Thanks to the Worldchanging crew and readers for welcoming me to the team this year. I look forward to another great year!

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Comments

A few links don't work properly. Thought you'd like to know. Thanks for the story!


Posted by: Lucas Gonzalez on 27 Dec 05



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