Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Witness: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists


Brooklyn, New York

Executive director: Gillian Caldwell

Previous winner: 2004, 2005

What it does: Cofounded by musician Peter Gabriel, Witness provides 13 to 15 human rights "core partners" with video equipment, technical training, and support in production and editing--and then helps distribute the resulting footage. It also provides training in the fundamentals of video advocacy to more than 300 social-justice organizations each year through workshops and collaborative projects.

Results: In 2004, Witness partner organizations produced 11 videos depicting rights abuses. One induced Senegal's minister of women's and family affairs to pledge funding for female land-mine victims.

Social impact: B+
Aspiration and growth: B
Entrepreneurship: B+
Innovation: B+
Sustainability: B+

Winner's Statement

WITNESS uses the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. By partnering with local organizations around the globe, WITNESS empowers human rights defenders to use video as a tool to shine a light on those most affected by human rights violations, and to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools of justice. Since its founding in 1992, WITNESS has partnered with groups in more than 60 countries, bringing often unseen images, untold stories and seldom heard voices to the attention of key decision makers, the media, and the general public -- prompting grassroots activism, political engagement, and lasting change.

WITNESS partners fight for the rights of indigenous people, for an end to systemic gender violence and the use of children as soldiers, and for environmental protection where human communities are at stake. We work with diverse groups from all over the world, carefully selecting our partners based on the strength of their human rights work, the clarity of their mission, and the ability of video to enhance their campaigns. We make sure their voices are heard. Even more important, we help mobilize a response to right the wrongs they document.

WITNESS is much more than a provider of technology. We know that images are important, but footage alone is not enough to stop human rights violations. WITNESS makes a difference because we work with our partners to turn compelling testimony and images into powerful human stories and strategic advocacy campaigns that influence governments, attract the attention of national and international news outlets, and educate and activate the public. Ultimately we open the doors of influence for our partners so they can develop their own relationships and no longer rely on WITNESS as an intermediary. By providing short-term training in the fundamentals in video advocacy to hundreds of additional human rights groups each year, we are fulfilling our goal of creating self-sustaining video advocacy initiatives worldwide.

WITNESS makes a difference:

  • In January 2005, the State Senate Majority Leader in California introduced sweeping legislation to overhaul the State's juvenile prison system five days after a video by partner Ella Baker Center for Human Rights revealing rampant abuses in the system was screened at the Capitol.
  • In January 2005, the Minister of Women's and Family Affairs in Senegal pledged on the spot to fund a new development project for women landmine victims after viewing a video by partner RADDHO revealing the devastating effects of these weapons of war -- marking the first time any governmental funding in Senegal has ever been earmarked for landmine survivors.
  • In February 2005, the Paraguayan government signed an historic agreement with partner Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) to reform the country's mental health system. This groundbreaking achievement follows the submission of two legal petitions and accompanying videos by MDRI to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights documenting egregious conditions at a state-run psychiatric hospital, and has the potential to impact the lives of thousands of people with mental illness throughout Latin America.

WITNESS' 2006 goals include supporting a portfolio of 12 Core Partners working on intensive, project-specific human rights campaigns, and providing short-term training in the fundamentals of video advocacy for 300-400 human rights groups that we do not have the capacity to serve in our Core Partner program. We are also preparing to launch the second phase of the WITNESS Media Archive and are in the midst of implementing a Technology Plan to heighten the visibility of WITNESS and the human rights community at large. Together, these activities will greatly increase our efficiency, impact, and capacity to engage a broader public in human rights video advocacy.

Learn more | Get involved

The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.