Community-Based Media and Visual Arts Program in Ecuador

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Community-Based Media and Visual Arts Program in Ecuador

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Our innovative model facilitates youth empowerment and civic engagement through the production of short films and newscasts.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our innovation seeks to fortify the ideas and practices of social justice through collaboration between professionals, cultural organizations, and students from the United States and Latin America. Specifically, our program represents a unique proposal within the fields of community arts and service learning. Taking as a point of departure the dynamic function of art to transform societies and following the research of various scholars in the field, we believe that arts-education, specifically film and media education, plays a significant role in the overall discussion and in the search for solutions to a wide range of problems facing contemporary societies. Among the problems addressed by our program are: the unequal power relations between teachers and students and between the developed countries and Latin America, the co-optation of youth knowledge, the lack of jobs and educational opportunities for minority high-school students in Ecuador, the deficiency of secondary education, the contempt and disdain for the arts, and the urgent need to foster critical thinking. This project benefits Ecuadorian youth and American college students along with their families and communities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Since 2009, we have conducted three workshops in Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador with the intention of establishing a rigorous visual and media arts project in this community. During these summers our volunteer teachers (unpaid education and film professionals) have developed a strong language and digital video curriculum. 2012 will be the fourth consecutive summer that a group consisting of professionals, artists, and students spends six weeks in Bahía de Caráquez collaborating and fostering promotive interaction between different demographic groups through the production of short films, documentaries, and newscasts. We hope to build on the considerable success of our past films, which have been screened nationally and internationally and expand onto the production of news videos about the area. It's important to note that this community does not have a TV channel or newspaper. The main source of information is the radio. And since many of our students have demonstrated a strong interest in journalism we have decided to incorporate that component as part of our media arts curriculum. The idea is that besides teaching them about filmmaking, we will teach them how to do newsvideos about what happens in their communities on a daily basis. These will be uploaded onto a website so that people in other parts of the country can access them. Thus, La Poderosa Media Project utilizes a visual and media arts education program to develop in participants a sense of civic responsibility, social justice, and community engagement through a “doing with” rather than a “doing for” approach.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Our program is divided into the following types of classes: Our Filmmaking classes are geared toward Latin American underserved youth and American college students willing to learn about different cultural and linguistic realities. It provides them with the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to produce short films, documentaries, and news videos. American college students take Filmmaking classes together with local students. In this way not only do they practice the Spanish learned with our qualified language instructors, but also collaborate with Ecuadorian high-schoolers in the production of an audiovisual product. The Programa de Eduación Audivisual a Distancia (P.E.A.D.), launched in 2010, has two main objectives. On the one hand, it is a monitoring tool aimed at continuing working with former students so as to maintain the relation started during the onsite program. On the other hand, and from a pedagogical point of view, the P.E.A.D. allows the group to further study contents relevant to our Visual Arts Program. How does it work? Every month, students are divided into groups of 2-4 and instructed to complete a task that has been previously designed by our instructors. These tasks are activities related to preproduction and other pedagogical activities whose purpose is to practice general cinematographic concepts and key concepts underlying editing or distribution. Starting next year, we will add a "citizen media" component to this program so that students receive specific tasks related to local news production, which will be broadcasted on a website.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our main competitors are study-abroad programs from American universities that offer service-learning and internship components. Also, we might encounter other governmental programs that offer free media training for young adults in rural communities in Ecuador. The good news is that we haven not yet found a program that combines both media instruction and service-learning in that province. Also, we have tested our pedagogical model in nine different locations across Latin America and have found a way that benefits both the local and the international participants. In this way, we refuse to reproduce an "assistentialist" or a "summer-camp" model but rather emphasize the continuous monitoring of our students.
About You
La Poderosa Media Project
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

La Poderosa Media Project

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, M

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

A couple of months ago I was surprised after opening my Facebook account to find that Vicente-a student in La Poderosa--had been included in a photo album posted by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Culture. Vicente, who has participated in our audiovisual workshops since the summer of 2009, is sitting calmly alongside well-known representatives of cultural circles in Ecuador. What really caught my eye, though, was that he had worn his Poderosa t-shirt and that several other participants had all done the same, forming an easily identifiable section of the public at this event organized by the National Cinematography Administration. Though I was unaware of the theme of the conference, the students' presence was very encouraging. Three years after having begun the audiovisual workshops in their small community, La Poderosa was showing concrete results. I spoke with him that night and he told me that a group from La Poderosa had organized themselves to attend a film festival because three of their films had been selected to compete. He told me that he felt proud to represent La Poderosa, but that more than anything he was happy that his classmate Adriana had won third place in the contest.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

We have directly benefited more than 200 Latin American and American students. Indirectly, we have also benefited their families and their towns in the sense that we strive for the education of committed and informed citizens who will have a positive impact in their communities.
As of today, we have produced 14 short films and documentaries, many of which have been screened nationally and internationally. One of them, for instance, won third price in a regional film festival on 2010. Another student film was selected to participate at the Rio Film Festival, the largest audiovisual event in Latin America.

We expect to expand our program in 2012 and reach hundreds of families as we will develop a "Journalism" track in which our students will be trained as community news reporters. Apart from producing short films and documentaries, our students will be capable of producing an online weekly newscast in which they will present information relevant to their city.

We also plan to conduct a pilot project in a guaraní community in Paraguay. We have already started negotiations with Paraguayan NGOs and hope to start our Visual and Media Arts Program in Ciudad del Este on July 2012.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

Our community-based approach not only has resulted in a very successful model but has also proven to be replicable in communities where young people lack the tools to make their voices heard. Thus, we have been successful in implementing our pilots in both rural and urban communities where our students where of indigenous, mestizo or African descent.

In the next 1-5 years we plan to strengthen and improve our media and visual arts program in Bahía de Caráquez while starting new pilots in other provinces of Ecuador. Also, within the next year we will be working towards the establishment of a pilot in a rural population in Paraguay. We have already started negotiations with the local organizations that will be responsible for choosing both the participants and the workshop location.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

To have everything ready for our IV Production Workshop in Caráquez de Caráquez (Ecuador)

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

To finish planning the logistics for our IV Community-Based Visual and Media Arts Program in Ecuador.

Task 2

To enroll 30 new local students and to make sure we have a 50% of old students returning to our program.

Task 3

To enroll 8-12 new American college students in our program.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

To establish a new pilot: The First Production Workshop in Ciudad del Este (Paraguay)

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

To negotiate with Paraguayan NGOs the number of students taking the workshop as well as the specific location for the pilot.

Task 2

To set-up a timeframe for our new pilot project in Paraguay.

Task 3

To plan logistics for our pilot project in Paraguay (instructors participating in this project, room-board, travel arrangements)

How many people have been impacted by your project?

101 - 1,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Hybrid model

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

I have been in graduate school for both my MA and PhD degrees since 2003. At the same time, I have had a part-time job teaching Spanish and Portuguese at the college level. This means that I have not been able to dedicate much of my time to the expansion of our programs. While I spend some time focusing on the development of our projects during the school year, it is only during the summer that I can devote 100% of my time to this innovation. The same happens to most of our instructors as we are all finishing our doctorates within the next 2 years.
The fact that I will finish mine in the next months means that I will finally focus on the implementation of two new projects: the Citizen-Media and Journalism Tracks in the Ecuador Program and the establishment of a new pilot in Paraguay.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

21% of Ecuadorians have Internet access. Out of these users, the majority live in urban centers. According to the latest 2010 census, 40% of internet users use the web for educational purposes, 27% use it for learning purposes, 22% for communication and 5.3% for work. The Ecuadorian government is willing to invest $900 million to improve access and connectivity in the next two years. The rise of citizens who have broadband access along with government initiatives makes us think that our project will be successful for next years.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

Since 2006 we have been experimenting with different approaches to teaching visual culture, filmmaking and Spanish as a foreign language. At this point, we have found a formula (though not perfect) that allows the expression of diverse cultural and linguistic groups without threatening individual identities. This rigorous and, at the same time, creative model is paying off. Our students are seeing themselves as citizens with a clearer understanding of their role in society. Such is the success of our program that we are receiving invitations to replicate the experience in other parts of Ecuador and Latin America.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Each year we will have a social event with friends, supporters, and individuals in our community to raise funds for the purchase and renovation of our equipment (cameras, computers, etc.) and software. Our first event happened in May 2011 and we were able to raise enough funds to buy a light kit, a camera and several other much needed items.
Similarly, we are aware of the competitive funds to which we can access in the countries where we work.

Moreover, our service-learning program for students whose native language is not Spanish is consolidating. 2012 will be the fourth year that we will have students from UT-Austin and Wellesley College enrolled in the program in Ecuador. We hope to expand to other universities in the US.

Tell us about your partnerships

We strongly believe in collaboration. Since 2006 we have worked together with the following groups: Asociación de la Juventud Kuna in Panama, COPADEBA in the Dominican Republic, Asociación de Indígenas Kolla in Argentina, the Colegio Nacional Nocturno Bahía de Caráquez, and the Museum Bahía de Caráquez in Ecuador. Similarly, for the past three years, several dependencies of The University of Texas at Austin and Wellesley College have supported our educational initiatives. In 2012 we will work with local NGOs, farmers in Paraguay.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

We currently have a team of 11 professionals, 10 of which have graduate degrees in areas related to the mission of our organization. They all work voluntarily during the months that we are not in Ecuador and receive a modest stipend during the weeks of the project is happening in Bahía de Caráquez.

The team is divided in 3 directions (Executive, Curriculum and Communications) and one teaching area, which has 4 film and media instructors and 3 Spanish teachers. We also have ITS, web design, and accounting volunteers.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

Our organization is looking for investors who will invest on the critical education and training of young people in semi-urban communities in Ecuador and Latin America. Specifically, we seek to open an office in Bahía de Caráquez that can operate without interruption throughout the year. Similarly, we accept assistance in the form of legal, financial, educational and marketing advise.

From our end, we are willing to collaborate with other artistic endeavors. For example, this year I had the opportunity to contribute as a "Teaching Artist" in a project for The Paper Airplane Project. Moreover, in the last two years we have served as mentors to two interns from Wellesley College interested in the management of nonprofit organizations in Latin America.

Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

We encourage empowerment, linguistic competence, and intercultural translation through visual arts programs in Latin America.