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Rolling Out the Red Carpet for the Social Impact Oscars

February 21, 2013

With the Academy Awards fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to present our first ever Social Impact Oscars. Here are our winners for films, movies, documentaries, and video clips that can inspire donors to understand opportunities for creating social impact.

Pray the Devil Back To HellBest Portrayal of Ordinary Citizens Achieving Significant Change

Pray the Devil Back To Hell: In 2003, Liberia was enmeshed in the throes of a bloody civil war and suffering from years under the violent and corrupt rule of Charles Taylor and local warlords. Peace talks were stalled and seemed destined to fail. Enter the women of Liberia, who crossed religious and ethnic lines and banded together to insist upon a resolution to the fighting. The women involved were not politically or financially well-connected. They were from all walks of life and had simply had enough, and decided to use the tools available to them to say enough was enough. Their actions, which include the threat of removing their clothing while surrounding the meeting site to force the warring factions to continue to negotiate for peace, are an inspiring example of using what you have to make an impact. Individual donors and donor circles such as globalislocal have hosted screenings of the film to inspire and educate audiences on the power of ordinary citizens to achieve significant social change.

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelBest Reimagination of Retirement

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Throughout the world our older populations are growing and changing, and with that comes challenges to how the aging are viewed. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows a group of British folks drawn to the promise of an affordable and comfortable retirement in India in luxury accommodations. When they arrive to less than stellar digs, several of them find purpose in the surrounding neighborhood and the hotel itself, eventually rescuing the property from destruction and integrating themselves with the community they once felt so distant from. The story embodies the work of Encore.org, whose tagline “second acts for the greater good” works to help folks transition to second careers focused on social impact and change. Their signature award, “The Purpose Prize” honors and celebrates the remarkable men and women whose inspiring second acts are improving the lives of people throughout the world. (Note: Stay tuned for more details in an upcoming post). One of the executive producers of this film is Jeff Skoll, also founder and chairman of Participant Media whose own tag line is “entertainment that inspires and compels social change“. This is one way that a philanthropist and social entrepreneur is realizing his vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world.

The Weight of the NationBest Play on Words to Highlight a Major Public Health Issue

The Weight of a Nation: Weighing in at a little over four hours, this HBO multidisciplinary documentary series is anything but a light look at our nation’s growing obesity epidemic. The four-part series tackles a wide range of contributors to obesity, from genetic and socioeconomic factors to a national cultural shift that places a premium on time and convenience – leading to cheaper, faster, processed food. Its third segment, “Children in Crisis,” tackles the vast array of legislative entanglements that complicate the issue. Along the way, the documentary offers basic advice on staying healthy for its viewers, and augments that information with additional educational and advocacy resources on its website. To date, the website has collected over 50,000 pledges for individual and community health improvement (“drink water instead of sugary drinks” to “learn about food environments in your community”). This film is also related to our current work on food-related social impacts in the United States. For donors interested in obesity-related issues, you can visit the following:

Half the SkyBest Multi-format Effort to Highlight an Overlooked Path to Change

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide: New York Times columnist, Nick Kristof, and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Sheryl WuDunn, have conquered a variety of media formats in order to generate attention towards oppression of women worldwide. Other formats include material for donor groups like Women Moving Millions and an online facebook game (launching in March) that helps players learn more about the issue, as well as earn donations from Johnson & Johnson and Pearson for nonprofits such as Room to Read and Fistula Foundation. Kristof and WuDunn co-wrote a bestselling book of the same title in 2010, bringing to light that genocide has killed more girls in the last 50 years than all men killed in wars of the twentieth century. The film is full of actors that are frequent attendees at the real Academy Awards – George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Diane Lane, America Ferrera, Olivia Wilde, Eva Mendes, and Gabrielle Union. The film adeptly lightens the heavy-hitting subject by weaving in optimism for female economic and social empowerment for the future.

Virtual Red Carpet: Tell Us Your Nominees and Winners

Thanks for attending our first annual Social Impact Oscars! These films are a small sampling of the many multimedia efforts dedicated to showcasing social impact. They illustrate the powerful role that stories can play in raising awareness of society’s pressing issues and inspiring members of the public to take meaningful action. As always, what we’re focused on is: How can donors best translate their increased awareness and inspiration into high impact?

While we continue our work answering that question, we’d like to roll out a virtual red carpet for our readers and ask: Who do you think should make our next Social Impact Oscars list? Leave a suggestion in the comments below.

(Thanks to Jennifer Landres for providing the inspiration for this blog and to Melanie Lei for helping to make it happen.)

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