Video and data visualisation examples for think tanks, from the Igarape Institute

22 August 2012
SERIES Think tanks and video 12 items

In response to our previous post listing examples of videos that think tanks can use to communicate to their audiences, Robert Muggah of the Igarape Institute, a think tank based in Rio de Janeiro that focuses on thematic priorities such as drug policy, violence reduction and international cooperation, wrote to us about a couple of projects that we feel are a useful addition to our list. This post is largely based on a draft he wrote.

The first project is a short documentary called Faces of Violence – a Non Fiction Story,  which highlights the many connections between violence and development. It was developed in cooperation with a local film company, Conspiracao, and in partnership with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was launched at a Ministerial Summit organised by the Norwegian and Swiss governments in 2010 as well as at the UN General Assembly later that year.

The purpose of the film was first to generate awareness among senior level policy makers, but also to serve as a campaigning and advocacy tool for a large network of partners working in multiple languages. Igarape deliberately kept the messages very simple and straight-forward and drew on data and statistics generated with partners such as Small Arms Survey and WHO. They also recruited photographers based in Rio de Janeiro and Juba to record the personal narratives of former perpetrators of violence, who in turn became victims of violence and champions of violence prevention.

The second project developed by Igarape is not a video but an application that supports big data visualisation, called the Mapping Arms Data (MAD) (only available using the Google Chrome browser).  This was done by teaming up with Google Ideas and the Peace Research Institute Oslo to draw attention to the global arms trade. MAD is an interactive tool with more than a million data points and visualises authorized transfers since the early 1990s. It seeks to inject transparency into a debate that is often quite opaque and polemic.

The Institute and Google Ideas also prepared a short “lightening” panel to advertise the app and draw attention to wider issue of arms transfers during a summit sponsored by Google in July 2012. Some of the underlying data relating to the value of the arms trade featured in the presentation was drawn from the Small Arms Survey, as well as from the Peace Research Institute Oslo. The presentation is posted on Google’s official blog:

According to Robert:

The purpose of MAD was to make the arms trade issue more accessible to a wider audience. By presenting a large data-set in visually arresting and user-friendly manner, it has inspired an interesting debate among mainstream constituencies, but also people associated with tech and design industries, police and justice, humanitarian action and development, and beyond.

The collaboration has also reminded us at the Institute about how technology is not just an add-on, but increasingly a central part of our content development and our messaging. We also found that a combined dissemination strategy – in this came combining an application with a panel, Youtube video, blog posting and targeted outreach to conventional and new media – can be reasonably effective in reaching this wider audience.

For more information on other approaches to communication, we have also put together a list on communicating channels for think tanks.

We would like to thank Robert Muggah and the Igarape Institute for this very useful and interesting contribution.