Game Changers Guest Post: Creative Visions Foundation

NOTE: We asked each of our 2009 Game Changers Awards finalists to write about their projects, what they’ve learned along the way and what’s next. This essay written by Joey Borgogna, Director of Special Projects and Production Associate of Creative Visions Foundation.

Similar to Game Changers, Creative Visions Foundation (CVF) supports Creative Activists, individuals who use media and the arts to create awareness of critical issues and catalyze positive action in local and global communities. We accomplish our mission through our three divisions: Inform, Inspire and Empower.
CVF INFORM: Produces documentaries, films, television series, theatrical productions and other projects that inform and inspire people about critical social, humanitarian and environmental issues and empowers audiences to take action.
CVF INSPIRE: Produces exhibitions, screenings, seminars and other events using film, photography, media and the arts to inform audiences about important issues, and inspire people to use media and the arts to create awareness of critical issues and thus unleash their individual power to make a difference.
CVF EMPOWER: CVF provides vital assistance to a select group of emerging projects, such as mentoring, networking, fiscal sponsorship and financial support. Projects are supported by CVF during their infancy, but in order to receive CVF support, projects are considered scalable and replicable in the long-term.

My name is Joey Borgogna and I am the Director of Special Projects and Production Associate for Creative Visions Foundation. I first learned about CVF after discovering the journals of Dan Eldon– a young Reuter’s photojournalist who was killed in 1993 while covering the conflict in Somalia. Dan embodied the spirit of a game changer through his use of photography to draw attention to the famine and conflict in Somalia. Since his death, his life and belief in the “power of one” to create change has inspired countless individuals around the world to believe they have a role to play in positively impacting the world around them. The Creative Visions Foundation was inspired by the life of Dan Eldon and was founded by his mother and sister, Kathy and Amy Eldon in l998 to help spread the message creative activism to the world.

When I first met Kathy Eldon, Chair of CVF, I had extensive experience in theatre, the entertainment industry, international travel and humanitarian work and a Communications degree from USC, but didn’t know how to combine all these passions after leaving college. Consequently, I volunteered at CVF (working out of a small closet in the humble home office) and learned about the incredible people and projects that had thrived as a result of CVF. I watched inspired people create movements and make impact beyond what they thought they were capable of.

The reason I do what I do is because I see people getting empowered and empowering others every day as a direct result from their connection to Dan Eldon and Creative Visions Foundation. I see inspiration turn into action and action turn into transformation and transformation starting revolutions. It’s beyond exciting!

CVF’s success reaches far and wide. Since its inception in 1998, CVF has assisted more than 45 projects including films like Oscar-nominated Genghis Blues; and the award-winning film, Abduction, the Megumi Yokota Story. CVF has been instrumental in the launch of several successful organizations, including Video Volunteers, now the largest provider of community videos in India; Shine on Sierra Leone, that uses media to create awareness of the plight of diamond workers and raises funds to build schools; The Name Campaign, which has funded the rehabilitation of more than 1000 child soldiers in Uganda; and Culture Collective, a unique website dedicated to the distribution of films about indigenous people around the world.

CVF Productions include: Dying to Tell the Story, presented by Amy Eldon, which studies the motivation of journalists in conflict zones- the Emmy nominated documentary originally aired on Turner Broadcasting Networks and has been seen in more than 200 countries; Soldiers of Peace, a documentary that chronicles the efforts of the Nobel Peace Prize nominated Children’s Peace Movement in Columbia to end the ongoing violence- this film premiered at the United Nations and has been distributed worldwide by CNN International; and Global Tribe, hosted by Amy Eldon, which profiled ordinary people who are change makers for a better world in countries around the globe. This groundbreaking series aired on PBS.

Also, CVF has successfully sponsored the Dan Eldon Traveling Exhibition of his artwork and photography in 6 different countries, which has led to the creation of art and activist groups like “Webster Visions” at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. Currently the exhibit is at the Gaylord School of Journalism at Oklahoma University where the Dean Joe Foote has recently written to say that several students have decided to study international journalism because of it.

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The challenges that remain for CVF are being able to keep up with all the daily operations of running a foundation, fundraising, and giving ample attention to each of the Creative Activist Projects. Although, our accomplishments are big, our staff is very small and we work around the clock in order to keep all the momentum moving forward. We’re hoping for infrastructure funding so that we can continue to expand and service more people and movements without having to always rely on favors, family, and friends to financially support the work.

In the six years that I’ve been involved with Creative Visions I’ve learned something new every day. Part of what keeps us learning and so closely knit as an internal team is our passion for the work. We believe in what we do. I’ve learned that art truly has the power to ignite the human spirit to accomplish tasks that may have otherwise seemed too daunting. I’ve learned that people really do want to make a difference in the world; sometimes all they need is a little direction and some one to believe in them. I’ve learned that internet-based films and networks can bridge space and cultural gaps. I’ve learned that video content on a website will draw a lot more attention than text. I’ve learned that there are many resources and opportunities available for people who want to get involved in charity work and/or use their existing talents for cause oriented projects.

The next steps for Creative Visions includes revamping our website so that it is more interactive and has more video content. We will also implement a membership and continue to refine our message and outreach to be more specific and streamline our work to be more efficient. Out next big idea is to expand the Dan Eldon Traveling Exhibit with new panels and journal blow-ups and create a virtual exhibit online so people can view it from anywhere around the globe and connect with other Creative Activists.

In addition, CVF is also developing an interactive exhibit in collaboration with Big Buddha Baba, a Los Angeles-based production company that specializes in interactive media for museums and theme parks. We’re calling it Urban Safari– a traveling interactive environment inspired by Dan’s life and work. Urban Safari will put cutting edge technology into the hands of visitors to help them explore the frontiers of art, adventure and activism.

Kathy Eldon advocates that the concept of “creative activist” should be in the lexicon of every man, woman and child in America. Everyone should have access tools and resources that can help him or her identify challenges, find solutions, engage others—and most importantly– tell the story of how he or she managed to make a difference. With funding from a major corporate sponsor (one has been identified) we will expand our creative activist community across America by creating:

Creative Activist “Power packs” or “Toolkits” for kids, teens, college students, adults and seniors. (We already have a working template for a Creative Activist Toolkit produced in association with Ashoka and Youth Venture that can be altered to fit different age groups).

This Creative Activist Network will be a hub for people to tell their own stories about how they have been able to effect positive change in the world. The network will incorporate techniques pioneered by the Obama campaign that has mobilized millions to get involved in positive change. (We piloted this concept on our very successful “One Global Tribe” website that provided the inspiration for “Think MTV”, MTV’s social action website.

We will measure our success by the number of downloads for the tools and resources we are offering on our website and the numbers of people joining the social network. Less easy to measure is the ripple effect of a movement which will not be limited to our website alone, for it will be a hub of ideas, resources, and people, eager to explore opportunities for service- create their own social movements, or tell their stories of how they managed to change their world.

Because of our connections in the entertainment industry, we will attract celebrity spokespeople to the campaign, selecting age appropriate individuals for kids, youth, adults and seniors. We will also use our Washington connections to engage the new Obama administration in this non-partisan movement. Creative Vision Productions, our for profit “sister company” also has about 15 film projects and documentaries in development, including Journey, the highly anticipated feature film about Dan Eldon’s life starring Daniel Radcliffe and produced by Julia Roberts.

Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon-Turteltaub, who have transformed their own grief into a thriving foundation that has affected so many people, inspire me every day. And the grassroots filmmakers and producers that dedicate their lives to telling important stories that will provoke change are continually inspiring me. I am always inspired by the life of Dan Eldon, who legacy is alive and well active today all over the world.
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