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Development aid to India is quite a controversial issue in the UK : Caroline Diehl

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Development aid to India is quite a controversial issue in the UK : Caroline Diehl

In a conversation with exchange4media, Caroline Diehl, Chief Executive, Media Trust talks about The Global360 Challenge -a filmmaking contest for the new Indian generation. The challenge is for youth between ages of 18 and 25 to create short 1-3 minute films and longer TV shows for broadcast in the UK and globally on YouTube, about how India is changing, and how society, technology and aid are transforming Indian lives for the better. Media Trust is UK’s leading communications charity and has partnered with the Cannes Chimera and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tell unique stories about aid. Excerpts:

Tell us about the Global360 Challenge.
We want to show that development aid can work wonders when it's spent well – from saving lives to helping people fulfil their ambitions.
We are looking for different kinds of films - shorts, reports, documentary and entertainment. We want stories people can relate to, wherever they live - stories that are surprising, inspiring, funny and beautiful. The film could focus on people and communities whose lives have been changed by aid, and on the social entrepreneurs, technologies and initiatives, from the most simple to the most innovative, that are making a difference. We are partnering with the top creative ad directors and film-makers from the advertising and TV industry in India.
We are working on two strands - Shorts and Shows. They are both focussing on the main topics of
? Women and Society
? Technology and Change
? Health and Wellbeing

What is the objective of the project?

Media Trust won a Cannes Chimera award that had the brief to engage young people in the global north (UK in our case) in positive thinking around international development aid. Our brief was to show that 'aid is working'. Quite a huge challenge for just a very small amount of pilot funding!  So our winning idea was to engage young film-makers from the "global south" with young film-makers in the UK. The former tell the stories, the latter engage with distributing the content in the UK, where we have a UK-wide TV channel "Community", but also partnerships with the UK media, print and online media industry, as well as the UK Youth Parliament and many other youth organisations.

What were the insights behind choosing talent from India for this project?

There are huge ties between young people in India and the UK - cultural, social, family ties - and language. There is also a passion for film across India, and a deeply creative award-winning advertising industry. Development aid to India is quite a controversial issue in the UK. The UK government is withdrawing aid to India. Is this the right thing to do? Are the international foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who are funding this initiative, right to continue to invest aid in India? We want to hear the voices of young creative India, and we want UK young opinion-formers to hear those voices too.

What is the theme? Why do you think it is best suited to India?

We want young film-makers to tell the story that people, organisations and aid can and do make a difference, and that it is important for governments and foundations to continue to invest in development aid, that the world is a small place, and that we are all connected.  We consulted widely, including with the advertising industry, regarding whether we should limit the films to a specific theme linked to aid, and the strongest feedback we had, including from the Gates Foundation themselves, was to leave young Indian film-makers to choose the topic that they were passionate about - this could be around education, girls and young women, water and sanitation, health, energy, but also the more innovative solutions that aid is supporting, such as social entrepreneurs, or innovative technology solutions.

How is Media Trust going about getting young talent and mentors to work on this project?

Media Trust is reaching out to NGOs, film-schools, advertising agencies, media companies and individuals.To give us a deeper insight into the Indian advertising and media landscape and connect with the right people, we have on board our strategic advisor Paulomi Dhawan who acts as a bridge between Media Trust and Indian agencies.
We hope that social media will help spread the word, and of course are thrilled that exchange4media is supporting us! We have had fantastic interest, and nearly everyone thinks they can make something special by the 30th June deadline.

What is the kind of response you have got till now?

I'm thrilled at the response. We already have a number of film-makers lined up, and some leading creative directors and chief executives in the advertising and media industry who want to engage their younger staff in this project. It's a fantastic opportunity for young creatives to work on a brief that is, to say the least, challenging.

After interacting with the creative and media industry during your visit to India what are the differences between the India and the UK in terms of approach and attitude of people within these industries?

My biggest surprise from the two weeks I've just spent meeting with creative industry leaders from early morning till late in the evening is how many of them talked about, and worried about, 'scam' charity ads!  Ads made to win awards in the ad industry festivals, rather than to directly have an impact. Or ads made to draw attention to the ad itself, rather than to change mindsets through that attention. This kept coming up in the conversation.

So here's a chance to make content that will be tested on impact when we distribute it in the UK. Most of the films have guaranteed broadcast on UK television, as Media Trust owns its own TV channel, with donated bandwidth from Sky, Virgin Media and Arqiva, broadcasting into every home in the UK. And a major broadcaster in India has asked if they can also show the films, and are discussing formats.We really will want to test the impact of these films, through audience research, social media response, and lots of face to face debates.  Other than that, there's been huge positivity towards the concept of experienced creatives mentoring young creatives, and at the same time giving them an opportunity to make a difference, as well as getting involved in the prestigious Cannes Lions Festival. India's creative industry really wants to change the world, and to give their young talent the chance to show their skills and creativity.


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