Monday, May 19, 2008


Consistent with the philosophy that Non-profit organizations should have the same access to effective and successful communications, media and video documentary resources as corporations do, Voices of Hope Productions was named a Finalist in The 2008 Stevie Awards--The American Business Awards.

More than 2,600 entries from companies of all sizes and in virtually every industry were submitted for consideration in more than 40 categories. Voices of Hope Productions is competing in the Non-profit PR fund raising category for directing and producing the short documentary, Invest in Change, developed as a fund raising tool for New Jersey Community Capital also known as the Community Development Loan Fund.
New Jersey Community Capital is a community development financial institution (CDFI) that invests in communities throughout New Jersey providing capital for affordable housing, education, and cultural and health services in low income communities.

"From the very beginning, we knew that Voices of Hope Productions was right for our short documentary fund raising video. We were even more pleased with how well they grasped our industry and how strongly they felt about it,” said Jennifer Bredehoft of New Jersey Community Capital, located in Trenton, New Jersey. “A Certificate of Finalist status in the Stevie Awards confirms their commitment to quality Non-profit storytelling. We congratulate Voices of Hope Productions on their achievement and wish them well in the competition.”

The American Business Awards are the only national, all-encompassing awards program honoring great performances in business. Finalists were chosen by business professionals nationwide during preliminary judging in April through early May. “Being named a Finalist is more of an accomplishment than ever before,” said Michael Gallagher, founder and president of The Stevie Awards. “It means that independent business executives have agreed that the nominee is worthy of national recognition.”

Stevie Award winners will be announced during the annual gala on Thursday, June 12 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. The Global Sponsor of the 2008 Stevie Awards is Dow Jones. Supporting sponsors of The 2008 American Business Awards include FIS Softpro, High Performance Technologies Inc., John Hancock, RCN Corporation, Richardson, and Ultimate Software. Media sponsors include the Business TalkRadio Network, CRM Advocate, and Human Resource Executive.

For more information go to the Stevie Awards website.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights Day: Voices of Hope and Economic Migration

I am pleased that Voices of Hope Productions has worked on a very worthwhile human rights project about economic migration in collaboration with freeDimensional (fD) and the New School University Media Studies Department.

Economic migration has been a concerning issue over the past few years and from May to June 2008 at the Dak'Art Biennale, fD is supporting its Dakar partner center, Atelier Moustapha Dime, to raise awareness on the growing number of West Africans dying at sea while attempting economic migration. Multi-site, in-depth focus on economic migration using the experience of 14 Senegalese men who traveled from Goree Island off the coast of Dakar to within a hundred miles of Brooklyn before being picked up by the US Coast Guard. These men were summarily detained in a New Jersey ‘warehouse’ afterwhich 10 were quickly deported. In May 07 the
Associated Press stated that in 2006 more than 30,000 African immigrants were caught trying to reach the Canary Islands.

Voices of Hope Productions’ role in this project evolved into the creative direction and design of a hybrid newspaper/poster called the
Goree Gazette that was printed in Senegal and will be handed out month-long at the 2008 Dak'Art Biennale. The accompanying media campaign interviews and press conference) in Dakar public spaces – including the central marketplace, city center, fishing boat launches, and the exhibition venues of the 2008 Dak'Art Biennale – will be created in an archival process of sharing, trust and consensus-building with Dakar pedestrians, and is intended to provide a robust version of the situation that faces economic migrants seeking opportunities in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Voices of Hope Productions, fD and New School Media Studies provided a journalistic tone and artistic treatment to the English/French/Wolof text moving it from mere content to an aesthetically viable pamphlet dynamically designed to capture the attention of Dakar citizens, art world visitors and international journalists covering the Biennale. The hybrid newspaper opens up to an impactful and educational poster that includes an artistic rendering by a detainee of the inside of the detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The global awareness and reach of this important issue will continue beyond the Biennale through the Dakar Action Lab on the Taking IT Global Web site. The project will also be included in TransCultural Exchange’s Here, There and Everywhere: Anticipating the Future of Art 2009 conference and catalog.

More links:
Mother's migration outreach
CBS 60 minutes segment on Detention in America

Dakar Action Lab

Download the Goree Gazette
(web version 16mg)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


According to The She Spot co-authors, Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen, the secret to changing the world is hidden in plain sight—in fact, it’s half the population. Women vote more, volunteer more, and give to more charities than men do. They control over half of the total wealth in America.

Witter and Chen reveal surprising insights into women’s real social priorities (for example, in one poll only 7% of women identified “protecting reproductive choice," supposedly the women’s issue, as a top priority for Congress). They describe four core principles—care, control, connect, and cultivate—for designing messages that will resonate with women of all ages and backgrounds. And using case histories from companies like Home Depot, T-Mobile and Kellogg’s as well as nonprofits like, The American Lung Association and The Environmental Defense Fund, they explain precisely how to put these four principles into practice.

According to Witter in a
commentary in ODE magazine, one very good case study is that of the women of Rwanda. "The 1994 genocide in Rwanda left the country in tatters, its future fraught with uncertainty. Of the more than 800,000 people killed, most were men and boys. Rwanda’s remaining population was 70 percent female. Fast-forward to the present day: The economy has revived and is holding steady. Major road arteries between cities and outlying villages, which were destroyed, have been rebuilt. Today, the Rwandan lower house of Parliament is nearly half female, the highest percentage of women in any parliament worldwide. Girls are attending school in record numbers.

The women of Rwanda are behind one of the most inspiring comeback stories of national transformation in recent history. And while their story is dramatic, it’s not unique. Indeed, in the field of international development, women have emerged as the not-so-secret secret to changing the world."

Read the transcript of the Chronicle of Philanthropy's Live Discussion What Women Want

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Are shows like Extreme Makeover or more recently Oprah's “Big Give” (both on ABC) really philanthropic or just ratings boosters and product placement vehicles? Over the years I have been wondering whether these free handouts are truly successful and who they actually benefit in the long run.

We are all told the American dream is all about owning a house with a little white picket fence. Perhaps these reality television make-overs appeal to us in that same dreamy sense. Wouldn’t we all just love for someone to recreate our homes for free? Or is this show popular because people think by watching from their own TV they too are somehow part of the volunteer and philanthropic movement?

On the ABC, Oprah’s Big Give website it states, “In eight one-hour episodes, a diverse, determined and competitive group of ten people are given the challenge of a lifetime — to change the lives of complete strangers in the most creative and dramatic ways.” I think Oprah is probably one of the most ‘activist’ celebrities on television today, but perhaps rather than using contestants, her producers should consider actually highlighting “real people” who are really living this work daily across the country.

Although bad-luck-gone-good might make for interesting television I often wondered how did the people on Extreme Makeover handle the renewed sense of home ownership in the long-term? The show has been on for a long time, but I’ve never seen a reunion show highlighting “where they are now” …like measure the outcome/investment of the work done and money that’s been spent.

What’s prompted me to write about this is that the Marrero family, in Camden, a recipient of an Extreme Makeover home built by JS Hovnanian and Sons in 2007 has now put their home on the market for sale at $499K according to an Asbury Park Press article. I thought a reaction to the story by someone on the APP website hit the proverbial nail-on-the-head. Is the family advised and consulted on how to pay for the house and the bills associated once the film crew leaves? This house was built in Camden. Or does a show like Extreme Makeover get involved or care about how the home may-or-may not fit into the city's urban renewal planning?

Apparently the land the home was built on is owned by Urban Promise, which curiously has a video piece from ABC’s 20/20 on children in Camden that takes you to an affiliated story on “Waiting on the World to Change”. The article goes on to talk about Camden being the most dangerous city in America to children.

So one has to scratch their head and ask, why when the family had lived in a cockroach infested brownstone prior, would Extreme Makeover build a huge house in Camden where there are nearly no comparable homes in that price range which is at the top of the market. And why is the family trying to sell the home less than a year later?

Is this really responsible philanthropy? In an article by Joshua Horwitz for the Chronicle of Philanthropy he explains eloquently, “Television offers a great opportunity to educate and to make people passionate about causes — especially when a philanthropist and television personality as popular as Oprah Winfrey is sponsoring the lessons.” I agree. But like everything else in the media, we really need to think about the messages we are taking in and be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe a few inconsistent and ill-informed philanthropic messages are better than none. But I'm not sure. Perhaps it's just fertilizing the ground for telling the real stories about volunteerism and philanthropy.

What do you think?

Monday, May 05, 2008


The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey presents 2nd annual SHAKESPERIENCE:NJ. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will host teachers and students in grades 5 through 12 from across the state for Shakesperience:NJ -- three full days highlighting and celebrating the study of Shakespeare through performance on May 5, 6 and 7 at The Theatre's Main Stage - the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in Madison. The initiative offers an opportunity for middle and high school students to spend an entire day sharing the excitement of Shakespeare as actors and audience members. Each group of students will take the Main Stage at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre to present a 20-minute Shakespeare scene to an audience of their peers, teachers, parents and professional actors from The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey who will serve as commentators. Twenty-three schools will participate in this year's three-day festival. "As a teacher, I am most grateful for the fact that my students could share their work with peers from different schools and learn from other groups," said May Fung from the Faith Hope Love Academy in Somerset, a participant in the 2007 Shakesperience:NJ festival.

In addition to the student performances, each day will include entertaining educational interludes such as Shakespeare trivia games and swordplay demonstrations. For more information about Shakesperience:NJ, call 973-408-3980 or e-mail