Development Cooperation Handbook/The Vrinda project Documentary

playlist of introductions to the documentary

The Vrinda project Documentary


The video resources linked to the Development Cooperation Handbook have also been edited to produce an 8-episode documentary meant for television and for video on demand platforms like Vimeo and Reelhouse.

The dialogic structure of the documentary enables an easier understanding of global cooperation issues. The story jumps (with flash-forwards and flash-backs) from the "front-stage scenes", that cover development projects, to "back-stage scenes", that disclose the purpose of the Vrinda project and the challenges faced by the executing team.

By putting the team inside the story, the documentary does without the pretentiousness of being "objective". Since the team members belong to different cultural contexts, their dialogue enables the articulation of different cultural viewpoints. This makes the documentary a media product that moves beyond the usual political boundaries, so that it can represent all the different countries that are partners in the global effort to achieve the MDGs.

The Vrinda project Documentary

It's the story of a travel. From Europe, we went to Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and South America, to cover projects of international cooperation.

From the original topic assigned to us, the MDG programme, we went on to search why mainstream media finds it so difficult to cover activities of peacebuilding.

We collected stories on the work in progress for reducing extreme poverty, promoting basic education, empowering women, reducing the child mortality, improving maternal health, fighting against epidemics, protecting the environment, and promoting fair relationship amongst nations.

We shared these stories on the Internet but we wanted them to be broadcast on television. So, we interviewed policy makers and we shared with them the story of our effort to narrate how different people are rediscovering their own values by learning to appreciate the values of others.

It was a difficult journey. We had to overcome media stereotypes of “bad news is news that sells”. We had to bring on board editors that are usually keen on aligning with established prejudices among public, because they sell audiences to advertisers, not awareness to audiences.
We had to redefine communication as something that isn’t an exchange of preconceived notions but is a new creation that breaks the isolation of people, enables "participation" and builds a sense of "community".

In this journey, what we really learned was that development cannot be "given" in the same way that education cannot be “delivered” and participation cannot be “bought”. We learned that development is a process that requires communication and cooperation; that this is possible only as far as counterparts act in a reciprocally empowering manner, because they recognize that, in order to fully realize themselves, they need the self-realization of the others.

Now, we would like to share this journey with you; because this is where we wanted to arrive when we started it.

The stories narrated in the episodes had been first uploaded on Youtube and used by the development actors for communicating with the stakeholders of their projects. The feedback from the viewers of these video stories has been vital for the final editing work of the documentary.

Finally the documentary structure has been woven along three different editorial treads:

  • The main editorial line has been moving along the 8 MDGs. In each episodes there are 3-5 complete stories of projects working towards the achievement of a specific Millennium Goal.  The stories related to the specific MDGs
  • The second narration thread follows the debate amongst experts on the methodology and effectiveness of international cooperation actions. In each episode the testimonials discuss one of the development issues.  The development Cooperation Issues. This in order to create a dynamic interaction between the specific projects, that are implemented "at the grass-roots level", and the general debate, taking place among international institutions and the global media.
  • The third editorial line proceeds along ⇒ the story of our project as it unfolds and as team faces the challenges of bringing on the mainstream media the unglamorous topic of international cooperation and dialogue.

If you do not have a credit card for buying the products you can see the episodes via the Playlists of Youtube
 playlist on YouTube - Episodes 1-4
 playlist on YouTube - Episodes 5-8
However in these playlists you will not have the final edited version and some subtitles of non-English interviews will be missing.

What MDGs have attracted my attention and what was my drive


Stefano explains the target and the approach of our documentary
Stefano asks for suggestions on how to improve the documentary
Stefano asks to Jean Drèze suggestions on how to cover the good news

The MDGs are a political step towards the Global Agenda for Development; an Agenda with a much wider scope; an Agenda that is the "vocation" of our times; a non-hierarchical action network where different peoples and institutions integrate their efforts in the service of knowledge, in the reduction of conflicts and in care for this World in which we live together.

The purpose of the Documentary is:

  • to focus on the challenges and stakes of the Global Agenda for Development
  • to analyse the challenges of implementing Development Cooperation Programmes:
  • the effort in progress; and
  • the results achieved.
  • to explore factors that facilitate or contrast global partnerships for development.
  • to illustrate the people, institutions and organizations working for the Global Agenda for Development:
  • portraying their stories,
  • observing what their projects deliver; and
  • analyzing if their work really benefits target populations and impacts on wider social contexts;
  • to show ways in which people in richer countries are involved in raising funds and other resources for people of developing nations and in what sense this also benefits the developed countries;
  • to investigate how work undertaken in international cooperation affects national and international policies and impacts the communication climate amongst nations;
  • to show how media covers (or does not cover) Cooperation Programmes;
  • to show how artists and educators relate to global partnerships for development; to see how writers, actors, directors, artists, musicians and other artists take part in the Global Agenda for Development;
  • to challenge pre-suppositions that most development aid is wasted and that there is little accountability in the way development projects are managed;
  • to verify the presupposition that most development is sponsored by Western Nations;
  • to understand how far the local and the global dimensions of sustainable development are interlinked;
  • to investigate whether lessons learned in international cooperation activities are used to inform national projects and policies, both in developed and developing countries;
  • to compare the aptitudes of peoples of different nations in assuming responsibility for global development and inter-cultural dialogue;
  • to indicate why the awareness of the global dimension of development and  the sense of responsibility towards contributing to making it sustainable and fair are the indicators of the ethical and cultural development of a nation.

The Episodes


 The Vimeo On Demand platform where the documentary is distributed
If you do not have a credit card for buying the products you can see the episodes via the Playlists of Youtube
 playlist on YouTube - Episodes 1-4
 playlist on YouTube - Episodes 5-8
However in these playlists you will not have the final edited version and some subtitles of non-English interviews will be missing.

© Kautilya Society for Intercultural Dialogue photography by Gauri Grazia De Santis and Franco Ceccarelli

1 - MDG 1 - Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2 - MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education
3 - MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
4 - MDG 4 Reduce child mortality
5 - MDG 5: Improve maternal health
6 - MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7 - MDG 7 - Ensure environmental sustainability
8 - MDG 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

See also


 The story of the story
 Finalizing the editing script of the documentary
 The MDGs

 Community as distributor

 Backstage scenes

 The video resources linked to this handbook

  List of things to do in order to illustrate a project

  On Youtube ⇒ Utilization of collected resources for TV broadcast - playlist

 TVP Community for distributing the media products

 The Vrinda Project Channel

 The Vimeo On Demand platform where the documentary is distributed



Executive producer: Fausto Aarya De Santis
Music: Robert Kres, Estas Tonne
Producer: Vrinda Dar
Photography: Gauri De Santis, Franco Ceccarelli, Ayhan Ghanim, Alejandro Ardila
Editor: Shachindra Bhisht
producer: Vrinda Dar
Director: Stefano De Santis
© 2014 Kautilya Society



Sierra Leone



Why the television? Wasn't Internet the best distributor of the project media?


The interactivity of Internet enables a personalized way of moving through the video resources and the viewer can chose her/his own itinerary through the video playlists and decide what to see first. On the other side the interactivity of Internet, left to itself without a unifying thread, let the viewer to be as alone as a client in a supermarket, who has to choose between the different items, but is not in a process of "dialogue" with the producers, nor in a process of community with the other "clients". Rather then a "clearing house" we wanted a "village feast", where one can find a sense of unity of purpose and a shared identity. So before and after the interactivity we felt the need to create a unitary "story" of the whole event. That story has been threaded in a narration and had been articulated in the "episodes of the documentary". But it could also take the form of a "book" or a "film". In any case something that has a thread that leads the story and gives unity to the various experiences. Including the experience of exploiting the interactivity and the ubiquity of the Internet.

The other reason why television was conceived as a strategic media in spite of its being already, in many senses, an "old medium", is that bringing the product on to the TV screens was the challenge of exposing to the general public what our group of author wanted to communicate. It is like bringing to the public theater of an innovative cultural and political message, that was initially framed in alternative circles, but that would have made not much an impact if confined only within a closed group of alternative thinkers unable - or unwilling - to give testimony of themselves to the wider community.

After we assembled a draft version  Episodes edited for a television distribution we created on a   Google+ community specifically dedicated to distribution, and we started building the partnerships for distribution and broadcast of the edited episodes. Which we continued to edit as the story of the documentary moved on in overcoming the distribution challenges . And because the feedback from distributors gave us, along with the feedback of the users of this Wikibook, new ideas for improving the editions or for customize them for specific target audiences.