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The Democracy Video Challenge - Engaging Youth Through New Technology

Government as a Peacekeeper
Location: Room 146 Level:
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The Democracy Video Challenge , a public-private partnership, engages a key demographic (youth) using Web-2.0 tools. The Challenge is a global online competition that asks filmmakers, democracy advocates and the general public to create short videos that complete the phrase, “Democracy is…” Over 900 people from 95 countries, including Burma, China, Iran and Russia submitted their videos. By calling for user-generated material on a foreign policy priority (democracy) – and providing a platform for their views to be heard and discussed – the partnership embodies the Administration’s commitment to engaging with and listening to people around the world. To date, the contest sites on YouTube and America.gov as well as the Challenge’s friends, fans and followers have drawn over 820,000 viewers.

Our partners include globally recognized representatives from the film/entertainment industry, youth and democracy organizations and academia, such as NBC Universal, the Motion Picture Association of America, the International Youth Foundation, the Center for International Private Enterprise, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. YouTube provided the video platform. Their participation provided the Challenge with instant credibility and an expanded reach into diverse communities worldwide. The Challenge provided our embassies with a new tool to establish or enhance in-country contacts. In addition, the Challenge has helped the Department meet the goals of the congressionally-mandated Advancing Democratic Values Act.

An independent jury comprised of partner organizations, minus the State Department, selected the 18 finalists. Michael Apted, the President of the Directors Guild of America and Hernando de Soto, the President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru co-chaired the jury. Six winners – one from each geographic region of the world will be selected by online voting from May 15 to June 15. In September 2009, six winners will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, New York, and Hollywood. While in the US they will attend special screenings of their videos, spend time on TV/Movie sets, and meet with U.S. film professionals, democracy advocates, government officials and the media.

Photo of George Clack

George Clack

Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. State Department

George Clack is director of the Office of Publications in the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. Each year, his staff of editors, graphic designers, Web editor/designers, and copyright experts produces 80 to 100 print and Internet publications for distribution through U.S. embassies to foreign audiences. This content focuses on explaining U.S. policies and on presenting fundamental American values.

Among the publications he has edited are: Abraham Lincoln: A Legacy of Freedom; Being Muslim in America; Focus on Intellectual Property Rights; Handbook of Independent Journalism; Writers on America; and Outline of the U.S. Economy. He also serves as creative director for the monthly Internet magazine eJournal USA.

In the last year his work on this inherently “old media” mission has morphed into an array of Web 2.0 ventures – the Democracy Video Challenge contest on YouTube; the eJournal USA Facebook site; and, of course, a half-dozen Twitter feeds. Clack recently received the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association 2009 Award for Achievement for “imaginative use of new media technologies” in the Democracy Video Challenge.

Clack joined the State Department in October 1999 when the U.S. Information Agency merged into the Department. He had come to USIA in 1983 as a magazine editor. Among his positions with USIA were editor-in-chief of America Illustrated, a Russian-language magazine distributed in the former Soviet Union; associate editor of Dialogue, USIA’s worldwide intellectual journal; and Director of the Near East/South Asia Office, in charge of the Washington File news service for this region of the world.

His previous career includes positions as editor of the Cultural Post magazine, published by the National Endowment for the Arts; associate editor of Job Safety and Health magazine; and instructor of English at the SUNY College in Geneseo, New York.

A graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, Clack grew up in
Pittsburgh. He has a master’s degree in English from the Claremont Graduate School in California.

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