A short history of GIPA

The following tells the short story of the origins of the global impact producers or GIPA network. This is intended as a living document where we can chart milestones in this organising effort and acknowledge the individuals and organisations from around the world who inspire all of our impact practice and on whose shoulders we stand.

Through the early 2000’s, there was incredible inspiration coming out of the US. From the practice of filmmakers like Paco de Onis, Pamela Yates and Sandi Dubowski. Field builders and keystone organisations like Active Voice and Working Films, who were supercharging a beautiful new wave of documentary impact campaigns. The challenge was to help make this movement and the ideas accessible to global communities and expand a justice centered practice.

In November 2012, Doc Society convenes a group of independent documentary filmmakers + impact producers from the US the UK including Jennifer MacArthur, Paula Vaccaro, Marc Silver, Patricia Finneran, Andy Jones, Joanna Natasagara amongst others. With campaigners + activists, political and legal strategists, distribution + marketing experts including allies from Sundance Institute, Bertha Foundation, Greenpeace + FilmAid. The goal: to begin codifying what we understand by impact production, get inspired by new practice from adjacent disciplines, and reflect on how best to share this justice centered approach into more filmmaking communities. It is at this meeting that the term ‘Impact Producer’ is coined and a basic definition drafted.

The conversation builds in New York in March 2014 when a wider group of fifty practitioners including colleagues from India, China and Australia gather with US and UK colleagues. The fruits of these two convenings will result in the publishing of the first edition of the Impact Field Guide that same year. The Guide is the first comprehensive resource written by the community laying out the essentials of impact distribution and sharing global case studies.

At the same time, the Good Pitch programme is evolving beyond the US and Europe and being taken up by cultural organsations in India, Australia, Argentina, East Africa, South East Asia. Every cycle includes impact labs for participating filmmakers and their allies. After each Lab, there is a new group of impact-curious practitioners, hungry for more connection. The momentum for a first global gathering is building.

In November 2015, Doc Society hosts the first Global Impact Producers Assembly at IDFA with 93 colleagues representing 18 countries. The connection and conversation in the room provides the impetus to launch the Global Impact Producers listserv in early 2016. The second in person meeting takes place at IDFA in November 2017. The third in 2018 by which time there are colleagues collecting from 40 countries. The partners who helped make these three gatherings possible and enabled stipends for many of the attendees were Ford Foundation, Bertha Foundation, British Council, Democracy and Media Foundation, Participant Media and Perspective Fund.

Meanwhile, a group of US impact producers and impact field leaders convene a virtual discussion around shared visions, key challenges and potential solutions in regard to career sustainability. The organizers include Sonya Childress (then at Firelight Media), Brenda Coughlin (then at Sundance Institute) and Molly Murphy (Working Films). That same year, they take the conversation to IDA’s Getting Real Conference, which provides critical momentum and deepens the understanding of what our community might need next.

This leads to the creation of an Impact Producer Sustainability Survey created with input from practitioners Ani Mercedes, Michael Premo and Erin Sorenson. Jamie Dobie joins the planning group and contributes to compiling survey responses, the results of which are shared and workshopped during the GIPA sessions at IDFA and at Sundance in early 2019. Three working groups roll out of these efforts exploring Resourcing + Development, Field-building, and Role Definition.

In March 2020, Sonya Childress, Jamie Dobie, and Molly Murphy, three of several originators of the Impact Producing profession in the United States, team up with Beadie Finzi and Jess Search from Doc Society to conduct a second survey of GIPA membership to identify areas of need and potential for development. At this point the GIPA listserv includes some 260 members from 30 countries.

Over 110 members, 40% of the group, respond. Career sustainability during the pandemic is the overwhelming major concern. As the facilitators of the survey and administrators of the Listserv, Sonya, Jamie, Molly, Beadie and Jess resolve to start meeting formally and frequently. The group Co-Facilitators (later dubbed “The Steering Committee”) take immediate action to fundraise and launch the Global Impact Producers Covid-19 Relief Fund.

Emily Wanja (Kenya), Vanessa Cuervo Forero (Colombia), and Farah Fayed (Lebanon) join the steering committee, bringing perspectives and representation from the global network. Over the summer, the team help administer USD $600,000 to 396 colleagues from 42 countries, all made possible by a grant from Perspective Fund.

Through the relief grant process, the GIPA membership will double in size, drawing an additional 233 new members from 12 new countries; Costa Rica, Nigeria, Chile, Rwanda, Poland, Russia, Côte d’Ivoire, Venezuela, China, Ghana, and The Czech Republic – bringing the collective to nearly 500 practitioners from 42 countries.

Through the second survey, the committee heard more fantastic ideas for field building and ways of strengthening our community of practice. As a steering committee, we recognized our own limited bandwidth and went in search of resources that could help support essential infrastructure. We raised a first grant in the amount of $250,000 USD for this effort, funds which are being administered by Doc Society, acting as a fiscal sponsor for GIPA.

Following a global call for applications, in January 2022, Naomi Walker (US) was hired as the first Global Network Coordinator, and in April 2022, Michelle Plascencia (Mexico) and Miriam Ayoo (Kenya) joined the team as Co-Coordinators.

This coincided with GIPA strategy gathering. Where a few impact producers and filmmakers from India, US, Kenya, Colombia, UK, consisting of some members from the steering committee and the coordinators met in Geneva at the Storyboard Collective Residence to come up with a strategy that would steer GIPA to the next level. This would also be informed by all the previous research and surveys. Key takeaways included a new GIPA structure founded on the principles of being both de-centralised and practitioner led, membership touchpoints were proposed that included the current steering committee transitioning to advisory role and activities for the year 2022.

At this point the Steering Committee is being re-imagined as a Transitional Advisory with the notion that it will dissolve away into a larger, more representative group of Regional coordinators over the next few years.

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