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Things are Changing at Skylight: A Letter from the Executive Director

This fall, Skylight begins a new chapter: We are now a 501c3 non-profit organization. With this new structure, we can expand the scope of our work and build our network of donors committed to using media and storytelling to advance human rights. We are also growing our program areas from Media and Outreach to include Labs, in order to share our human rights media ecosystem model with students, media-makers, activists and organizations worldwide.  We invite you to join us as we embark on a new chapter at Skylight.

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Photo credit: Dana Lixenberg

Since our founding in 1981, Skylight has produced artistic, challenging and socially relevant independent documentary films on issues of human rights. Over the years, we steadily expanded from single feature-length documentary films to encompass a wide range of media platforms, as technologies offered new creative possibilities for engagement with audiences. In addition to feature-length documentary films for theatrical and broadcast release, online streaming, mobile technologies, social media, community radio, interactive sites, data visualization and virtual reality have all became part of our toolbox, allowing us to develop increasingly complex outreach campaigns co-designed and carried out with civil society partners and movement actors. We call this model a human rights media ecosystem, designed to sustain enduring counter-narratives through powerful storytelling to strengthen social justice movements.

We came to realize that our legacy structure as a film production company was hampering our ability to fulfill our potential as the human rights media organization we had become. In 2013 we restructured as a nonprofit organization and in November 2014 we were granted tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.  As a tax-exempt nonprofit, coupled with the sage guidance of a very committed and knowledgeable Board, we are building an enduring institution with a broader financial base and a structure that will allow for a succession strategy to carry our model into the future.

With our new structure we are also expanding our existing Program areas, MEDIA and OUTREACH, to include a third program: LABS. With LABS, we seek to share our model through Master Classes, Workshops, and our new SolidariLabs.

SolidariLabs will foster regional cohorts of a diverse mix of committed mediamakers, grassroots movement leaders, artists and human rights organizations who together will learn how to create media ecosystemsrelevant to their issues. Each regional SolidariLab, co-hosted by local organizations, will invite participants to take part in a 5-day solidarity building workshop. Following the SolidariLabs, alumni will attend an annual convening of the regional cohorts, with the goal of developing a global network to share experiences and foster organic collaborations and mutual support over the long term.

As repressive governments and extractive industries expand their reach and seek to shrink civil society space, they deploy narratives that discredit and criminalize human rights and social justice movements, disseminating those narratives through powerful corporate and state controlled media channels.  Our troubled times require a broader conception of how to defend human rights, a new paradigm that builds networks of movement actors anchored by the power of storytelling, and by an understanding of how culture change is central to achieving social justice. In this area Skylight can play a key and unique role.

We look forward to advancing with you as we embark on a new and exciting chapter for Skylight.

In solidarity,

Paco de Onís, Executive Director, Skylight

Paco de Onís

Paco is the Executive Director and Executive Producer of Skylight, a human rights media organization dedicated to advancing social justice through storytelling by creating documentary films and media tools that can applied in long-term strategies for positive social change.

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