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EngageMedia in 2020: A Year of Challenges – and Opportunities

2020 has been enormously challenging across the Asia-Pacific, including in most of the countries where EngageMedia works. On top of the pandemic, 2020 saw huge protests for reform in Thailand, major economic downturn, and the continued shrinking of civic spaces in the region such as through Indonesia’s Omnibus Law and the Philippines’ anti-terrorism law.

At the start of the year, EngageMedia opened an office in Manila, Philippines, which we all too quickly had to close in March, just after our 15th anniversary celebrations, because of the lockdowns. With everyone working from home, we also decided to close our office in Yogyakarta, Indonesia after six years.

We have, however, been very fortunate in many other respects. We have reasonably secure funding and a team that was already very decentralised and highly adept at remote working. The ceasefire on the merry-go-round of conferences, workshops, and other events also allowed us to attend to a lot of overdue foundational work, from upgrading our finance and administration systems, to boosting our tech infrastructure and clarifying our vision, mission, and theory of change.

Our contributions to video for change, open and secure technology, and digital rights have been modest but significant. This 2020, we launched a new EngageMedia website, and built a new video-sharing platform. We also redesigned the Video4Change Network website, and merged the Indonesian and English versions of the Impact Toolkit.

Additionally, we launched our digital rights podcast and a second research series on artificial intelligence and human rights in Southeast Asia. We also regularly collaborated and convened discussions with the Coconet digital rights network, a network of digital safety practitioners, and the Video4Change Network (which also welcomed six new members).

We also grew our team, adding staff in India, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia. Next year, we will begin program work in South Asia for the first time.

2021 will no doubt be full of new challenges, opportunities, and threats. With more and more people deepening their engagement with the online world, this will be especially true for issues of digital rights and open and secure technology.

We’re kicking 2021 off by funding eight digital rights films (applications now open), launching our AI and human rights research, and kick-starting a new digital rights program in Indonesia. Next year, we’ll also refresh our branding and launch a new website, as well as run a series of Video for Change Impact Labs.

Finally, look out for the full launch of our Asia-Pacific social issues-focused video-sharing platform.

A huge thank you to our team, board, and the dozens of researchers, designers, developers, system administrators, writers, translators, videographers, and more who worked with us in 2020.

Most especially, thank you to the networks and communities we serve.

Here’s to working towards a better 2021!

Andrew Lowenthal
Executive Director

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