Advocates and activists think in issues, causes, struggles, and demographics. We have messages we seek to convey, audiences we hope to persuade. But as humans, we use stories, not arguments, to understand the world around us. Every first year law student hears, “the lawyer that tells the best story wins.” In today’s world, however, telling the best story involves more than just a well-reasoned argument and personal charisma. A good advocacy story needs drama. It needs relatable characters and struggle. It includes a call to arms and the possibility of future success.
The first decade of the 21st century has given defenders of human rights and social justice a remarkable array of new technological tools. Digital video, social media, and mobile phones have the power to make advocacy more effective and less expensive, and can help influence results in particularly tough cases or campaigns where traditional advocacy tools alone may not be enough. The New Media Advocacy Project works with human rights and social justice advocates, social ventures, and political movements, to produce storytelling media and craft strategies that show the human side of issues. We tell stories that are designed to achieve results. We tell stories that help our clients win. To start a conversation with us about your stories, click here.
The New Media Advocacy Project was founded upon the idea that the combination of excellent legal advocacy with the visual and social power of new media can be a potent force in even the most challenging human rights and social justice campaigns. The organization developed as a result of a number of unintentional experiments in using video to win legal cases and campaigns. Adam Stofsky started using a video in his legal practice early in his years as a student at Harvard Law School.
After some exciting but fairly limited successes using video to pressure and persuade legislators in various cases, the real galvanizing moment happened in the midst of litigation. As a young lawyer in 2003, Adam was part of a team representing a group of African American workers at a processing plant in Alabama who had been subjected to severe racial harassment, including a segregated bathroom and a “Whites Only” sign on the door. Despite these disturbing facts, when the legal team entered settlement negotiations, the mediator advised us to take the $10,000 that the defendant was offering our 13 clients. The conventional tools of legal advocacy had failed us. Looking for a new approach to salvage the case, we made a short movie out of deposition video clips. The video told the mediator and the defendant our clients’ stories in their own voices, and illustrated how the case would look if it went to trial. A week later we settled for almost $1 million, including attorneys’ fees, and won major reforms at the processing plant.
The New Media Advocacy Project was created to replicate that success in all areas of public interest and legal advocacy, and has since expended to serve clients in a variety of sectors—human rights, campaigns, social enterprise—that involve fighting against tough odds and using great storytelling to tip the balance.
Adam is the founder and special advisor at N-Map. Adam is a graduate of Amherst College (1998) and Harvard Law School (2004). After finishing law school, he served as a law clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then received a Skadden Fellowship to work as a litigator at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. After his fellowship, he joined the law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, as a litigation associate, where he worked for two years, after which he left to found N-Map. Adam experimented with using video to support legal advocacy during his first summer in law school, working for a small, local NGO in Nigeria, where he made a movie to pressure the government to stop obstructing litigation seeking a remedy for a massive forced eviction that had left 300,000 people homeless. The strategy was a success, and Adam continued his video and new media experiments at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Working with hundreds of videographers around the country, Adam successfully used new media techniques to favorably settle race discrimination cases, pressure state legislatures to allocate money to low income communities after Hurricane Katrina, and document voting rights violations. Adam received an Echoing Green Fellowship to support N-Map in the spring of 2009.
Karen is a photographer, filmmaker, and human rights advocate based in New York City. She graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. with honors and the Glynn Isaac Prize for best thesis in Anthropology. An avid traveller and inquisitive explorer, Karen has conducted research and photographic work in the U.S., Mexico, Central America, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and Peru. As a Harvard Museums fellow, Karen curated a multimedia exhibit in Copan, Honduras. She has also worked for the science and art museum, the Exploratorium, and a media tech start-up in San Francisco. At N-Map, she produces short documentaries and other media to support human rights advocacy. All of these experiences have taught her how influential storytelling and media can be to encourage reflection and inspire change.
Danielle moved to New York in 2015 from her native New Orleans, where she served as Incubator Manager at Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, a non-profit that helps launch businesses solving social and environmental challenges in the Greater New Orleans area. At Propeller, Danielle led operations for the Propeller Incubator, a shared office, event space and local hub for social entrepreneurship, home to 60+ inspiring organizations. Danielle graduated from Tulane University with a BA in International Development and Anthropology and spent her summers traveling, both abroad and across the US by bicycle.
Stephen Steim is an activist and filmmaker with more than a decade of experience working in the human rights movement. As the executive director of N-Map, he leads the organization’s work to bolster human rights litigation, advocacy and legal empowerment through creative uses of storytelling. He previously served as N-Map’s Creative & Technical Director. Prior to joining N-Map, Steve worked in a senior role at Human Rights Watch. In his eight years there, he established the organization’s Chicago office, oversaw a number of advocacy and development initiatives in Chicago and New York, participated in the launch of HRW’s global fundraising campaign, and shot and edited videos as a member of the multimedia team. Born and raised in Chicago, Steve began his career as a consultant for the 2004 Obama for US Senate Campaign. He provided a range of public affairs services to the AFL/CIO, the United States Library of Congress, and Teach for America, among many other clients. In 2007, he launched The Detainees Speak, a series of performances by internationally renowned musicians and actors including Riz Ahmed, Alana Arenas and David Kelly. Artists read poems written by Guantanamo Bay detainees and raised funds for their legal representation. In 2008, Steve co-founded Homeroom, an independent, non-profit resource for creative Chicagoans. Steve holds a liberal arts degree from St. John’s College and a master’s degree in digital media from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Jessie Landerman is a documentary filmmaker and human rights specialist with a passion for using technology and storytelling to promote empowerment and human rights. Prior to joining N-Map, Jessie worked as a Video Advocacy Instructor with the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, a Women and Public Policy Research Fellow for Harvard University at the Colombian National Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies, and an international development specialist in Argentina, Mexico and Nicaragua. She received her Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Cultural Anthropology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut (2006), and her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (2015).
A professional writer and fundraiser, Michael joined N-Map with a decade of experience in communications, nonprofit fund development, and freelance journalism. Prior to joining N-Map, she worked extensively on systemic reform issues, including education reform, and youth advocacy. Michael specializes in translating the complex language of systemic reform into emotionally compelling stories that resonate with a diversity of target audiences.
Mitch is a writer and filmmaker interested in using media to shift established narratives and inspire positive social change. He completed his first film about the socioeconomic impact of the Brazil nut industry in an Amazonian wildlife reserve while studying in Bolivia. Mitch was inspired by this experience to pursue film as tool of communication in his work as a social justice educator with his college’s Department of Multicultural Life and as an environmental advocate with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. He also brought his knowledge of media to the access department of Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, instructing courses in videography, editing, and documentary storytelling. Whether working on his own films or helping others express themselves more effectively, Mitch remains committed to creating engaging and informative media for social justice. Mitch graduated from Macalester College with a B.A. in English and International Studies.
Katherin comes to N-Map after nearly seven years at Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems (HURIDOCS), where she worked to develop the organization and technology solutions for the human rights movement. Katherin holds a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and is currently an MFA candidate in Integrated Media Arts at CUNY-Hunter College where she continues to explore the use of technology and new media for innovating the way we tell stories.
Matthew Collins-Gibson is a Managing Director in Development and Outreach at Human Rights Watch. He is primarily responsible for designing and overseeing Human Rights Watch’s next fundraising campaign and expanding the pool of leadership gift donors. Matthew recently rejoined Human Rights Watch from J.P. Morgan Chase, where he spent the past two years as a Business Manager in Risk Reporting. He oversaw global operations, governance, and communication for a staff of over 200 people. Before his time in the private sector, Matthew worked briefly as the Development Director at Physicians for Human Rights and prior to that spent 11 years at Human Rights Watch in the Development & Outreach department. He holds a bachelor's degree in international service from American University and a master's degree in international politics from New York University.
Kim Keller is the Executive Director of the David & Anita Keller Foundation, a San Francisco-based family foundation committed to human rights as the cornerstone to peace and justice. In addition to serving on the board of N-MAP, Last Mile Health, Accountability Counsel and UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, she is an active member of The Philanthropy Workshop and the International Human Rights Funders Group. She holds degrees from Wellesley College and the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Alex Gibney is an award winning documentary film director and producer, As recently as 2010, Esquire Magazine said that Gibney “is becoming the most important documentarian of our time.” He has directed dozens of features for television and the big screen, including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature), Taxi to the Dark Side (winner of an Oscar for best documentary feature), and Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson.
Gayle is President of Northrop Nonprofit Consulting, a firm specializing in strategic planning, organization and leadership development for nonprofits, social enterprises and NGOs worldwide. Clients include leaders and grassroots organizers fueling the human rights and social justice movement, including Human Rights Watch, PEN America, Liberty Hill Foundation, Public Counsel and the Alliance for Children’s Rights. Gayle is a lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management where she teaches social entrepreneurship, governance, and impact measurement and is helping launch a new center for social impact. As adjunct faculty at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Graduate School of Business, Gayle helped launch Spark Health, a program assisting governments in Africa strengthen their health systems and improve health outcomes, including the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV, and she is currently working with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCT on an initiative to drive social innovation in health in the global south. Gayle received her MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and holds BA degrees in Communications and American Studies from Stanford University.
Rebecca is an Emmy Award nominated documentary filmmaker and, since 2011, a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. Her directorial debut, WAR DON DON (HBO), won the special jury prize at the SXSW film festival. Salon called her second feature, CODE OF THE WEST (America ReFramed), “one of the best movies about America’s drug war.” She recently produced UNTOUCHABLE about the sex offender registry, which won the Albert Maysles New Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Rebecca was profiled in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces in Independent Film as an “up-and-comer poised to shape the next generation of independent film.” She is the founder and principal at Racing Horse Productions. In addition to Harvard, she has taught classes at RISD, American University’s Human Rights Institute, and Columbia University. She was a 2012 Soros Justice Fellow and a 2015 Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Rebecca graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School.
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center