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Video Visionary Award – Education Recipient: RSA

by RealPlayer on December 14, 2012

Video Visionary Education -RSAThis summer we announced the RealPlayer’s Video Visionary Award – Education. The award recognizes those who are using video to create world-class educational content for the masses. We’re happy to announce the next recipient of the award is the RSA.

The RSA is a registered charity that focuses on bringing new ways of thinking about society and life in general to the public. Through the RSA fellowship program, the organization has brought together an international network of individuals who engage in the ongoing work of the RSA and develop local initiatives that promote new ideas and bring about social change. The organization puts on events that brings together thought leaders to discuss and debate issues surrounding social and human issues and provide videos of those events on its site and its YouTube channel. The results are thought-provoking and inspiring.


While all of the video content that RSA produces is interesting, informative, and often enlightening, it’s the RSA Animate series that drew our attention. It uses animation to bring the RSA lectures from thought-leaders to life. The combination is an inspiring use of video. Watch the RSA Animate video on “Language as a Window into Human Nature” based on Steven Pinker’s take on the building blocks of language.

The RSA also recently hosted a Short Film Competition where they edited down three short audio extracts from lectures given at the RSA by social innovator Rachel Botsman, influential columnist David Brooks, and food guru Michael Pollan, and invited people to create short videos with those audio extracts at the base of the short film submission. People were then invited to vote for their favorites. The winner of the competition was Marja Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle for their short video based on Michael Pollan’s talk on food. The creativity used in the video clearly show’s their creative and mirrors some of the innovation found in the RSA Animate series. You can watch all the finalist video entries from the competition on YouTube.


We recently caught up with Abi Stephenson, RSA Public Event Programmer and RSA Animate Producer, to learn more about the organization’s video program.

RealPlayer (RP): How has video contributed to helping the overall cause of the RSA?

Abi Stephenson (AS): The RSA is a charity that was established in the heart of the Enlightenment, and has been pioneering progressive ideas and action ever since. We’ve got around 27,000 amazing Fellows around the world and a team of researchers working on some of the world’s most complex 21st century challenges – but we’re not necessarily a household name. The RSA Animate series has given us a huge amount of deserved exposure on the international stage, and has shone a bright light on the incredible work that goes on here.

RP: How has using animation in video help you share information in a way that traditional video doesn’t?

AS: The fact that visuals aid learning and information retention is pretty much a truism now, but taking the extra leap of animating complex content has really catalyzed a new revolution in sharing information. Suddenly you have a whole new level of understanding – an animated series of visual metaphors reinforcing what you are hearing at every stage. Suddenly something that could be perhaps viewed as intimidating or high-brow is rendered in a universal language, and watched by everyone from Finnish fourteen year-olds to Yoko Ono to Google executives. If you want to promote world-changing ideas, you want them as accessible, comprehensible, and international as possible – what could be better than animated online videos? 

RP: What led the RSA to start creating videos?

AS: As you may know, we run a pretty high-profile public events program, and put on around 150 talks, debates and screenings every single year. Having a completely free platform for ideas is one of the central tenets of the RSA’s charitable mission, but we were looking for a way to help the ideas shared in our auditoria to spread beyond those four walls.

RP: Who is responsible for all the great videos on the site? Do videographers and editors lend their time to help?

AS: Well apart from the wonderful speakers who provide the content, we have a great (but modest!) technical team here at the RSA – a video editor who both films and edits all of our content and a multimedia manager who oversees all of our technological innovations, social media and online channels.

RP: Can you tell us more about the short film competition and its benefits to the organization?

AS: The global response to the RSA Animate films showed us just how hungry people are for big ideas presented in visually innovative ways. The RSA is all about unlocking human potential, so we wanted to discover and nurture new creative talent so as to offer even more content that would inspire, enlighten and engage even more people around the world. A completely free and open competition seemed to us a cool way to do just that.

We edited down three short audio extracts from lectures given at the RSA by social innovator Rachel Botsman, influential columnist David Brooks, and food guru Michael Pollan, and we invited people to work their creative magic on them. We received entries from film-makers of all ages, from school kids, community groups, and amateur enthusiasts to those just starting out on professional careers. People used a wide range of techniques, from illustration, graphics and stop-motion to even a live-action mini-musical! Film-makers really responded to the RSA’s brief – that challenging ideas can be delivered with wit and fun. We were delighted that the competition was sponsored by the Nominet Trust, a foundation that supports innovative web projects for the common good. 

RP: What has been the most surprising result of the short film competition?

AS: We were surprised by the truly international reach of the competition – we received entries from animators from the US and South America to all over Europe and China. We were also bowled over by the enthusiasm of the public response. People voted in the thousands and sent fantastic messages of support to the finalists. We have now commissioned the winners of the competition (Marija and Benoit), to create the very first film in our new RSA Shorts series – a new animated film strand that takes short, snappy bursts of insight from our most popular talks and brings them to life through the talents of illustrators and animators from around the world. We think of RSA Shorts as shots of “mental espresso” – quick pick-me-up hits of curiosity-arousing ideas and inspiration.

RP: Where can people go to learn more about RSA and help spread the word and also are there any details you can share on the next short film competition?

AS: Head to our website – that’s the hub of information about our research and action programs, fellowship, and events, and you can find links to our podcasts, videos and RSA Animates there too. You can also find out more about joining the fellowship yourself if you want to take part in the RSA revolution! To keep up with what the RSA is doing follow us on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Click here for instructions on how to nominate a series of educational videos to receive a Video Visionary – Education award.

What do you think of the RSA videos? Would you want to enter the short film competition? What’s your favorite video? Let us know in the comments below.

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