Showcasing Policy Impact through Cinema
[Editor’s note: This post was written by Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, Head of Communication and Policy Engagement, and Arushi Sen, Media Coordinator, at the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP).]
As a communication tool, Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) decided to participate in a bid for proposal initiated by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The call for proposal, for producing a documentary film to showcase a story on the impact of CSTEP’s work, came at an opportune moment. We felt that it was important for us to share our story on the contributions we have made to India’s policy for clean energy.
Since 2008, the Government of India has been attempting to address a key policy question: How to ensure energy security for millions of people in a low carbon manner. Close to 400 million Indians lack access to electricity and the rural electricity supply is erratic and of poor quality. The Government has launched several initiatives such as enhancing energy efficiency, increasing solar and wind power generation, developing inclusive infrastructure in urban areas, etc. in the form of National Missions. The design and implementation of these missions required policy research support. CSTEP worked with the Government to develop technology enabled studies and made significant contributions.
Having done this, we were identifying a communication mode to showcase these milestones, and the Call for Proposals from IDRC was a great blessing in disguise. We put together a Concept Note and submitted our proposal capturing the contributions we have made in the area of clean energy. The core rationale stated by CSTEP in its proposal was that albeit it did
not work at the grassroots level, however, its work influenced long-term public policy to benefit the entire nation.
The Production Phase
On October 17, 2013, we received intimation from IDRC stating that we were shortlisted among several Asian Think Tanks. In order to be the final grantee, we had to justify our proposal to the production team (GLP Films) via a Skype call. It was a true moment of joy, when we got an email on October 28, 2013 stating that we were the winners.
The real work began, when we started planning the production with members from GLP Films. Being professionals and with great experience in film making and production, the crew from GLP Films sent us a list of requirements. These requirements were to help them build a storyline for the film they were going to make. In order to effectively communicate CSTEP’s story, our first task was to help them understand the nuances of CSTEP’s work. In the area of India’s policy on clean energy, CSTEP works with a number of stakeholders including government agencies and policy makers, heavy industries who have taken measures to operate on clean technologies, and renewable energy generators and manufacturers.
It was proposed by GLP Films that they would conduct interviews with some of CSTEP’s researchers and stakeholders who have
played an integral role in this story. Over a period of 3 months, CSTEP’s communications team and GLP Films discussed potential interviewees over weekly Skype calls.From an initial list of 40 interviewees, the two teams narrowed down the list to approximately 10 people. For CSTEP, organising these interviews was quite a challenge because the filming dates coincided with India’s national government elections. Hence, most government officials were very busy and slightly hesitant to commit to speaking on camera
regarding public policies.
Closer to the filming tour dates, in May, several logistical matters were also finalised by CSTEP, including a tigh
t schedule of travel between various cities, accommodation and travel within each city and shoot locations. The storyline designed by GLP Films included city shots interspersed with interviews. All these months of planning resulted in success, despite last minute interview cancellations and impromptu trips to out-of-town locations for key shoots of solar fields and industrial units.
After 6 months of intense activity, once the filming tour was over, there was a lull. Suddenly a phase of anticipation and curiosity took over. There was nothing more we could do from CSTEP. So we waited. In December 2014, Rob Holmes from GLP Films contacted us, asking us to check a Google Drive link where he had shared the first cut of the film. We were amazed at the beautiful story that GLP Films had strung together showcasing CSTEP’s impact on India’s policy on clean energy.
The film was officially released at the Think Tank Initiative 2015 Meeting in Istanbul. The film illustrates the impact of CSTEP’s work in India’s policy making in clean energy technologies. It successfully captures CSTEP’s expertise in energy research and the Government’sand industry’s demand for high quality policy support.
[Editor’s note: For more blog posts on CSTEP’s experience dealing with think tanks’ decisions read Acknowledging a prominent think tank: the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) in India.]