Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Shoestring Ventures Q&A with Tiffany Shlain April 2012

Name of Social Enterprise and URL

Let It Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change

Shoestring Ventures Q&A with Tiffany Shlain April 2012

Tiffany Shlain

Who is the founder, what is her background, and what led her to create a company to drive social change?

Tiffany Shlain founded Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change. Tiffany, honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” is a filmmaker, artist, founder of The Webby Awards, and co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences. She recently served as the campus-wide commencement speaker for the University of California, Berkeley, where she received her undergraduate degree in Art and Film Theory from the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.

I was into technology since I was in high school. I got the first Macintosh in 1984 and was hooked. I co-wrote a proposal called Uniting Nations in Telecommunications & Software in the late 80’s, before the web, and was invited to be a student ambassador in the Soviet Union to talk about the potential of personal computers. Then I went on to college and started making documentaries. I would pay for my films by working in technology. When I first saw the web, I became really excited about its potential to help bridge communities of people and bring about positive change in the world.

In the mid 90s, I founded The Webby Awards, establishing it as a global organization honoring the best of the Internet. The Webbys receive over 10,000 entries annually and are presented each year in New York. The 2012 nominees were recently announced and the 16th annual Webby Awards will happen in May. I established The Webbys and was its creative director and producer for nearly a decade before returning to filmmaking full time, which I always yearned for, and eventually founded The Moxie Institute in 2005. It was then that I would realize the social impact that could be had by combining my love for documentary filmmaking with what had been, a decade before, an amazing new invention called the World Wide Web. Combining these passions is very exciting to me. Now, The Moxie Institute creates films, discussion programs, theater experiences, and Internet experiments around social issues using emerging technologies and the Web.

Shoestring Ventures Q&A with Tiffany Shlain April 2012CONNECTED: An Autoblogography about Love, Death and Technology is the latest documentary feature from The Moxie Institute. The film uses re contextualized images, video and artwork from different eras to express larger ideas of the good, bad and potential for “connectedness” in the 21st century. CONNECTED led me to create Let it Ripple and a new way of making films to drive social change, leveraging the participation and collaboration of individuals around the world.

What is your product or service?

Right now I’m putting a lot of energy into building Let it Ripple, which consists of a series of 4-minute social films that are collaboratively created, translated and catered for free for socially-minded nonprofit organizations around the world. We call this collaborative approach Cloud Filmmaking – using the cloud to source creative content, then editing it to create impactful and educational films that are then customized for free and given back to the individuals and organizations that helped to create them. The Tribeca Film Festival recently published to its Future of Film blog our “Cloud Filmmaking Manifesto: Cloud sourcing Creativity and Giving Back in the Age of Collaboration” that I authored discussing this approach.

The first four films in the Let it Ripple series are:

  • A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE: A montage of user-generated graphics and videos of individuals around the world reciting the “Declaration of Interdependence,” a rewrite of the U.S. Declaration of Independence that was created for the film. The music is by Moby. The film has been volunteer translated into 65 languages and customized for 80 nonprofit organizations for free.
  • BRAIN POWER: Currently in production. BRAIN POWER looks at new research on the best way to nurture the growth of brain development and the growth of the Internet. An official launch for the film is scheduled for Fall 2012.
  • ENGAGEMENT: The third film in the series focuses on the importance of engaging in society and will premiere in the fall before the election.
  • CURIOSITY: In pre-production and is scheduled for an early 2013 released.

All of these films can be customized to include a unique call-to-action for free for nonprofit organizations across the globe based on their mission and goals. I invite interested organizations to learn more and request a custom video at

How many people has your business helped?

Our work through The Moxie Institute and Let it Ripple has allowed us to touch millions of people across the world. Our films have been selected to screen thousands of times and at more than 100 film festivals, including Sundance and Tribeca.

CONNECTED was recently selected by the U.S. Department of State and the University of Southern California to participate in the 2012 American Film Showcase. Our film joins 18 others to be screened at embassies around the world to foster dialogue on various social issues.

The first film in the Let It Ripple Series, A DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE, has been translated into 65 languages and customized and shared with 85 nonprofit organizations worldwide.

What free online or offline tools do you offer?

In the coming weeks, we will release a free CONNECTED app for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices that allows users to engage with and put into action the ideas presented in the film, such as advocacy, interaction, and interdependence. Users will also be able to use the app to access a regularly updated database of research and posts about connectedness in the 21st century. They’ll also be able to easily video record their reactions to CONNECTED and watch recorded reactions of others from around the world. A video preview is available at

If you sign up for our newsletter at or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter you’ll be among the first to download the app when it’s available.

We also customize the films in the Let it Ripple series for socially minded nonprofit organizations working to change the world for the better for free. Details on how to request a free and custom video are available at

Do you tweet, use Facebook, MySpace or other social networks?

Yes, we absolutely do! Social media is essential to what we do. We interact, collaborate and regularly engage with those in our social networks. In fact our Facebook page is essentially an ongoing conversation about Connectedness in the 21st century with 11,000 active participants from around the world. The Moxie Institute is all about Films + Discussion = change, and social media gives the public an outlet to discuss issues that arise after watching an emotional film. This discussion is what will serve as a catalyst for change.

Our Facebook page is: and on twitter I am @tiffanyshlain.

We also have an email newsletter, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, that we distribute every season. It highlights cool films, books, websites and shares updates on the projects we’re working on.

Do you have a YouTube video URL that you can share with us, and allow us to publish with your story?

  • UC Berkeley Keynote Commencement Speech:

  • CONNECTED 2012 Trailer:

  • TEDx Berkeley From Failure to Innovation: Filmmaking in the Cloud Talk:

What is the best advice you never got?

That the more I was vulnerable, the better my work would be.

What can you tell other social entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?

Since my youth, I’ve been inspired by this quote by Goethe: “Whatever you think or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” My advice to other entrepreneurs is to not be afraid to try something new. Experiment with new tools, resources and methods. Now more than ever there’s an opportunity to do things that have never been done.

What books have you read that others should read?

Right now, I’m reading, “Imagine” by Jonah Lehrer. It’s described as a revelatory look at the new science of creativity.

For more information about Tiffany Shlain, please visit


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