The Cities Project, 2019

Seven Connecticut news organizations joined forces to analyze challenges facing Connecticut’s cities and investigate the relevance of solutions being pursued elsewhere. Purple States video anchors their coverage in the concerns and experiences of residents. Co-produced with Bridgeport’s CT Post, the New Haven Register, and the Waterbury Republican-American.

Videos accompany solutions-focused reporting on who benefits from New Haven's job growth, downtown development in Bridgeport, and brownfields in Waterbury. The multimedia coverage is also being distributed by Cities Project partners.

With the Cities Project and the Granite State News Collaborative, we have been trying out different ways to help local newsrooms use video produced with a diverse group of residents to fuel a more pragmatic and inclusive public conversation.

Cultures and Health, 2018

A fourteen-part series reveals how culture influences the way different communities define and pursue health. An aspiring ballerina, a transgender teen, seniors line dancing in a library parking lot, immigrant mothers in a trailer park, quilters at a community baby shower, a Lakota elder building relationships between children and horses, and 8 more.

With the Foundation, a broad-based Advisory Group, and the cultural communities themselves, Purple States produced the videos and designed and tested a distribution strategy. The stories are being used and shared by the Foundation to spur reflection on the role of culture, and to seed partnerships that support cultural resilience and innovation. They are proving useful for staff development, college teaching, program outreach and community-driven planning - and in a curriculum for teaching tolerance.

In “Who Holds These Truths to be Self-Evident?,” short films will likewise be used to provoke frank conversations -- about being a black man in America.

Learn to Earn, 2012

Four recent graduates of technical training programs test the value of a vocational credential. Technical high school and community college courses offered them a second chance. Are they equipped to succeed in 21st Century manufacturing?

The video portraits accompanied a New York Times Business section series on vocational training. The stories were also used by the Foundation to ground discussion at a grantee convening, aired by local media and distributed by local, state, and national advocates.

Another Gates Foundation-funded series on a related theme appeared on USA TODAY in 2010. Degrees of Difficulty featured five college students who don’t fit the traditional image. But their journeys reflect the experience of most college students in America. They filmed their own stories and took them to policymakers in Washington.

Here I Am, 2013

With the Global Fund Advocacy Network and member NGO’s, Purple States produced six self-filmed stories and scores of video-booth testimonials by people in 50 countries who are living with AIDS/HIV, TB, and Malaria.

The digital library of almost 200 videos has been used by advocates worldwide. The Global Fund screened stories at meetings with world leaders and presentations to US Congressmen, UK and Canadian MP’s, and African Union politicians.

Producing stories with the individuals and communities affected by an issue gives them a chance to be seen and heard -- and to inform policy-making. Purple States has trained advocates in Eastern Europe and Africa to produce videos with people with mental health problems and physical disabilities. In Western North Carolina, John Kennedy is collecting oral histories and portraits with a hundred opiate users. We are producing stories with residents of three Connecticut communities about the social and economic factors that are driving dramatic differences in life expectancy.

A House Divided, 2016

To cover politics, Purple States brings different political perspectives into the same virtual space, and reframes polarizing issues in terms of their practical implications for people’s lives.

In red-blue couples, partisan politics gets personal. The story of one such couple in the run-up to the 2016 election accompanied TIME reporting on research that suggests we are not as divided as political rhetoric and media portrayals imply.

An earlier exploration of this theme featured five couples who filmed their own stories. The segment aired with Wall Street Journal coverage of the 2013 Inauguration. And in 2008, Purple States covered the election with five ordinary Americans from different places and backgrounds. A multi-part series of op-ed videos complemented New York Times and Washington Post coverage.

On the Outside, 2017

Purple States and DCTV set out to document the realities of life after prison by filming a cross-section of people for up to a year after their release. More than 3 million people viewed the resulting multimedia, short-and-long-form documentary coverage, produced by the New York Times and Frontline.

New York Times articles, video segments, and social media features explored the variety of factors that influence the trajectories of returning citizens. Frontline’s broadcast, Life on Parole, follows four people as they navigate the challenges of finding work, staying sober, and parenting — all while under intense state supervision. Unprecedented footage of their interactions with parole officers exposes the conflicting demands that compromise successful reentry: parole as surveillance, and parole as support.

Life on Parole was cited in the 2019 duPont-Columbia Golden Baton Award to Frontline, and received the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s 2018 Media for a Just Society Award.

With Kellogg Foundation support, Purple States carried out an assessment with Media Cloud and the CT Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) that affirmed the potential of documentary journalism to inform public understanding and policy discussions, online and on the ground. IMRP held screenings and discussions at conferences, colleges, and community meetings around the state.

The next president’s American Dream. 2016

Can walls restore upward mobility? Is the American Dream big enough for everyone to share? A two-part 2016 series for Politico Magazine probes the politics of immigration through Trump and Clinton’s own family histories. We’re a nation of immigrants. Why are we locked in such bitter debate about who gets to be next in line to become an American?

The histories of the Trump and Clinton families reveal what divides us as a nation, and why immigration has become a lightning rod. Economic change spurs immigration -- and attempts to block it. Neither candidate took account of what made their own family’s American Dream possible, and what has changed. Their stories remain relevant: will the concerns of Trump voters be addressed? by President Trump? by the Democratic party?

Linking Learning to Life, 2015

A communications firm commissioned the stories to explore the value of a foundation’s investment in a statewide curriculum designed to prepare students for careers. The series follows four ordinary teenagers at an unusual high school. They’re learning math and science -- and how to be engineers and biomedical professionals. Linked Learning and its partners distributed and screened the stories to reveal the impact of their strategy on student lives and prospects.

Other examples of storytelling that brings to life the value of a nonprofit’s work include self-filmed stories of trainee phlebotomists at ConnCAT, whose mission is to open pathways to opportunity. The ACT Foundation commissioned Purple States to tell the stories of the Working Learner Advisory Council, to show what’s at stake in the Foundation’s quest to build a national learning economy.