Media Working Group is a pioneer in participatory media and citizen engagement

Grounded in a culture of collaboration and partnership we are seasoned documentary makers and organizers who create social documentaries  on a broad range of topics, with a long standing focus on social policy and environment.

The founding members came to independent media through activism (labor, environment and local telecommunications) and brought organizing and coalition-building skills to the practice of documentary making.

Over time MWG has developed a culture of collaboration resulting in well honed strategies to create grassroots and national citizen engagement campaigns. This practice has enabled them to produce transformative media and authentic participatory experiences with a diverse collection of groups and organizations from government, planning agencies, school districts, and teachers associations, to labor unions, organizations of coalminers, literary groups and national public interest campaigns; as wellas artists, environmental activists, peace activists, Native American land rights groups, homeless people and their advocates.

Since the group formed in the mid-1980s, it’s been early adopters of new technology, incorporating online learning in 1995, and social networking via listservs and threaded discussions in the late 90s. Now it enjoys the social networking and video sharing platforms such as FaceBook, Vimeo, BlipTV, Twitter, etc.

Media Working Group uses associative and relational thinking and planning to create strategies for partnership and civic engagement. This unique method sometimes creates unexpected and deep relationships born out of common core values and mission.


From our beginnings in 1986, Media Working Group’s commitment to democratic participation in media is grounded in an understanding that art and literature are rich sources of authentic experience, that can foster transformative communication and social understanding between cultural groups and across political boundaries.


On this continuum –

Coming to Ground  From its inception this project has worked with farmers, farm policymakers, advocates, food and farm bill strategists to shape the message of the film.  From this grassroots start we are now circulating the film to Grange Halls, farm organizations, SlowFood chapters, and Regional Bioneers chapters to hear what people have to say, listen to their questions and suggestions.  These initial outreach and engagement activities are very gratifying for the filmmakers and remind us all of the reason we make documentary.Poster-small

Local Voices, Local Needs, a series of short advocacy documentaries designed for Internet and cable distribution produced with local government officials and their attorneys, these videos addressed the negative public interest impact of Congress’ failed attempt at national telecommunications legislation in 2006; it was produced as an component to asuccessful campaign to stop draconian deregulation of the telecommunications industry, summer of 2006.

Indaba: Three Days of Coal Black Voices In 2002, MWG conducted a three-day gathering of artists, students, educators, community activists, and Black churches utilizing the film to create dialogue during a period of racial tension in Cincinnati.


From 2003 through 2008 MWG led a national civic engagement campaign for The Gender Chip Project documentary directed by Helen De Michiel and funded by the National Science Foundation. The film focused on gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, tracks the experiences of five young women as they enter their academic studies at Ohio State University.

The Gender Chip Project’s civic engagement campaign, training, and attached materials are designed for adults who are supporting girls (mentors, professional development people, teachers) in their pursuit of study and careers in STEM. That project has reached more than 250 organizations across the country from the Girls Scouts, USA in New York, the Exploratorium in San Francisco, to the National Girls Collaborative Project in Seattle. View a webinar produced to show how to use the film and materials. [View Clip]

Media Working Group’s association with the BBC’s Community Programme Unit represented ground breaking work in early participatory media and democratic access to broadcasting.

The participatory culture of the Community Programme Unit at the BBC eventually spawned high-profile projects such as Video Diaries and Video Nation, and some say the experimental videos that became commercialized as reality TV — some of us hope this is not true.

Hybrid City is a documentary project created with Architects and Designers for Social Responsibility, broadcast on BBC 2’s long running Open Space Series in 1992. Hybrid City looks at the politics of urban space in the emerging global city and asks what urban planners and architects must do to address the issues of access to the city. [View Clip]

Death on Delivery webDeath on Delivery is a documentary produced with and for Britain’s Campaign Against the Arms Trade in 1990.  Fred Johnson, while at the BBC’s Community Programme Unit on a Fulbright Scholarship, worked with the Campaign to write a narration performed by actress Glenda Jackson.  When aired on BBC 2’s Open Space it was highest fundraising event ever experienced for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

Open Studio logo web

Open Studio: The Arts Online, 1998-2000, a national initiative of the Benton Foundation and National Endowment for the Art, Open Studio set Media Working Group on a three year engagement marathon to provide Internet access, strategic communications and training to artists and arts organizations ensuring the communications environment of the 21st century thrives as a source of creative excellence and diversity.  This project featured training workshops, website hosting and design assistance and the convening of strategic communications planning session over a three state region. All done with a wide diversity of partners and collaborators throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia.


AFL-CIO Labor Council Media Arts Residency, 1990-1991, a year-long arts residency with the Cincinnati Labor Council, and the first ever funded by the Ohio Arts Council.  It was designed to build community alliances and dialogue between the labor movement and  the region’s minority and ethnic communities. Partners included the Midwest Asian American Foundation, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Urban Appalachian Council, Midwives Care, Midwifery Associates, The Cincinnati Arts Consortium, numerous local labor unions, and churches.

The residency included the use of documentary film to convene conversations and spark dialogue about race, gender and working class struggle; screenings, panels and visiting artists were presented with specific local content partners. During this residency Media Working Group mounted one of the first celebrations of George Stoney’s ground breaking social documentary with a George Stoney Retrospective featuring a week of screenings of many of Stoney’s films, workshop in participatory media and the use of films to create dialogue.

United Church of Christ, Office of Communications, 1987, Fred Johnson conducted a national advocacy and legislative change program to defeat predatory telephone legislation.