Transforming WITNESS Into a Trusted Partner to the Millions Using Video for Social Change

Social Justice

“WITNESS has changed as an organization—that was the lasting impact of Crossland Group. Instead of a vertical organization working with ten or fifteen partners, we are now a horizontal one, working with the millions of people with access to video recorders. And it has resonated with our funders, as well.”

Yvette Alberdingk Thijm

Executive Director


The challenge

WITNESS is an international organization that trains and supports activists and citizens around the world to use video to expose human rights abuse and effectively fight for human rights change.

In 2009, the organization was at a pivotal point in its seventeen-year history. The pervasive use of information and communication technologies was beginning to facilitate a new global collective consciousness. WITNESS identified this trend as an opportunity to support a much wider set of stakeholders using video and technology to document injustices and drive social change.

This new opportunity, coupled with rapid organizational growth and increased competition for funding in the sector, prompted WITNESS to revisit its future direction, priorities, impact, and sustainability by way of a strategic planning process.

What we did

Crossland began its engagement with WITNESS by helping it put together a strategic planning committee (SPC) to understand the organization’s current reality and to drive a strategic planning process for its future.

Together, Crossland and the SPC interviewed over one hundred stakeholders and conducted a dozen focus groups. The interviews and focus groups were designed to get a read on stakeholders’ perspectives on trends affecting organizations like WITNESS, how well the stakeholder could articulate the activities/services WITNESS performed, what unmet needs WITNESS could address, and what changes the organization could make to be in a better position to vie for future funding.

From these recommendations, Crossland created action plans and a roadmap for the implementation of the new strategy, and worked with WITNESS’s president to help her understand how to leverage her unique leadership style.

The result

Increased funding from MacArthur, Ford, and other foundations

As a direct result of the strategic planning process, WITNESS was able to successfully implement its strategy, and has since transformed from a vertical organization working with ten to fifteen partners to a horizontal organization working with millions of people across the globe with access to video. WITNESS has experienced a marked increase in interest from funders such as the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and many others, as a result of its transformation.

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