Using media to transform communities for the better

By Rebecca Koch

“Charm City”, a 2018 documentary that faculty member Sahar Driver, Ph.D., consulted on, will be shown at Saybrook University’s annual Residential Conference on January 21.

Recently short-listed for an Academy Award, “Charm City” explores the relationship between the black community residents and police in Baltimore, Maryland, following the death of Freddie Gray. Saybrook University faculty member Sahar Driver, Ph.D., who has worked on creating impact campaigns for social action projects for more than 10 years, played an integral part in leveraging the film to advance social change.

“Films can do a lot but they can't do everything—that’s where strategy comes in,” Dr. Driver says. “You have to really integrate what the impact goal is into a longer plan that goes beyond the film, otherwise you're creating lift but you're not sustaining it.”

Watch the trailer below:


For “Charm City”, Dr. Driver and team focused their efforts around the film in Baltimore. In May 2018, they gathered a collection of stakeholders and leaders throughout the city for a cross-sector conversation to determine how to move their plan forward. The strategy and partnerships they formed were based on that conversation.

One important partnership was with the Baltimore Police Department. The team enlisted a former BPD officer to create a day-long curriculum based on “Charm City” for use among new police recruits. The first training, which had 37 new recruits participating, included a screening of the film and discussions on how to improve the way police officers do their work.

Dr. Driver’s impact work is a powerful example of how media can be used as a tool for cultivating sustained progress in communities.

“Transformation is different from maintaining the status quo or even, in my opinion, improving the status quo,” Dr. Driver says. “I think transformation is much more about radical change. It’s creating an infrastructure that’s sound, that’s regenerative rather than extractivist, that is supportive and inclusive of all voices and communities—so that everyone can move forward in a way that is accountable, equitable, ethical, and effective.”

The documentary will be shown at the upcoming Residential Conference, which will take place from January 17 to January 23.

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If you are interested in learning more about Saybrook’s graduate programs in Transformative Social Change, visit the programs page or fill out the form below to request more information.


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