Making the Documentary for AlterContacts Academy: Lockdown Economy Challenge

Article by Ryan Mitchell

In the summer of 2020, Think Tank AlterContacts (Netherlands) partnered with the MBA program of the Anahuac Mayab University (Mexico) for an exciting pilot project connecting business students with small business owners: Lockdown Economy Challenge. The purpose of the project was to have the students work with these entrepreneurs to better understand how they are facing the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the continuing restrictions to prevent its spread.

Watch the 7-min documentary about Lockdown Economy Challenge.

Together Professor Alejandro Kantun (PhD) of Mexico City’s Anáhuac Mayab University and Julia Skupchenko, co-founder of Think Tank AlterContacts and Lead Coordinator of Lockdown Economy organized this challenge for the business students to receive practical business knowledge directly from entrepreneurs and craft business strategies with them in a consulting capacity. The project was made possible through the participation of several small business owners already involved in Lockdown Economy as the interview guests, who were each assigned a team of students to assist them in adapting to the changes brought on by the lockdowns, and the restrictions placed on normal business operations.

The student groups were introduced to their respective ‘clients’ at the start of their term via a virtual seminar and consulted with them on multiple occasions to form business strategies tailored to their needs. All of the interviews and feedback from the business students, project coordinators and business owners were video recorded, meaning a great deal of footage was available to put together in a short video documenting the overall experience from the educational and personal perspectives of all participants.

I began volunteering with Lockdown Economy in the fall of 2020 by assisting with a video transcription for an interview held with a self-employed vocal coach in Amsterdam. I was asked about starting on some editing work on the video documentary which I eagerly accepted. Excited to practise my video editing skills I had started developing over the course of the pandemic, I used an open-source video editing software called Shotcut to piece together and trim down the roughly five hours of footage to a short and concise video.

At first, cutting out the excess video footage was a daunting process, considering how much there was to condense, but I started the editing task by planning out the placement of every section of the short documentary and estimating the time dedicated to each of the sections. This included a brief introduction by Julia and Alejandro themselves, prefacing the documentary, which was taken from the initial seminars held to introduce the project idea to the students, and also to generate interest in the initiative to a wider audience.

Aside from needing to form a strong introduction for the students and other universities that this video would be shared with, the documentary needed to concisely explain the goals of the Lockdown Economy initiative more generally. The introduction section then led into short excerpts from the feedback of the project participants; first the students themselves and then the business owners. I sequenced the main section of the video in this way since Professor Alejandro’s closing comments in the introduction highlight the confidence gained by the students after completing the project and having the opportunity to work on this challenge with real entrepreneurs.

Following this, the business owners shared their unique experiences with the business students and how the project positively impacted their business strategies. Overall the project was highly-received by the participants and they were encouraged by the passion of the students. All of the business owners mentioned how they wished to see the project continue into the future and expand to other university programs.

In addition to increasing and developing my knowledge of video editing, it was a novel experience to participate in this international collaboration project, where professors, students and business owners from Mexico, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and more, have been impacted by COVID-19. The project was an inspiring one as it showcased how collaboration and the transfer of knowledge may continue despite not always having access to face-to-face communication and in-person consultation. With the documentary, I hope to have shown a hopeful and forward-looking approach to small entrepreneurship and business resiliency evident by the partnership of business owners and students.

It was a great honour to be a part of such a special project and hope it will be of great value and to present and future students. Thank you to Lockdown Economy for the opportunity!

About Ryan Mitchell:

“Urban planning graduate student passionate about community development, social planning, and accessibility in public spaces. Educated internationally and have research and volunteering experience with non-profit organizations in The Netherlands and Canada. Working with Lockdown Economy to discover how Covid-19 is impacting local communities, in order to share stories and commonalities, to empower business-owners, grassroots organizations and working people.”

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryankmitchell/

The UN-registered nonprofit social initiative that helps small businesses and self-employed professionals to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.