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Featured Social Enterprise: Campfire Film Foundation

August 1, 2014

The Campfire Film Foundation is a social enterprise based in Melbourne, supporting teachers and students with high quality film resources around Australia and overseas.

The foundation began trading in mid-2011 following filmmaker and teacher Richard Leigh identifying the lack of awareness teachers had about short films as a force for positive personal and social growth. “Educational videos,” Richard says, “have long been available as teaching resources, but short films were prescribed to the specialised study for teachers of English and Media.” Richard’s passion is for increasing the use of films in ALL areas of study, helping teachers make the most of valuable class time promoting “soft skills” of personal growth and social understanding.

Richard developed his business plan by participating in The Crunch program run by Social Traders for start-ups in 2010/11. On completion of the six-month program he was successful in receiving social investment capital from Social Traders to establish Campfire. Earlier this year, Campfire launched an easy way for teachers everywhere to tap into their work by offering a $29.95 yearly membership. “Campfire for me“, gives unlimited access for individual teachers to download resources — films and supporting notes — curated in line with the Australian Curriculum.

Campfire passed a major milestone of 3 years in operation in June this year and its business model continues to evolve and grow in one of the most dynamic and challenging industry sectors in the world today. As part of Social Traders’ Social Investment Portfolio, Campfire receives ongoing business advice and support from Social Traders, in addition to our financial investment.

ST: What is your social purpose? What does your enterprise aim to achieve?
We exist to help teachers lead discussions that change lives, using the power of short film. In the age of Google and YouTube, there is no shortage of educational content online, and students can learn facts in an instant. Unfortunately, learning empathy, care for the environment and a deep sense of identity and wholeness takes time. Campfire is about supporting teachers with the rich creativity of quality short films, so that their time together with students in class can be used to maximise deep learning opportunities.

ST: What does your enterprise do?
Really simply: We curate films from around the world, add supporting teaching notes, categorise the resources with the support of Education Services Australia and make them downloadable and accessible for teachers via our website www.campfire.org.au More broadly, we promote different films in themes (in our FEATURED section), encourage online discussion and feedback through our social media channels (Facebook & Twitter), offer support to teachers and students with talks and professional learning sessions, screening opportunities for subject area networks (English, humanities, philosophy, religion & ethics, health & wellbeing, cross-curriculum areas of Aboriginal, Asian and sustainability issues) and celebrate the best of our new films at our biennial Campfire Film Festival.

ST: How is your organisation structured?
Aside from myself and the support of administrative volunteer Miranda Camboni, we have a Campfire board, a teacher-reference group called SCAN (Schools Campfire Advisory Network), around 15 partner organisations mainly focussing on different subject area specialisations, over 25 freelance writers of “Fireside notes” for teachers, and volunteers who join us at different times for special events.

ST: What was the greatest learning for your organisation through The Crunch?
What I most valued about The Crunch was the support from both Social Traders and my four mentors. It was such a rich time of learning, and such a great opportunity to develop a road map for the way ahead in key areas of finance, marketing, operations and governance. My team of mentors offered so much and bonded so well that three of the four established our first board are still on the journey following one departing to take maternity leave.

ST: What has been the greatest challenge for your organisation?
The educational video distribution landscape has seen a massive shift over the past eight years. Since YouTube came on the scene, educational video production companies have been in decline in the race to cut costs against ‘free’ content. So our challenge has been to harness the power of independent filmmakers (who we ultimately pay back royalties when we break-even) and act as their advocates in our curation and finding opportunities for them in different learning areas.

ST: What do you hope for your organisation to achieve now that you are up and running as a social enterprise?
We are still so passionate about achieving our original vision of being the most profound gathering of short films and resources for teachers online, anywhere. Every new film we add generates renewed enthusiasm for the support we have from filmmakers. Every new member school or individual teacher who joins us gives us a boost that we’re on the right track, and the feedback we get from teacher and student sessions, intercultural and interfaith event opportunities buoys our efforts to expand and grow the work. Making this vital connection between the creativity of independent filmmakers and the needs of teachers and students we see has a bright and promising future in a cluttered and noisy world.

If you would like to start using the Campfire films and resources (Australia-wide), or book a time to have Richard visit your Victorian school go to www.campfire.org.au, email richard@campfire.org.auor call 03 9005 541503 9005 5415.

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