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Help Us Help Others Stream: The Online Video Industry Gives Back
This is the birth of a non-profit that could make a difference in the lives of many. If you have streaming skills and you'd like to help NGOs working in economically distressed areas, read on.

Earlier this year, in the annual Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook issue, we looked back at two decades of industry growth to celebrate Streaming Media’s 20th anniversary. We’ve all been on a crazy journey, revolutionizing the way viewers consume media and setting the stage for global television on a scale we’ve only dreamed about for more than a century.

That wouldn’t have been possible without a dedicated core group of individuals. Some were professional engineers, others researchers or compressionists, and still others hobby-tinkerers before they were employed by the who’s who of over-the-top (OTT) and traditional broadcast providers looking to harness both the energy and the potential profitability of this online video maelstrom.

One thing, though, seemed to be missing: an effort to give back. It’s understandable, since we’ve been so focused on building this OTT on-demand and live-linear delivery mechanism. But I looked around the industry at the end of 2017, it seemed to be the right time to launch a not-for-profit organization as a way to give back to those less fortunate.

What I really wanted to set up was two organizations. The first, which would help partially fund the second, is a business league of sorts, where companies involved in streaming come together to share market research into emerging economies. Businesses would contribute membership dues, and where appropriate, expertise, and gain access to first-look research and practical hands-on, micro-pilot projects in these markets.

The second, a traditional not-for-profit organization, would identify, vet, and implement key projects, offering individuals a chance to make a real-world difference, regardless of whether their employer participated in the business league. Streaming infrastructure may not be quite as important as fresh water in an emerging economy, but it is critical for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with vital messaging needs.

The projects share a common theme: helping NGOs use streaming to distribute critical messaging. The end goal is to create viable, education-based, pilot projects in economically challenged regions that will mutually benefit both the NGO and the overall economic outlook.

Sometimes the projects will only require a portable encoding solution, other times they may require sustainable infrastructure, and they most certainly will always require a steady hand on the ground working with local officials and NGO personnel to not just launch streaming but also to grow it across the board so that the emerging economy is at a basic level of streaming readiness when first-world markets saturate in the next 4 to 6 years.

I met with several companies at January’s 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and April’s 2018 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show. Interest was high enough that we’re now creating the organizations and identifying projects in five countries and one U.S. territory.

As an interim step, and to be certain the idea moves from the drawing board to the board room, I’m currently focused on a multi-month launch of Help Me Stream, serving as the founding executive director through the first half of 2018. With a background in crisis management public relations, economic development for rural economies, and a decent dose of video- and streaming-related startup experience, I feel this is the best way for me to give back to the cause.

I can’t do it alone, though. To better connect tech-poor NGOs in emerging economies and disaster recovery areas to key streaming industry individuals and infrastructure, hardware, and services companies, I need your help.

If you have the slightest interest in helping us help others stream, please send an email to insights@helpmestream.com to say so. Please include your contact information, your expertise, and any projects that you’d like to be involved in. Once we’ve compiled a project list and potential experts, we’ll reach back out before approaching companies and individuals to donate to what I personally hope will be a long-term, hands-on solution to an ever-growing problem.

Better yet, if you see a need in your own market, consider this a challenge to start your own not-for-profit to give back to those who’ve not been able to join the streaming revolution.

[This article appears in the June 2018 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Help Us Help Others Stream."]