Animating extension: How Illinois researchers are using modern ICTs to impact society

By:  Kari Wozniak & Elizabeth Engele, ADM Institute

Credit: ADMI/B. Pittendrigh

A farmer views a SAWBO video in the field. Credit: ADMI/B. Pittendrigh

True to its mission as a land-grant university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a renowned leader in research, extension, and public engagement. Its long-standing tradition of making high-quality knowledge available to the public is enhanced by news ways of communicating and innovative technologies in today’s society. The Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) project is a great example of how researchers at Illinois are expanding their reach worldwide.

SAWBO is an Illinois-based program that creates extension videos addressing topics in the development field, such as disease prevention and treatment, microfinance and female empowerment, and agricultural productivity. Co-led by Dr. Barry Pittendrigh and Dr. Julia Bello-Bravo, SAWBO makes expert, practical knowledge available to farmers in Africa, city-dwellers in the Middle East, and women’s groups around the world, to name a few examples.

A key to the success of these videos – they are closely tailored to local conditions. Using carefully rendered animations and a rich database of translations, SAWBO makes characters of the animations look and sound like the viewer to make complex information more simple and accessible.

SAWBO’s videos can be downloaded to cell phones, computers, tablets, and shared via Bluetooth.  Piloted in several countries, their approach has already been proven to be successful. One of the videos helped prevent cholera in Haiti by demonstrating how to treat drinking water in a safe and easy way.  Another video showed Ethiopians how to prevent loss of teff, a staple grain, by educating its viewers on proper planting techniques. The seeds that were saved were used to feed people who were malnourished (see this press release for more information).  With funding from the ADM Institute, SAWBO created 6 videos on postharvest loss prevention, including the one below which demonstrates how to transport grains.

Simply stated, SAWBO is working. Their videos are impactful, and their process well-defined. What remains is the opportunity to get their videos in the hands of more people.

SAWBO has launched a newsletter to share their latest videos and start discussions on what new types of videos can be created. You can subscribe here.

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