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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

52 Documentary

Entered in Branded Series


At the heart of VOA's mission is the impactful documentary series, 52 Documentary, designed to engage and inspire audiences globally with its compelling human stories. These documentaries, presented in visually stunning and emotionally resonant narratives, aim to reach VOA's vast global audience of over 327 million individuals, connecting them to unique perspectives from around the world. 

Inspired by Euna Lee's transformative experience in North Korea, where she was detained while filming a documentary on human trafficking, 52 Documentary seeks to bridge cultural divides and promote a sense of shared humanity. The goal is to foster understanding and empathy among diverse communities by showcasing the stories of individuals from over 15 countries, including Ukraine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Thailand, Nigeria, and Kenya. 

Through these powerful narratives, the series highlights the efforts of extraordinary individuals working to improve their communities, protect the environment, combat injustice, and advocate for freedom of expression. These stories not only showcase the shared values and aspirations of people worldwide but also encourage viewers to embrace diversity and find common ground with others. 

Strategy and Execution

The 52 Documentary series employs a strategic approach that combines visually captivating imagery with compelling storytelling to engage VOA's vast global audience, exceeding 327 million people. The series aims to challenge stereotypes, bridge cultural divides, and cultivate a sense of shared humanity among diverse viewers. By delving into personal narratives, it seeks to deepen understanding of current events and significant societal issues. Each episode highlights remarkable individuals from around the world who are committed to improving their communities, fighting injustice, and advocating for freedom of expression. Through these stories, the series seeks to evoke empathy and encourage audiences to embrace diversity while gaining a nuanced perspective on pressing social issues.

To bring our project to life, we start on a comprehensive plan that encompassed research, storytelling, production, and outreach. Our series aimed to highlight underrepresented stories, focusing on critical social issues and human rights challenges.

First, we identified compelling narratives that shed light on marginalized voices. This included stories of a Dalit journalist in India, young Kashmiri reporters facing police threats, and an environmental activist fighting against oppression. We also explored the story of a new drug, "Kush," affecting young Africans in Sierra Leone and another group risking their lives to escape to Spain.

Next, we crafted a production strategy aimed at authentically and respectfully capturing these stories. This involved close collaboration with local journalists and the individuals featured in our series, ensuring their voices were accurately and culturally portrayed.

The execution of our project was a collaborative effort, engaging a dedicated team of commissioning edtiors, producers, and filmmakers. Our production teams traveled extensively to capture footage, conduct interviews, and immerse themselves in the communities we were documenting. Meanwhile, our internal team ensured the story remained balanced and focused. During the production process, we encountered challenges such as logistical hurdles, cultural sensitivities, and security concerns. However, through perseverance and a steadfast commitment to our mission, we navigate these obstacles. We ensured the accuracy of our information by verifying it with our internal language teams, who has deep knowledge of the local situations. This meticulous approach allowed us to maintain a balanced storytelling approach, even when profiling human interest stories.

Key features of our series include its focus on storytelling that inspires empathy and understanding. By highlighting diverse perspectives and experiences, we aim to encourage viewers to embrace diversity and advocate for positive change in their communities and beyond.

Key to our success has been our distribution strategy, which utilizes VOA's diverse multimedia platforms such as the Internet, mobile, social media, radio, and satellite. This multi-channel approach ensures that our series reaches a wide and varied audience worldwide. Furthermore, our partnerships with over 135 VOA affiliates in countries like Nigeria, Zambia, South Sudan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Poland, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, and others have significantly contributed to the extended reach of these impactful stories.

Executing this project hasn't been without its challenges. However, we've remained committed to our vision, finding innovative ways to produce high-quality content that resonates with audiences globally. 


The VOA 52 Documentary program has experienced significant success, with a growing number of affiliates and positive feedback from various regions. The documentaries' educational and inspirational content, coupled with coverage of regionally relevant topics, has contributed to their popularity among diverse audiences.

Over the two-year period, the number of downloads has increased by approximately 143.49%, and the number of affiliates has doubled. This growth indicates a positive trajectory for the media distribution platform, highlighting the program's broad appeal and growing influence across regions.

Further exploration of the suggested topics and continuous collaboration with affiliates are recommended for sustained success. As we move forward, strategic collaborations and targeted outreach efforts will be essential to sustain this momentum and foster continued growth.


Video for 52 Documentary

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Voice of America


Entry Credits