Attitude Live wins global award, attempts to get businesses to see the opportunity in the growing disabled community

Back in 2013, Attitude Group, which has been telling the inspiring stories of New Zealanders living with disabilities, recovering from injuries and dealing with health problems since 1992 and broadcasting on TVNZ since 2005, moved into the online realm with Attitude Live. The site runs versions of its broadcast content, offered live streaming of the Sochi Winter Olympics and has been steadily growing its audience. And for its troubles, it beat competition from 86 countries to win the “inclusion and empowerment” category at the United Nations-based World Summit Awards and was also named by the Grand Jury as “best and most innovative digital innovation with high impact on society 2015”.

The independent production house has made more than 400 documentaries since 2005 and filmed in more than 25 countries in the past 11 years. And Robyn Scott-Vincent, Attitude’s founder and CEO, says the award highlights the value it is delivering to the community and is an acknowledgement from an international coalition of technology experts that indicates the capacity for growth in this sector.

AttitudeLive.com was launched by Scott-Vincent, with added investment from New Zealand film and TV executive producer John Barnett, in 2013 as a way to not only share and distribute Attitude’s large catalogue of material, but also to connect people around the world to an interactive ‘hub’ with which to communicate and share ideas. 

When we spoke with Dan Buckingham and Denis Harvey for a profile in 2014, Buckingham says he and Scott-Vincent went to the AIDC conference in 2012 and it was a bit of a watershed moment. Some of the big broadcasters were impressed with how much great content it was capable of pumping out. It realised it had been doing it for years and had built a lot of trust and credibility and an archive that they wanted to do more with. And that’s where he says the “leap of faith” that was Attitude Live was conceived.

The programme that’s broadcast on TVNZ is supported by funding from NZ on Air. And while those documentaries feature on the website, Attitude Live doesn’t have an ongoing funding model and funds the editing and social media itself. ACC and MSD are very supportive of the site and the ministries of Health and Transport and Housing New Zealand are also using it as a way to share information with the community. And she says government departments understand that they need to provide more information to newly disabled people. 

“That’s not something that government agencies have done previously,” she says. But they’ve seen they need to be offering more to them.” 

Attitude Live manager Hamish Smith says the site is on track to reach one million page views by May next year and it has tripled its Facebook fans in the past four months to 16,000. It is also getting a big spike in audience from Australia and the US, so it’s increasing its global awareness. He says it’s interesting to see the difference between the older audience watching TV and the younger demographic online. 

While Scott-Vincent says last year was very tough, she’s very proud to say that it’s now breaking even. Of course, it’s not all about the money. She says she regularly gets emails from people saying how much of a difference the site had made to their lives. 

Because each disability is so different, Buckingham said the sector was quite fragmented, but “they have the same recurring themes of being outside the norm and having the same wants, fears and anxieties as any able bodied person and wanting to have their story told”. And with an ageing population and people more likely to survive serious trauma, Scott-Vincent says there is a growing need to assist people with day-to-day life. 

She says the disabled community is an under-recognised demographic and she believes the business community is missing a big opportunity to connect with—and develop products and services for—it. One in four New Zealanders lives with a disability and there are more than one billion living with disabilities around the world. And because Attitude has so much experience telling their stories, she says it is well-placed to help companies provide solutions (she points to a meeting she had with a car company a few years back and asked them if they realised how many people would be needing different control systems, something it wasn’t thinking about at the time) or even develop them itself. She says winning this major award and being renowned as world class helps position it as an expert. And while she says its production work is business as usual, it will be looking to partner and envisages acting in a semi-consultancy role. 

Smith says big tech companies are interested in this space, with Google offering $20 million of funding through its impact challenge. And that could be anything from funding open sourced 3D printed prosthetics to funding a website telling the stories of what live is like for disabled people. More broadly, he says there is growing interest in social enterprise among consumers, so he’s hopeful it’s swimming with the tide. 

The government is coming to the party with its interest in Attitude Live, but it’s proven difficult to open those corporate doors. But Scott-Vincent believes it will happen “when they realise how big the opportunity is”. 

It is also looking to shift the conversation from a straight cost per click model to one based around sponsors being connected to the sector, something it describes as a CSO, or corporate social opportunity. 

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