June 22, 2022
Photo Credits: Annie Griffiths (top left, bottom left), Joanna Pinneo (top right, bottom right)
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 May Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Liz Bloomfield, Executive Director of Ripple Effect Images. She is the May qualifier for the 2022 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Liz for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Welcome, everyone, to a conversation with our Amber Grant winner from May, 2022. Today, we’re chatting with Liz Bloomfield, the Executive Director of Ripple Effect Images, which is this month’s Amber Grant winner. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m a member of the WomensNet Advisory Board.
So Liz, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.
Liz: Thanks for having me, Marcia.
WomensNet: So why don’t you tell everyone about Ripple Effect Images?
Liz: Of course. So Ripple Effect Images is a non-profit that uses visual storytelling. So that’s film photography and animation to shine a light on proven solutions empowering women globally.
So we have this real focus on solutions. You know, we’re so conscious that so much of the media can be consumed by problems and victims and everything being very difficult. And so what we see when we’re out engaging with communities all around the world is that there’s so many things that are working, but they’re just not getting the attention that they should. And so ripple has brought together a fabulous group of visual storytellers who can help convey why these programs are so fabulous — and help the nonprofits and the individuals attract the resources to enable them to multiply and replicate successful programs. And that’s why we call it the Ripple Effect — because by investing in these fabulous programs, they can reach even more beneficiaries and really help work towards our vision of a world in which all women thrive.
And so for us, it’s about the visual storytelling. Really finding these extraordinary women and then using film and photography — and sometimes animation — to amplify their voices. So we try to avoid using narrators. We try to avoid using too many other perspectives. We really focus in on the women that are driving the change at the grassroots level, give them a platform, [and] amplify their voices because they’re so powerful. They’re so compelling in what they have to say. They’re truly inspiring individuals.
And so that’s what Ripple seeks to do. We do it in lots of different ways, but ultimately we’re just trying to spread the word about what’s working so that it can have an even greater impact.
WomensNet: I watched the video compilation that was put together, and it’s just amazing to see the variety of women and all the challenges that they’re facing. Not all of them, but some of the challenges women are facing… and just what they are able to help their families and their communities achieve.
Liz: It really is. And I think there’s such a compelling evidence base that women pay it forward. That an investment in a woman is multiplied because she extends the benefits to those around her. She builds a better life for her family in a stronger community. And so again, we really see how the evidence is there to show just how far those benefits can extend and have a really transformative impact over generations.
WomensNet: So how did you originally hear about the Amber Grant?
Liz: So a colleague of mine, male, sent me a message saying, ‘you have to check out this group. They’re amazing. These women are incredible.’ And we chatted about it and we were like, we can really see the alignment, both in the work that we do as Ripple in terms of building our own non-profit so that we can support more women, but also the female entrepreneurs that we tell the stories of. And so, yeah, you guys are doing incredible work and we are so delighted to be part of this community.
WomensNet: Awesome. Well, so now that you’ve won, what are your plans for spending or investing the, the $10,000?
Liz: So one of the things we’re very mindful of as we grow is protecting our assets, which is our incredible visual content. As we grow, that library, that archive continues to grow at some pace. And it’s so important to us that we honor and protect that content. So we will be investing in our technology infrastructure to enable us to ensure the resilience of the content that we already have and provide a really stable and reliable platform for us to continue to grow that library.
The other element of that in addition to ensuring resilience as part of our growth plan is we really want to make that content more accessible so that we can maximize the extent to which this incredible visual content can be used for global good. So, finding a way to ensure our technology is enabling us to share this content, enabling other non-profits and social impact organizations to access the content. Because we really see opportunities to reach even wider audiences with these inspiring stories.
Liz: So primarily, our investment will be in our technology platforms. We’re also very conscious that we would love to reach even wider audiences with these stories. We will be investing in some elements of our communications and marketing strategy so that we can reach more people… build even more engagement in our communities so that we are really bringing people into the dialogue and debate. They want to be a champion and advocate for the women that we tell the stories of, and the work that Ripple is doing. And so we will also be investing a portion of the prize money in growing our communications and marketing strategy.
WomensNet: As you grow, you’re making these investments in protecting what you have. But what else will you be doing in, say, three to five years?
Liz: Our growth strategy spans three key areas. So firstly, we wanna tell most more stories. So we have far more stories than we currently have the capacity to tell. And so we really want to find ways to tell the stories of more grassroots organizations, more women that are really driving change within their communities.
The second area is, as I touched on a moment ago, is we want to reach more people. And so we are conscious that sometimes we tell these stories to people that are already completely sold on women’s empowerment, but for us to really have a transformative impact, we have to extend our reach further. We really want to be conscious that we’re doing things like investing in educating, men and boys in gender equality and empowerment… that we’re reaching different kinds of audiences. And so at the same time as continuing to make more content, we also want to ensure that our content is reaching a really diverse and wide ranging audience in a truly engaging way.
Liz: And then thirdly, something that we’re very, very committed to, is building the capacity of local storytellers. In the countries that we visit, where our photographers and filmmakers go and spend time within the communities…we also want to ensure that we continue to build into our storytelling programs the time to coach, mentor, [and] knowledge share with local photographers or filmmakers. So that becomes another element of the community that we are building here at Ripple.
And so those three elements together represent the different ways in which we’re seeking to grow our impact in the coming years.
WomensNet: Do you have any advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs? Anything that you’ve learned along the way that you think has helped you grow?
Liz: One of the things that I would share that I can relate to personally, but also that I’ve seen so often in the successful women entrepreneurs that I’ve encountered through my work with Ripple, whether that’s in Miamba or whether that’s in Tanzania or whether that’s anywhere else in the globe that we visited… is the women entrepreneurs who are successful have built a community of support around them. I think that can feel a little counterintuitive when you are in the early stages of being an entrepreneur. But we all know that being a leader and being an entrepreneur can be very lonely. It can be very lonely. And I think there’s often a sense also, I think this can sometimes be particularly the case with women, is we feel we have to do everything ourselves. We have to be everything to everybody.
I think the most rewarding moments for me have been when I’ve engaged with other women entrepreneurs, when I’ve engaged with other communities, and there’s been a safe space where you can be vulnerable. Where you can share the challenges. And the relief that comes when you realize that you’re not alone in the challenges that you’re facing. And women who are, you know, very successful, are also facing similar doubts, frustrations, uncertainty. When you share that it’s like a burden lift. And so I think that’s something that I would really say is an important part of building a community of trusted people around you.
As I said, I’ve seen that manifest itself in so many different ways. I think that would definitely be my top tip.
WomensNet: It’s so interesting that you talk about community and support. And maybe you’ve seen this, but I’ve noticed that the most successful women entrepreneurs recognize that we are not competitors with each other. There is enough business for everyone and you can be stronger if you align yourself or partner with other women and men. But that competition makes you think too small.
Liz: Absolutely. And, and I think that’s where, um, I have so many examples of, of where I’ve seen that in practice. I think of an organization like Solar Sister, which brings together opportunities for women to both set up a business for themselves, but also provide a source of clean energy in a place where that isn’t always possible. But again, where you have a kind of group of women that are working on a similar kind of business, there may be the potential for that kind of competition that you described there.
But that’s just not the case at all. These women are lifting each other up and they’re all better for it. Similar program that Ripple’s covered in Myanmar where women bring together a kind of collective savings that enables them to invest in businesses. And again, you know, it could be possible for that to become a very competitive environment. Yet it’s quite the country. Women are sharing the financial resources, but they’re also sharing the knowledge and experience and the sisterhood is just fabulous.
And so I think wherever you are in the world, it’s just as applicable…this idea of learning and sharing and supporting and lifting one another up. And that’s why I do the work that I do, because I just love seeing this in action.
WomensNet: I think that’s one thing that I love so much about the WomensNet community — that women who are in it really wanna cheer each other on and offer ideas and offer support. I think we’re all so much better for it.
Liz: And I think that’s helpful as well. Because I do see that women are sometimes less willing to be their own cheerleader. Sometimes people refer it as to it as “imposter syndrome.” I think it’s probably just a good, healthy dose of humility, but I think what that does mean is that it’s even more important that we support each other and cheer each other on, because we are not always so willing to step out onto that stage onto that stage ourselves. And so encouraging one another to do that, I think, is really valuable….whichever stage you’re at in growing your business.
WomensNet: I listen to a podcast with Jennifer Allwood and she talks about having your own hype squad…which is exactly what you just said, Liz. It’s a group of people who are always just cheering you on. We all need our own hype squad.
Liz: Absolutely. Absolutely.
WomensNet: Well, thank you so much for your time today, Liz. Thank you for sharing your insights and your history…we really appreciate it. And congratulations again on being our Amber Grant winner for May, 2022.
Liz: Thank you, Marcia. And thanks for the extraordinary work that WomensNet is doing. You really are having an incredible impact and we really appreciate the award. Thank you.