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About IHTD 2011 - Present
The National Priorities Project (NPP) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) joined together to sponsor the “If I Had A Trillion Dollars” (IHTD) youth film festival to help integrate the voices and ideas of young people into the nation’s budget debate. As revenue and spending decisions made at the federal level disproportionately affect young people, the festival is geared toward educating and inspiring young people to engage in civic activism.
The festival was originally conceived as a contest, awarding two first, second and third place prizes to films that best addressed the trade-off between military and domestic spending. The first IHTD asked how young people would have rather spent the $1 trillion that the US had spent on the wars in the Middle East. Based on the feedback of the two winning groups from the first iteration of IHTD, NPP and AFSC converted the contest to a festival, with the hopes of extending the “transformative” (as past participant Alia of AmplifyMe put it) Washington, D.C. experience to more young people, and widened the trillion-dollar question to also include the annual budget for the military as well as the revenue option of extending the Bush Era tax cuts. This third year, the festival is even more open ended, asking young people to think about their own priorities in contrast to the those of the Federal government, leaving military and tax policy as optional topics.
Since the conception of the “If I Had A Trillion Dollars” youth film festival, over 250 students have worked on submissions. A total of 81 films were submitted and viewed over 30,000 times. Students from middle school, high school, college and graduate school created submissions. Over the last two years, youth from a total of 18 states, representing 43 different organizations participated and a total of 56 young people traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in the formal celebration and activities.
While the total number of films decreased in the second year of IHTD, the number of students involved in the filmmaking process increased by about 60% and the number of students taking part in the formal festival, training and lobbying in Washington, D.C. increased more that 900%, from 5 to 51. Including chaperones, the total number of people that participated in the D.C. trip grew from 7 in the first year to 72, also a more than 900% increase, marking a great increase in the impact of the festival on both young people and the chaperons that attended the training and lobbying in D.C.
Of organizations that participated in the first year, more than 20% returned to participate in the 2nd year and we expect an even higher retention rate in the future. Participants also learned a great deal from participating in the festival. Almost 25% of the students that came to Washington, D.C. in 2012 reported an increase in understanding of federal budget priorities of 100% or more, with the average increase for all students around 50%. In addition, the training session held during the second festival in Washington, D.C. statistically significantly increased participants’ level of comfort discussing their own budget priorities. Participating in the festival also makes young people statistically significantly more likely to participate in civic activism.