Annenberg Inclusion Initiative think tank launched at USC

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will be led by professor Stacy L. Smith and builds on her Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, which is known for its studies on representation in the film and television industry. Photo courtesy of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced the creation of the new Annenberg Inclusion Initiative last Thursday. Led by Annenberg professor Stacy L. Smith, the initiative will create a think tank with a focus on expanding inclusion in the entertainment industry. This work builds on Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, also led by Smith, which focuses on diversity in film and television.

“Our new name reflects our continued and unwavering commitment to championing inclusion in all forms — including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, disability and now mental health — across the media industry at a time when the climate makes it clear that our solutions are more needed now than ever,” Smith said to USC News.  

Annenberg’s Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative has done extensive research on diversity in the film industry, studying the demographics of the top 100 highest-grossing films since 2009. However, the group has seen little difference in its nine years of research.

With the new Inclusion Initiative, Smith hopes the group will not only research these trends, but help fix them. In this way, Smith also told The Hollywood Reporter, choosing the word “initiative” was purposeful.

“We don’t want to set up as a center or an institute, because that sounds like we’re permanent,” Smith said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The goal is to eradicate this problem and move on to something else.”

In order to face inequality, the initiative will focus on three major components: research, by offering advice on where diversity is lacking; advocacy, by speaking out on the behalf of marginalized groups; to provide easy steps to help foster change.

“We are eager for companies and individuals to work with us to understand where there are glaring inequities and determine how best to solve them,” Smith said to USC News.

Annenberg also announced that the initiative will include the creation of an advisory board, consisting of leaders from big names in entertainment such as The Walt Disney Company, NBC and HBO, in addition to foundation leaders. The initiative’s first study will be released in early 2018 and focus on the depiction of mental health in the film industry.

“The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is a leader in addressing inequality in entertainment and by expanding their work to include examinations of mental health in storytelling and inequality in all aspects of the music industry, its work will continue to be the gold standard,” Annenberg Dean Willow Bay said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Combining its track record of excellent work with Dr. Smith’s innovative solutions, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will be a true force for industry change.”

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