In May 2007 Global Voices was awarded a Knight News Challenge grant which led to the creation of Rising Voices, a citizen media outreach initiative which aims to help bring new voices from new communities to the conversational web by providing resources and funding to local groups reaching out to underrepresented communities. In mid-May I transitioned from acting Co-Managing Editor to Director of Outreach. On May 31 we announced our first round of funding. By June 15 we received over 140 project proposals from individuals and organizations based in over 60 countries throughout the developing world. The first five microgrants were awarded to projects in Colombia, India, Bolivia, Bangladesh, and Sierra Leone. Currently, four of those five projects are now active. Introductory posts and podcasts have been published about the projects in Bangladesh, Colombia, and Bolivia. An introductory post on the Think Build Change Salone project in Sierra Leone is forthcoming. The launch of the Neighbourhood Diaries project in Kolkata, India has been delayed due to problems outlined on their project blog.
Rising Voices also helped facilitate the translation of WordPress.com into Khmer, sponsored scholarships for two Bolivian bloggers to attend the Bloguiviano Conference in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and distributed 7 digital cameras to new Cambodian photo-bloggers at the first Cambodian Bloggers Summit in August.
A weekly newsletter centered on topics related to citizen media outreach is distributed weekly to the Rising Voices mailing list. The newsletter will also soon be made available on the Rising Voices website.
The second round of microgrant funding was announced on October 31. This follows our proposed schedule of funding five new outreach projects every five months. Applications are due on November 30 and we plan on announcing the grantees during the second or third week of December.
There are three components of Rising Voices which offer opportunities for improvement.
1.) My documentation of the progress of each of the grantee projects has been less frequent and less extensive than I originally hoped for. As such, Rezwan Islam has been hired as the Rising Voices Feature Editor and will contribute one post weekly focused on a Rising Voices project or an innovative use of citizen media by a community that is under-represented on the conversational web.
2.) The design and functionality of the Rising Voices website hasn't been an ideal fit for the dynamic nature of the project. Jeremy Clarke is currently in the process of redesigning the site so that more attention will be directed at Rezwan's weekly feature posts. At the same time, I will provide better documentation about Rising Voices. The redesign should be complete by no later than November 23.
3.) Rising Voices is a three-pronged project which aims to a.) network citizen media experts in the developing world b.) fund innovative outreach projects with microgrants and c.) provide documentation to tools and techniques related to citizen media with a citizen media guide. With the exception of an initial draft document of an ‘Introduction to Citizen Media’, the guide has stalled. I have communicated with Tactical Tech and the International Journalists Network about partnering to maintain an online joint library of small modules (for example, ‘how to create image thumbnails) that can be remixed to create specially tailored guides. Examples of these specially tailored guides could be “citizen media for health workers” or “citizen media for small businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa”. My goal is to have some sort of PDF guide explaining the basics of blogging, RSS, and podcasting ready by the time the next round of grantees is announced.