The Orizonturi Foundation's “Blogging the Dream” project got a little boost in November when project leader Gabriela Tanasan was invited by the Soros Foundation to participate in their Advocacy Through Blogging conference in Bucharest, Romania. The conference was a Web 2.0 training workshop for non-profits in Romania.
Based in the city of Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania, the Orizonturi Foundation has been helping those with mental health issues since 1995 by providing services ranging from counseling to organizing excursions. The “Blogging the Dream” project, funded through a Rising Voices micro grant, involves creating a blogging club for their mental health service users, where participants will be trained how to create and maintain blogs, use the Internet, and upload videos. Eventually they will create one collaborative blog, which the organization hopes will help dismantle the stigma that people with mental health issues face in Romania, as well as create awareness of their issues.
Tanasan presented the Blogging the Dream project at the Soros Foundation conference in November. She also attended other sessions such as “Using social media tools for successful nonprofit campaigns,” “NGO web 2.0 practical guide,” and “Integrated communication strategies for NGOs.” Tanasan reflects on her experience at the conference and talks about how she can apply her new knowledge to put this Rising Voices project into focus:
My participation in the Soros Foundation conference was a great opportunity to learn and conduct an exchange of experience about using new media tools.
I was enriched with knowledge about creating and maintaining a blog. I came back with new ideas about implementing our project ‘Blogging the Dream.’ The questions we have to ask ourselves in order to make a known, focused and useful blog are: ‘what is the blog's main purpose?,’ ‘why is the audience possibly interested in its purpose?,’ ‘what do people like the most when they go to a web site: to read, to look at pictures/videos, to download pictures/images/information?,’ ‘what strategy should we adopt in order to reach a larger audience so that to achieve our purpose?” and the range of questions can go on.
Tanasan also found that the conference was a great opportunity to spread the word about the Blogging the Dream project to others working in the field, as well as to make people aware of the Orizonturi Foundation and their work. The positive feedback was a great motivator. From the project's blog:
It’s exciting to see others interested in our project efforts, not to mention receiving encouragement and feedback. Furthermore, Gabriela brought back a lot of information on additional blogging tools that we are excited to implement during our Practicum Period.
The technical training part of the Blogging the Dream project has been completed, where participants learned how to blog, use digital cameras, and upload pictures. The participants are now slowly getting their blogs up and running. The next phase of the project is the practicum period. During this time the blogging club members will meet weekly and have to complete projects to show what they've learned so far. They will also use this time to further develop and become comfortable with their blogs. Tanasan says she will apply what she learned during the Soros Foundation conference during this phase of the project:
The participants in the ‘Blogging the Dream’ project will start the practicum period by 15th of January 2009. We will pay attention to all mentioned aspects in creating the individual blogs and then the common blog. The blog must be conceived as a ‘communication ecosystem,’ where the information comes together and from where they leave. The practicum period gives me the chance to put into practice these ideas.