It has been five years since Rising Voices first launched following a series of conversations that led to realizations about the state of the global digital space. At the time, Global Voices had a front row seat to this new world of citizen media that had appeared and had been showing a side of the world never seen before – through the eyes and words of regular citizens. However, this unique vantage point also revealed that it was only a sector of society's voices that were being heard.
In this post published on May 22, 2007, David Sasaki, Rising Voices’ first Director wrote,
But these past two years have also taught us that certain regions of the world and certain demographics within those regions have benefited from the boom in citizen media more than others. Most bloggers and podcasters still tend to be middle or upper-middle class. Most have a college-level education. Most live in large cities. And of the 70 million weblogs now tracked by Technorati, 95% of them are written in just 10 languages. The truth is, what we often call the ‘global conversation,’ is a privileged discussion among global elites.
Soon after the post was published, Rising Voices announced the first of what would become six microgrant competitions for citizen media outreach projects. This initiative invited individuals and organizations from around the world eager to submit ideas how they would involve their local community in the use of these new communication tools.
While there is no debate that there are more people connected to the internet and participating online than ever before, there is still a lot of work to be done. This ongoing need is best demonstrated in the rise in volume of applications being received for these microgrants. In the first round of grants in 2007, Rising Voices received a couple of hundred applications. In our most recent competition in 2012, we received close to 1200 applications from more than 120 countries.
This community of grantee projects has become a major part of what Rising Voices is all about. Through the commitment and hard work of project leaders, countless number of new voices have been uncovered in parts of the world and in languages that had not been as well represented online. Yet, these digital stories were also made possible by the process of discovery. The realization that there is a freedom to express themselves made possible by the availability of citizen media tools and technology has been opening doors to members of our Rising Voices community.
Throughout the month of June, we've invited some of these individuals to reflect on their experiences with Rising Voices and to share their experiences about some of these discoveries.
Thanks to everyone that has supported Rising Voices these past five years.