Foko Blog Club first Self-Evaluation

After 10 months of planting blogs, Foko-Madagascar first project met successes in different ways, three languages and in a very short period of time. We launched this outreach with well defined goals, supposedly, we had all figured out from the first workshop (we even used to make GANTT charts) to the launch of our next project (we are dreaming about building a huge cybercafé painted in green) but of course we expected to meet deceptions, make millions mistakes and start fights over a key-decision to take….all this to spice things up. Most of the updates on the Rising Voices blog are emphasizing on the results but the more “good news” we published, the harder our team had to work backstage and improvise.

Foko, a pioneer for Citizen Media in Madagascar

With a School of Journalism as part of our Blog Club and more and more excellent stories on topics rarely published on newspapers, you would think that Foko has touched the heart of Malagasy readers (internet and newspapers). But journalism is still a very well-guarded citadel in Madagascar and many are still asking our coordinators and members about their “motivations” in giving away for (free) such important informations and hard work. Cyclone Yvan coverage and Baby Kamba project were two very interesting examples of journalists and webmasters relaying without aknowledging Avylavitra , Diana nor Foko's in general interventions. Videos of Ikopa river filmed with his own mini-camera and put on Youtube were found on a popular Malagasy website, the webmaster was raising funds for the victims but “forgot” to give credits to Avylavitra. After Baby Kamba's second operation, after the stressing hours, Diana was convocked at a press conference. This very talented young journalist and activist had the chance to be interviewed on her participation and how her blogging was decisive for Baby Kamba's future. But her blog's adress was never mentioned ….

  • Our first move was to integrate more journalists on our side and each time we don't hesitate to share our experiences and show them the values of Citizen Media and what it could bring to developing countries and Madagascar particularly. Randy Donné is well-known for his articles on Lexpress de Madagascar and today on Les Nouvelles and was one of Diana's supporters. He is now teaming with Foko to train his students at ICM Antsirabe where he is teaching journalism classes to Citizen media and open new blogs from the Vakinankaratra region. The new workshops will integrate tutorials on licencing (Creative Commons), commenting and social networking.

Foko, showing a new approach to ICT in Madagascar

3 out of 5 members have very basic knowledges of computing and internet but all of them have their personal cellphones and are experts at the Art of phone texting. Their first motivation to join the FBC was to learn more from the new technology and to develop skills with new media (videos and poscasts are total hits). FBC seems to be the link between the popular but limited use of internet for corresponding and chatting only and the dynamique but very selective community of developers. With a 3-step workshop format we tried to teach blogging, photography and video+podcast taking and encourage the bloggers to transfer their knowledge to their communities. But most of the time and not only because of the low connection and the costs, coordinators support are required. Video editing followed by the loading, more tutoring on WordPress and tips on online behavior are exchanged outside of the workshops hours. Hery and Stéphane noticed that the young bloggers needed more attention and “protection” from unwelcomed sollicitators on internet.

  • More “special” workshops are in preparation so our bloggers can answer to the community who is criticizing us on our “foolish” use of technology. We will produce breathtaking webdesign and professional video and audio contents like the ones Patricia and Nombana made to win international contests.

Foko, facing organisational and logistical challenges

It was after our expansion in Tamatave and soon after Lindsay's departure from Majunga that we realized we had to monitor than managing our network (we are very proud of this expression). Contacts were made with the bloggers twice a month with alternative ways to communicate (Skype, phone calls, chats). We had the opportunity to get guest bloggers and already trained members , Karenichia and her friends in Tananarive for example, to take over the workshop when the coordinators where travelling in the provinces. Coordinating and scheduling these meetings are still very difficult with most of the members still studying and having a part-time job during their free-time. The blog carnival participation for August 31st has a question mark on our calendar since we didn't hear from the members yet but we never know… In addition, we still have to solve our biggest problems of connectivity and finding cheaper and efficient ways to transfer pictures and videos online. Negociations are in progress with the cybercafés, sponsorship projects are in preparation and ideas of starting our own cybercafé.

But Foko team have came to the realizations that our decisions concern more the members than the organization itself and it has become an urgence to include them in the process and even giving them more responsabilities. All of them expressed their support to Foko in very touching ways and we have complete trust in them as they are the ones who are becoming the leaders of their communities : UN Club groups are the head students of their high-schools already used to activism and English Club in Tamatave students are involved in social activities.  And finally our choice to pursue our expansion to other regions  has been collectivelly discussed and will integrate the lessons we've learned from the previous workshops : passion, autonomy and knowledge transfer.

8 thoughts on “Foko Blog Club first Self-Evaluation

  1. Joan,

    I have long been aware of all of the incredible successes that Foko has had in training more Malagasy citizen journalists and creating award-winning content, but this provides a very useful overview of some of the challenges the project has run into.

    It sounds like, in addition to coordinating the workshops to train new bloggers, Foko must also do outreach work to explain to the Malagasy press and general public about the importance of citizen media for a healthy democracy. I think that it is important to remember that all of this takes time and that we’re just in the first chapters of online participatory media.

    In my opinion, it makes lots of sense to work with English language clubs (or any foreign language, for that matter) because they will be eager to improve their writing skills and eager for feedback from others.

    Thanks so much for this update Joan. Besides the slow and costly internet connection, have their been any other technical challenges?

  2. Thank you very much Joan for this update!

    Sure! we ( i and Joan) are going to explain for all of our compatriot the importance of citizen media.

    In my point of view, it s the one way of healthy democracy.

  3. Hey all,

    I think one of the urgence at FBC is to teach “internet” to the members. Lova did a great commenting about the lack of linking between blogs and external webistes, it only shows their “ignorance” (more in the sense of ” not knowing”) of internet and all the good use they can get from it.
    Stéphane mentioned the “Yahoo box” where 90% of the members are staying safely, of course they chat a lot but most of the time they are not aware of the environment outside. In technical words : they have to learn how to copy-past links (CTRL+C and so on), explore the contents available online (Youtube, Flickr, Rising Voices posts) to illustrate their posts, ameliorate their blogs (Mr WordPress must have little tips in his hat).
    Zouboon and Patrick for example are exploring on their own but we need to give them more time from the FBC to teach time our quick tricks.

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