College-aged youth involved in Media Clubs will be trained to act as citizen journalists by producing audio podcasts. These podcasts will educate Bhutanese about democracy, explore ways to engage citizens in community problem-solving, and cover stories from Bhutan's second-ever national elections during summer 2013. Our organization will then create an online hub where all these stories will be posted and distributed to local radio stations. Given the freshness of Bhutan's democracy, all citizens – especially youth – require opportunities to better understand and engage in democracy.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Describe the specific community with whom you will be working.
We intend to work with college-aged youth involved in media clubs located throughout Bhutan. Many of these youth already have basic training in journalism, and regularly produce news content for their communities. They have access to computers and use the internet to post some of their content on social media platforms such as Facebook. Currently, these groups mainly focus on producing print and video content, which generally do not have reach beyond their communities (or the minority with access to internet).
If supplied with audio equipment, these youth could be trained to produce content for the most popular medium in Bhutan – radio. Because many of these clubs are based in rural, underserved communities, they have the potential to foster a national conversation about democracy.
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
Participants will be encouraged to produce three kinds of podcasts: (1) educational stories that help the average rural voter understand basic ideas and processes of democracy; (2) feature stories that cover the developments, themes, and profiles of key individuals during the 2013 elections in their respective regions; and (3) vox pop/polls that survey public opinion on certain issues. Beyond the elections, clubs will also be trained to cover local issues and problems in a skillful manner that engages leaders and decision-makers in bringing about change.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established that will contribute to the success of the project.
We are the sole organization that helped start, fund, and train youth involved in these Media Clubs. The club members are in regular contact with us about their activity, and send members to attend our forums and trainings. Additionally, we have received approval from the authorities at these schools.
For youth based in Thimphu (the capital), we have recently launched a Media Lab – a dynamic space where people can come to access digital media and learn how to use it. Here, we will conduct training for youth – in and out-of-school – to create podcasts. Members can then regularly return to the Lab to produce and distribute their podcasts.
For distribution, we are well-connected with radio stations that have national reach, such as Kuzoo FM, with whom we have previously broadcast material.
How many participants do you think will be involved in your project?
We intend to train approximately 150 youth (30 per location) and 5 teachers across Bhutan. We will travel across the country during the end of April and beginning of May to train Media Clubs, help them plan their podcast series, review the podcasts and then post them online. We have already surveyed members of Media Clubs about the possibility of podcast training and they are not only open to it, but excited for the opportunity to engage and make a difference during this momentous period of Bhutan's history.
While the scope of this project is just during elections, the podcasting skills and knowledge will be sustained through the clubs, who will be asked to transfer the knowledge to younger members.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
All workshops will train youth to handle and use Zoom 1N Audio Recorders to conduct interviews, write manuscripts, edit podcasts in Audacity, and then post these online to a SoundCloud profile on our Media Lab site. Within our organization, we bring years of experience in the fields of journalism and training hundreds of Bhutanese youth in topics such as digital storytelling, documentary filmmaking, and citizen journalism. All individuals conducting training have experience with the all aspects of podcast production and will be capable of guiding youth, providing constructive feedback on their pieces, and giving tips on how to be a ‘citizen journalist’.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The workshops will take place in five locations throughout Bhutan: Paro, Thimphu, Samtse, Trongsa, and Kanglung. All locations will have halls with electricity where we can conduct trainings, show sample podcasts, and charge recorders and laptops. Additionally, all locations will have access to computers with up-to-date Windows-based software (e.g. Office, WinRAR, etc.) at the school computer labs or the Media Lab (in Thimphu). Each Club in each location also has access to one personal laptop computer. However, internet connection speed in the majority of the locations (with the exception of Paro and Thimphu) will be fairly poor. Therefore, we will try to provide each club with an internet data card so that they can access internet independently of the computer Labs.
What is your current relationship with the community with whom you plan to work? What makes you the most appropriate individual or organization to implement this project?
We have almost 5 years of experience as the first organization in Bhutan with the mandate to train and empower youth to use media as a way to participate in the world around them. As previously mentioned, we are the sole organization that envisioned, started up, and continues to support these Media Clubs (and now, Media Lab), which have become institutionalized in these select schools. Though we encourage the Clubs to function independently (i.e. without dependence on our organization to continually fund them), we have and will continue to provide many funding and training opportunities for members of these Clubs.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
The greatest concern going into these trainings will be time management. In general, members of these clubs have very tight restrictions on time they can take off, so we will be forced to pack in everything in 2-days – very limited for in-depth coverage of journalistic topics such as ethics, question framing, etc. To save time, we will break up the training into two streams – one reporting, one writing – and reconvene for the editing. We will also establish an editorial process through which we can monitor the content and provide feedback to improve future stories. Other concerns include post-workshop sustainability. With classes and exams, how will students find time to follow up and continue to produce stories? We hope incentives like national radio distribution will keep them going.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
Success for this project will come first in the impact it has on the students. Are they engaging more in the community? Do they have more confidence in their ability to express themselves? Can they creatively tell stories that lead to community-wide change? We will assess this through pre-/post- attitudinal surveys of the participants. Success will also come in the quality of the podcast production, which will be measured by the number of listeners on the SoundCloud file, the types of stories, and how it is told (e.g. objective, focused on solutions). Because we hope these pieces engage listeners nationwide, we will encourage clubs to hold listener clubs, where they broadcast their pieces to a small group and use it to prompt discussion. Clubs will report to us on how these discussions go.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2013?
Having conducted a pilot workshop in Paro on March 30-31, we are already prepared to begin training. The only contingency now is funding. Because elections will take place in July 2013, we would like to begin as soon as possible – possibly by the end of April or the beginning of May. During a three-week period, we will travel to Samtse, Trongsa, Kanglung, Paro, and Thimphu to conduct 2-day crash courses in Podcast production. All of these workshops will result in the production of one podcast per 3-4 person group. At the end of the workshop, we will help clubs develop a timeline for future podcasts so that they can collectively produce up to 4 podcasts per month. We will introduce them to the editorial process, from story idea submission to final production. We will then meet with our contacts at local radio stations to broker a deal to air these podcasts (that will have gone through the editorial process). This process will be iterated through the elections period and thereafter.
Detail a specific budget of up to $4,000 USD for operating costs.
-Audio Recording Kits (5): $750
-Internet Data Cards (5): $200
Travel & Accommodation (including gas, hotel, etc.): $1,000
Workshop expenses, including space rental, food, and printing costs: $1,000
Coordinator Expenses: $500
Besides the microgrant funding, what other resources and support are you seeking for your project to ensure its success?
Rising Voices can connect us to individuals or organizations that have conducted similar programs in emerging democracies. We stand to learn a lot from successful projects conducted in other countries that have succeeded in engaging youth in democratic processes, in building their capacity to express themselves creatively, and strengthening their communities. We are particularly interested in the experience of organizations that have used innovative practices and technologies to deal with limited resources, difficult geography (Bhutan is divided by its mountainous geography), and limited public understanding of democracy.
Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy