This project proposes to advocate the principles of open government as they apply to Congress throughout Guatemala, raising awareness of the important functions performed by this institution as well as the mechanisms by which citizens can engage their representatives. It will consist of a series of workshops tailored to both high school and university students from the countryside. We want to elicit young citizens to empower themselves, find ways to organize to participate in democracy in order to demand actions from their representatives and, above all, question the status quo.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Multiple towns in Guatemala
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
Participants will be high school and university students from the countryside between 13 and 25 years old. According to the most recent estimates of the International Telecommunication Union only 16% of individuals have access to Internet in Guatemala. The youth has the key to positive change in their hands; they just need to be aware of it. It is crucial that they understand how the institutions of government work and how they can participate and contribute to strengthening democracy. We want to inform and inspire young citizens to become community leaders. After attending the workshops, participants will create a blog to document the needs of their community and through it, lobby for their representative’s action with our support. Their role will transcend their attendance to a workshop.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
Asociación Civil Los Patojos – www.lospatojos.org.gt
Petén Soy Yo – https://www.facebook.com/PetenSoyYo
Rising Minds – http://risingminds.org/
Revista Brújula – http://brujula.com.gt/
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
After attending the workshops, participants will create groups to research, document and publish their community’s needs using blogs. The idea is to use blogging as a tool for advocating the implementation of the kinds of programs, projects and legislation Guatemalan citizens really need. These blogs will constitute a space for participants to practice their right to be heard by their authorities in an exercise of crowd-sourcing supported by our website. We expect to have several of these groups throughout the country, covering at least 6 departments by the end of 2014. The content created by our local bloggers will be as varied as the needs of each locality, injecting diversity to our efforts of promoting open government.
What technologies and digital tools do you plan to use in the trainings?
Describe the connections that you or your organization have already established or plan to establish that will contribute to the success of the project.
So far we have partnered with four organizations that work outside of Guatemala City or that can provide us with a network in other localities: Los Patojos, in the departamento of Sacatepéquez; Petén Soy Yo, in Petén; Rising Minds, in Sololá; and Brújula, an online magazine based in Guatemala city but with links in the whole country. The terms of our partnership with the aforementioned organizations entail technical and logistic support only: they will provide us with a place and participants to conduct our workshops, but all other expenses must be covered by us.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
We hope to be able to train around 240 students in at least 6 departamentos outside Guatemala City. Our partnership with the different organizations mentioned in the previous answer will provide us with participants. Sustaining their participation in the blogging portion of our proposal is made easy by the fact that participants have already some kind of affiliation to the organizations we work with. Due to the nature of our project, contact with participants will be constant after the workshop.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
We will train participants on the principles of open government, basic technical knowledge of how the Guatemalan Congress works and who the representatives of each district are. In addition to the ‘civic education’ portion of the workshops, participants will get training on blogging and basic data management so that they can work with open data. Congreso Transparente’s is made up of young lawyers and economists who are well versed in blogging and the use of social media, guaranteeing the quality of the workshops. Partnership with organizations specialized in the use of open data or ICTs will be sought when needed.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
Each organization with whom we have partnered will provide a location for the workshops to be held. We have been guaranteed access to at least one laptop, a projector and Internet connection by every one of the organizations. We will adapt the training method depending on the number of participants per workshop and the availability of equipment. It is always a challenge to implement workshops like these in rural areas. The importance of the kind of training we propose, however, outweighs the difficulties foresaw.
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?
So far our organization has worked solely in urban areas, and almost entirely in Guatemala City. This project is, therefore, our way to expand throughout the country by means of partnerships with local organizations that know the particular characteristics of each place better. We believe that knowledge is out there; spread throughout society, and that each piece of information can contribute to strengthen democracy through the citizenry’s participation. We will provide the civic and technological know-how that this organizations lack to allow participants to become more active citizens through social activism via blogging.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
Besides transportation to the localities where we plan to hold the workshops, the main challenge will be adapting our training method to the available of equipment and Internet access. Once the workshops have been taught, the group of bloggers will have some support from us to be able to perform their task. There are internet cafes in the main municipalities of Guatemala, so we just need to ensure that participants can go to one of them and write their blogs from there by providing them with a small stipend.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
Success will be measured according to three variables: the number of participants that decide to integrate the groups, the quality and popularity of their posts (how many readers can they attract), and the impact their posts have on their representatives’ actions. The last variable is the most important one of them of course, and it will be measured by the studying weather or not the post reach representatives and weather or not their actions addressed the issues raised by our bloggers. The first two are easier to measure: keeping track of the members of the group monthly and looking at statistics such as number of shares and comments posts generate in social media and the number of readers.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
April 21st – May 2nd
Formalize partnerships with each organization and establish the first steps towards the implementation of the workshops.
May 2nd – May 31st
Planning and logistics: ensuring that the place has been chosen, the equipment is available and transportation is ready.
Publish invitations and start advertizing the workshops in each locality
Define the structure of each workshop, adapting the training method to each locality’s particular circumstances.
June 1st – September 27th
Implementation of workshops during the weekends for four months. The groups of bloggers will be created after each workshop and will be operative immediately.
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
Transportation for three people from and to Guatemala City to hold 8 workshops: USD 655.00 –this item will cover transportation for 3 of our team members to facilitate each workshop.
Printed certificate of participation for 240 people: USD45.00 –an unwritten precept of the Guatemalan culture is that you need to receive a certificate of participation for your training to be valid. That is why we will provide our participants with one.
Operating expenses (in the form of a $50) for 6 blogging groups during 6 months USD1,800.00 –Such operating expenses might include access to internet through internet cafes located in the biggest towns, transportation from their communities, etc.
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
We want to inspire a group of young citizens to become social activists and community leaders through blogging by providing them the necessary training and tools to do so. The content they will generate has the potential to raise awareness about ignored issues that Congress should be addressing. Given the fact that Rising Voices is a network of bloggers interested in citizenship participation through social media, we would like to request that at least one of its members spoke (maybe via Skype) to our participants during the workshops as a way of encouraging them.
Diego José Mejía Romero