Forced displacement happens due to natural or manmade disaster, social and political unrest/conflict, ecological/climate change or development (e.g. industrial projects, dam construction, etc). In India, the people that are most vulnerable to this are scheduled castes, indigenous and tribal people, often very poor and uneducated – but most of all, unheard or worse yet, silenced. Our project involves citizen reporting. Mobile phones with inbuilt audio recorders are low-cost tools that enable us to easily connect and communicate. Our hope is to bring attention toward their experiences and needs.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Saturi village, Uttarakhand, and a highway settlement on the outskirt of Bhilwara, Rajasthan.
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
The stories of internally displaced, nomadic and migrant worker communities are not well represented online. They live along major highways and roads, in slums or temporary shelter, and often earn barely enough to meet basic daily requirements. These individuals and families typically stay in one location for 6-8 months, although many have been there for years, being too old or too young to move on. This population is not familiar with using computers or accessing the internet. However, mobile phones are increasingly prevalent and most have data connectivity and audio recording capability. We are motivated to capture these stories because we have sat and listened for hours and are inspired by their resilience and perseverance, despite extremely difficult conditions and discrimination.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
The project will be overseen by Max Chandra and the One Step at a Time Charitable Foundation (https://www.facebook.com/onestepatatime.in). A support team specifically for this project will be assembled, consisting of 2 part-time coordinators, high school and college students, and general volunteers. With this assistance, we will be able to present the 200+ collected stories (and likely songs!) on SoundCloud and a new blog. The campaign will also be closely followed by our 9,200+ Facebook friends, which include supporters from many different regions of India, as well as our global audience.
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
The citizen journalists in Uttarakhand will record their post-flood rebuilding stories from the past year. They will update on the status and speed of relief efforts in their village and inform on what else is required. The participants in Rajasthan will share what life is really like living along a national highway and the problems associated. When they have spoken to us in the past, the most common themes that emerged from this conversation is usually their desire for houses and land that they call home without being forcibly removed from; education for their children; and access to health and medical facilities.
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.
We are actively looking to learn from and partner with other individuals or groups that have documented stories using mobile phones. For instance, organizations like Radar (www.onourradar.org), FrontlineSMS (www.frontlinesms.com) and Video Volunteers (www.videovolunteers.org) are innovating new solutions and apps using SMS and video technology. We thought collecting audible stories would remove low literacy barriers, but are open to changing this methodology if another solution is more appropriate and effective. In addition, we will engage our friends and supporters, such as Social Access (www.socialaccessblog.wordpress.com), to help us circulate the stories with their audiences and on external platforms.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
As this is a pilot project, we will start by training 10 citizen journalists in one village in Uttarakhand and 10 citizen journalists in one settlement in Rajasthan. Since we want to gather perspectives across different generations (as well as genders), we plan to conduct 2 separate trainings in each locality (i.e., 4 workshops in total) – one for participants aged 15-23 years and another for those older than 23. After this initial pilot stage, we hope to initiate and expand similar trainings in other Indian states, especially as Max continues to walk the breadth and depth of this vast country and meets many more people along the way. One Step would also like to continue to support and follow 2 citizen reporters from this cohort over several years.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
Our team is equipped and proficient in using multi-functional phones, computers and posting on social media. We will develop a simple curriculum and presentation, in consultation with a trainer or journalist and some reference materials. When working with populations off the grid (meaning offline and without even a stable electrical source), we are convinced that mobile phones are the most affordable, accessible and easy to learn communication tool to achieve our digital storytelling project.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
We will hold the training workshop in a communal or open space within the village or settlement. It can be inside or outside, depending on weather conditions. For the training, we will bring along 1 battery-charged laptop (optionally with a USB data card for internet access) and 1 pocket projector. We can project our presentation onto a blank wall, white sheet or screen.
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?
Max Chandra and the One Step at a Time Charitable Foundation already have an established relationship with these 2 communities in Uttarakhand and Rajasthan. In direct response to the destructive flooding that hit the Uttarakhand region in July 2013, Project Vidya, in conjunction with St. Jude’s School in Dehradun, was initiated to provide immediate aid in the form of food, drinking water, warm bedding and clothing, footwear, cooking utensils, etc. Max has also personally walked/stopped thru, built relationships and later revisited the highway settlement in Rajasthan to conduct a census of all the families that were residing there. Max is the most appropriate person to oversee this project because there is no one else servicing or supporting these individuals and families.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
We could encounter several challenges in implementing this project. As the population can be transitory, there is no guarantee that the participants that are chosen will stay in this area. We certainly are aware that there may be multiple reasons for why they must move (i.e., they are forcibly displaced again; choose to relocate for paid work; etc.). Contingencies will be made according to the situation. Furthermore, our intention is to pay each citizen journalists a stipend to supplement their livelihoods. So we understand too that there could be potential envy that arises in the selection process, both from within the informal community or externally.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
We will seek inputs from primary participants at every stage of the project (from beginning, middle and end). We will also assess the reach of these citizen stories (e.g. whether any of their concerns get covered by mainstream newspapers or radio, in the regional area or otherwise). The impact on the wider regional community and the global digital community will be determined by the comments and feedback we receive.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
We will assemble our team and begin planning our curriculum and presentation in June 2014. The 4 training workshops will be conducted in July. Every participant will be given 3 months (August, September and October) to record at least 10 stories. Max and our coordinators will periodically follow up and provide support to the citizen reporters to make sure they are on track. As the recordings are received (on a rolling basis), our volunteers will transcribe, as well as translate each story into English. Meanwhile, we will also review and edit the sound using free open-source software like Audacity, index the articles by category and add tags, and publicize the central repository of at least 200 stories, to which we will continue to add to with future projects in other Indian states. By December end, we will have taken all the participant feedback and assessed impact, including what worked and what did not.
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
Mobile phones (x 20) $25 x 20 = $500
Solar power chargers (x 4) $50 x 4 = $200
SIM cards & top up charges $7 x 20 = $140
Memory cards $5 x 20 = $100
Participant stipend $15 per month x 3 months x 20 = $900
Coordinator (x 2) $60 per month x 4 months x 2 = $480
Trainer Volunteer or Max
Travel expenses $50
Food for 4 workshops $130
Open space for training no cost
Total budget $2,500
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
It would be very helpful if Rising Voices would direct us to other organizations, anywhere in the world, that are creating new ways to use mobile phones for citizen reporting and digital storytelling. Thank you also for pointing us towards more free and open-source resources to use in our work.
One Step at a Time Charitable Foundation