Most people who visit Ganvié are tourists who come to see the Toffin people's unique way of life. The precarious living conditions of the inhabitants, however, never make the news. The project will equip selected secondary school students with the skills to produce a blog on www.rjcebenin.net that will shed light on their living conditions.The student journalists will expose the lack of basic infrastructure, clean drinking water, and sanitation services available. Over the three days of hands-on training,they will learn basic journalistic writing, photography, and social media skills.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Ganvié, Lake City
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
The Toffin people of Ganvié live in a community built on stilts in the center of Lake Nokoué. The people make their living primarily by fishing. Their community has become a well-known tourist destination in Benin; however, the voices of the people who live there are rarely heard in the media. This project aims to support the citizens so that they can raise awareness of the issues affecting their community while helping them to preserve their unique way of life. The level of familiarity with the Internet is low, but not any lower than the level of people living in similar communities in the region.
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
Gérard Guèdègbé , Journalist, Media project manager:
Matthew Bachtel, Journalist, social media expert
Mikaila Issa, Journalist, social media expert
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
The content will focus on the living conditions of the people and will specifically examine the lack of basic infrastructure, public health issues, and security concerns surrounding the smuggling of contraband fuel from Nigeria through the community. The stories will be told through a series of blog posts that will incorporate photography to support the written content. Video interviews with community members and local officials will bring the stories to life. The blogs will be serialized and be between 300 and 500 words per post. Twitter and Facebook will be used to distribute content and interact with readers by answering their questions and to follow up on stories drawing the most interest. The goal is to have at least one written blog and one video posted each week.
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 plan to establish connections with five schools in the community. We will work closely with these officials and teachers to have their support in the project. They will be instrumental in helping this project to succeed because they will be able to offer guidance to the students as they propose story ideas and work through the reporting and writing process.
We will also reach out to the mayor and other local officials and community leaders so that they are aware of the project and understand its purpose.
Beyond the community, we will connect with local NGOs that focus on health, environmental, and information technology sectors. They will be able to provide training materials and resources for the student reporters.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
The project will train 20 people. We will have a central newsroom housed at one of the schools that will have six student reporters and an editor who is a teacher trained to manage the newsroom. Each of the surrounding schools will have one or two correspondents who will do reporting.
We will sustain their participation by providing opportunities to learn computer skills and expand their understanding of social media.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
The focus will be on reporting and writing blog posts and filming and editing video segments. This technology is most appropriate because it will bring the stories and issues to life most vividly. The project organizer is an experienced journalist and journalism teacher who has taught in Madagascar, Cote d’Ivoire, and Mali among others, empowering journalists to report on underrepresented communities in the mainstream media
We will train the students not only to use social media effectively to draw web traffic to their articles and videos but to also create an online dialogue that helps people digest and understand the gravity of the stories produced.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The workshops will be held in Porto Novo, the capital of Benin, which is easily accessible for members of the community of Ganvié. The room will be equipped with 25 computers with high-speed internet access. We expect the trainees to have basic computer literacy skills and be able to type documents and access the Internet.
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?
Our connection to Ganvié came through our participation in a “media descent” on the community two years ago to report on educational issues. Since that time, we have monitored the problems facing this community and have maintained contacts there.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
Transportation and logistical concerns will be the biggest challenges since the community is only accessible by boat. We will take these issues into account in planning. Our past experience in the community is a significant asset.
How will you measure and evaluate the project’s impact, specifically: your primary participants, the wider regional community, or the global digital community?
Since youtube and all social media sites provide statistics including how many views, followers, and likes the stories receive, we can measure the reach and interest generated by the content. We can also see what organizations and local officials are following us. We will consider the project a success when officials recognize the problems the people of Ganvié face and take corrective actions on these problems.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
Make contact with schools/student selection: May 2014
Contact trainers and produce training materials: May 2014
Conduct three training workshops: June 2014
Design blog layout, establish youtube page, and social media accounts: June 2014
Produce first blog post and video: June 2014
Post first blog post and video: July 1, 2014
Provide weekly follow up with the students and supporting teacher: July – December 2014
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
$500 3 days Workshop
$300 Trainer Fees (3 workshops)
$500 one laptop to equip the newsroom
$200 Software for the laptop
$50 USB Internet Modem
$150 Travels & Communication
$250 Camera to make photos and short videos
$2450 Grand Total
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
We would expect from Rising Voices technical assistance in providing us with training materials and mentoring our team for the successful accomplishments of our project.
Réseau Béninois des Journalistes et Communicateurs Spécialisés en Education