Public Squares are facilitated online group dialogues, initiated and designed by volunteer collaborators, in which participants from within and across cultural, geographic, and political communities engage with each other using a video-conference application to explore their perspectives, discuss important issues and, when appropriate, agree on a course of action. The project combines best practices from the field of conflict resolution and facilitation with innovative uses of new media technologies to promote actionable civic discourse around issues that threaten to fracture societies.
What locality or neighborhood will your project focus on?
Both the team and the community is international. The project is really based online.
Describe the specific population with whom you will be working.
Soliya is supported by an international community of hundreds of volunteers from Soliya programs who are working individually and collectively to promote more cooperative and compassionate relations between and within their societies. Soliya will train Public Squares Collaborators:
– Conveners – outreaching to future participants to Public Squares (outside of the Soliya community) whose voices are usually underrepresented in the themes that collaborators will themselves choose and which participants will adapt for their specific conversation.
– Facilitators – enabling those participants to have a constructive conversation
– Media Producers: media production using smartphones to provide recorded interviews to provide examples of the different opinions available on the Public Squares to
Who else will be on your team to help implement the project?
I will be working with two other team members that will provide training and technical expertise. The team will be composed of:
– Chloe Zimmerman – New York City, USA
Media producer / Trainer.
– Waleed Nassar – Toronto, Canada.
Online Community Manager / Social Media Trainer.
Twitter: @WILxCairo Blog: BlogSQ.com
– Rafael Tyszblat – Paris, France
Senior Officer, Program Design and training
Facebook: Rafael Tyszblat
What kinds of news, stories and other content will be created?
Public Squares are primarily designed and led by our Advanced Volunteers: Conveners, Facilitators and Hosts. We want our participants to decide by themselves what they would like to talk about. Participants, coming either from within or outside of the Soliya Community, are the people ultimately responsible for the content of the conversations.
Media Producers will be trained to film and edit compelling web videos to illustrate the themes of Public Squares broadly linked to subjects that are divisive within and/or between the societies represented by participants. They can be related to political, social, religious or cultural issues for instance.
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.
Soliya has 10 years of experience partnering with universities in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East for its flagship program, the “Connect Program”. Through these partnerships, thousands of students have already participated in structured and facilitated online discussions.
In addition, Soliya is already in the process of carrying out Public Squares that will take place in a physical setting in Egypt through partnerships with two universities.
How many participants do you think will be trained in your project?
We are hoping to gather around 20 groups of 8 to 10 people per group on the year 2014. Since each group normally needs an average of 1 convener, 2 hosts and/or 1 facilitators and 2 media producer, we are expecting to train around 100 people on the year of 2014, including:
– 20 conveners
– 50 Facilitators and hosts
– 30 media producers
We plan on offering the program and the training to our already very dedicated community of volunteers who are not only committed to Soliya as an organization but very passionate about the field of civic and intercultural dialogue in general. The will of collaborators to stick through the various stage of the project, from designing to implementation is encouraged through the principle that they will be the ones deciding how the conversation will happen.
Describe which technologies, tools, and media you will focus on when training participants.
Rafael is an experienced Conflict Resolution professional and dialogue practitioner. He has designed, initiated and conducted many online and face to face dialogue programs.
Waleed is an experienced online community manager and has been facilitating citizen media training for social activists and citizen journalists in Egypt and Canada since 2009.
Chloe is a video producer and trainer with extensive experience producing short and impactful interviews as well as collaborative online post-production.
Public Squares will be hosted fully on the Google platform with a focus on using Google+, Google Hangout, Google Drive and YouTube. All these media allow collaboration across tools and the mobile version of Google platform is the most popular free online platform available at the moment.
Describe the facilities where you will hold the workshops.
The training workshops for collaborators will all happen online either through live training or dialogue sessions or through downloadable recorded videos. The Public Squares trainees will be participating using Google Hangout and will be logging in mostly from their home and will rely on their own computers with web-cameras, microphone and a internet connection.
We will be providing them guidance and some technical support before and during the training sessions to minimize the technical issues that might affect their participation.
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?
Soliya has over 10 years of experience conducting dialogue programs online with the essential support of the Soliya Community of volunteers
The Soliya Community is the extraordinary network of volunteers from Soliya programs who are working individually and collectively to promote more cooperative and compassionate relations between and within their societies. All Public squares Collaborators will already have at least 1 year experience working and interacting with Soliya. Through this experience, training and collaboration, we are hoping to create a community that shares and promotes a common culture of communication and engagement including authenticity, curiosity, respect and empathy.
What specific challenges do you expect to face when planning and implementing your project?
Dialoging across deep political divides may sometimes raise suspicion from more radical activists that participants to such dialogue are in fact trying to “normalize” an unfair situation. Soliya has been facing that kind of risks since its creation and has adopted a set of three principles that we believe will neutralize them: 1- we are committed to supporting diverse youth to engage in dialogue & cooperation based on mutual respect; 2- we will not discriminate against individuals based on their group identity; 3- we respect that some individuals may not be willing or able to interact with individuals from certain identity groups; we will support them to engage where they are willing and able, based on our belief in the empowering and transformative potential of such experiences.
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 public Squares will be defined by the pre and post program evaluations filled in by participants on one hand and by the initiation of certain joint projects and the scope of their impact on the other end. Such output of Public Squares can be policy drafts, mainstream media publications or any other joint project. Such projects or recommendations can be amplified to the press, the broader communities represented, community leaders or decision makers.
If your project were to be selected as a Rising Voices grantee, what would be the general timeline of project activities in 2014?
- June 2014: General outreach to the Soliya community of volunteers to recruit Public Squares Collaborators.
– July-August 2014: Capacity building for Public Squares Collaborators in which they receive training in facilitation, media production and social media.
– August 2014: Choice of topics by conveners; production of compelling videos by media producers containing expert opinions and vox pops;
– September 2014: Participants outreach by conveners, preparation of Public Squares by facilitators and hosts.
– October 2014-July 2015: Implementation of Public Squares by convening several groups for the next few months.
Detail a specific budget of up to $2,500 USD for operating costs.
- Training and Public Squares Documentation ($750) – Google Docs (around 100 pages) will be created for all training materials and Public Squares documentation and will include several embedded videos and links to in-document and external resources. The amount will be spent on a hired freelancer to compile, format and update this interactive document.
– Upgrading Google platform to Google Premium accounts ($300 for one year) for Conveners– To be paid to Google to increase number of participants that can use Google Hangout room to 15 instead of 10 people.
– Cloud storage (500GB for $499) – To be used by the community for sharing pre-edited high-resolution video files between each other during production phase of spark videos.
– Smartphone external microphones ($15 x 30 trainee = $450) Media production trainees will each purchase a portable external microphone to be used as part of the training and in the recording of interviews for the Public Squares.
Besides the microgrant funding, what other support can Rising Voices provide for your project to ensure its success?
Aside from the funding, we would love to enable our Conveners to receive support in outreaching to more potential participants to Public Squares.