Newsletter: How Can We Help You?

Making Your Group Heard

Not to worry, the “how you can help us” newsletter is coming soon. 🙂

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, we received over 270 proposals for this last round of microgrant funding. That is really an extraordinary testament to just how many NGO's, teachers, activists, and community organizers want to use citizen media to empower and engage with the groups they work with. We received proposals from Burkina Faso, Brazil, China, Cameroon, and beyond. They aim to work with older persons in Kenya, HIV positive individuals in Yemen, musicians in Paraguay, the Roma population of Hungary, and conflict resolution groups in Sri Lanka, Serbia, Palestine and Azerbaijan.

What stands out in a large majority of the proposals we received is the desire not just for funding, but to be part of a network of support and exposure. Sometime at the end of February or the beginning of March we will announce the five newest Rising Voices grantees. But I would also like to know how we can be of service to the 265 applicants who won't receive funding this round. How can the Rising Voices network best support organizations and individuals who aren't official grantees? That is, what can we do for you?

Here are a few ideas. Please respond with your thoughts, criticisms, and additions.

  1. Discussion forum: One of the disadvantages of having such a large mailing list is that it discourages conversations that may only apply to 10 – 15 people despite the relevance and importance to those individuals. By setting up a Rising Voices discussion forum we hope to encourage more inclusive conversations focused on specific topics. It would be a place for you to ask your own questions and answer the questions of others.
  2. Directory of New Media Trainers: Organizations often write to me asking for references to individuals who have experience in training groups how to start blogs, make videos, and upload photographs. This directory would serve as a place where experienced trainers could gain more exposure and groups in need of help could search by location and topic.
  3. Citizen Media Training Curriculum: We are in the process of hiring a curriculum editor whose responsibility it will be to find and put together the best tutorials, guides, and resources related to teaching citizen media tools and techniques. Our goal is a single page which provides all of the guides and tutorials necessary to teach how to blog, podcast, edit and upload video and photographs, and how to make the most of the resulting content.

More Funding Opportunities

A surprising number of the applications we received proposed working with under-represented communities in the United States. I encourage all US-based applicants to submit proposals to the New Voices grant competition. Deadline: February 12.

For those of you who are already creating content, you can apply for the World Summit Youth Awards. Three winners will be selected from five categories including poverty, education, women, culture, and environment.

Another award competition for those of you producing content is the World Bank's 2009 international essay competition on climate change. Open to youth ages of 18 and 25, from all countries of the world. Prizes range from US$200-US$3,000 for winning entries. Deadline to enter: February 22, 2009.

Engaging with Global Voices

Lastly, for groups who are currently producing content and want to gain more exposure, make sure to reach out to the authors, translators, and editors at Global Voices.

Rising Voices is a training project of Global Voices that aims to diversify the global blogosphere by providing resources and support to under-represented communities. Global Voices is one of the largest and most respected global citizen media websites. You can contact the editor of your region and let him or her know about your citizen media project on Global Voices’ contact page.

Have a great weekend!



It's not the technology, it's what you do with it

I haven't found a citation to verify this myself, but I've been told by quite a few people that when Alexander Bell was trying to promote his latest invention, the telephone, he assured anyone who would listen that this new communication technology would bring about world peace. Rather than engaging in destructive and costly wars, he argued, leaders of nations would now simply pick up their phones and discuss their differing opinions. That was at the end of the 19th century. Other technological inventions like the machine gun and atom bomb would contribute to the 20th century becoming the deadliest and most destructive century our planet has witnessed.

100 years after Bell's telephone a similar enthusiasm has surrounded the internet and the tools it has enabled like blogs, podcasts, and online video, which have expanded exponentially and internationally over the past ten years. These tools, many claim, will democratize communication in a way that facilitates the best content to rise to the top regardless of who creates that content. By removing editorial gatekeepers citizen media connect individuals and encourage real empathy. If the telephone didn't lead to world peace at the beginning of the 20th century, then new media would surely do the trick at the beginning of the 21st century.

We have many reasons to be hopeful., a Sri Lankan citizen journalism website, empowers everyday Sri Lankan citizens to cover under-represented stories related to peace and conflict resolution. The Orizonturi Foundation in Campulung Moldovenesc, Romania is using citizen media to empower mental health patients to speak for themselves to a potentially international audience. And we have already seen how the HiperBarrio project in Colombia and Foko project in Madagascar have used new media to create global campaigns to support disadvantaged members from their communities.

However, in the case of the recent conflicts in Georgia and Palestine, we have also seen how citizen media can be used by both sides of a conflict as propaganda tools to win international support rather than engage in meaningful dialogue.

Whether we are talking about the birth of the telephone at the start of the 20th century or today's ever-expanding Twittersphere, it's not the technology that matters, it is what you do with it.

Rising Voices aims to encourage deep thinking about how we can use today's citizen media tools to affect positive social change. We all agree that the current conflicts in Sri Lanka and Gaza are bad, but how can we use communication tools to help make things better? We know that every two weeks that we lose another language forever, all of humanity has lost a special part of its heritage. But how can we use new media to preserve and honor our endangered heritage? We understand that AIDS and TB are destructive, but can we use new media to spread awareness about health issues and empower those who are affected?

Not only does Rising Voices aim to encourage deep thinking about these questions, but we want to put the answers into action. We are currently accepting microgrant proposals for citizen media-related projects up to $5,000. I hope that everyone on this mailing list considers applying. And please help spread the word. Applications are due no later than Sunday, January 18, 2009. The five selected grantees will be announced in early February.

All the best and to a meaningful 2009,