[Newsletter] Grants for Women and Programmers

Hi All,

Sunday greetings. I know that many of the funding opportunities I have been sending out lately have been related to developing applications for mobile phones rather than for citizen media projects. For some reason grant competitions seem to come in waves, with citizen media around October and November and computer programming around March and April. Still, I have included links to the software competitions because our movement to bring more voices to the conversational web often depends on having the right tools and knowing how to use them.

For example, last week I was involved in a few workshops to teach some Liberian journalists how to blog. We were using the WordPress.com blogging platform, which I tend to prefer because of its strong multilingual support. Unfortunately, however, the admin panel of WordPress.com takes a long time to load on slow connections. Continually waiting for the page to load can easily take up half of the workshop – a point which Tshwarelo mentioned in an email last week.

This is why Elia Varela Serra and Miquel Hudin are currently developing Maneno.org, a new blogging platform that is specifically meant for people living in Sub-Saharan Africa where the internet connection tends to be slower than other regions. Maneno is now available in English, Spanish, French, Swahili, and Portuguese. They are also working on Lingala and Luganda translations. I have uploaded a three-megabyte file of Elia Varela Serra discussing Maneno on the BBC here.

Google Summer of Code

If you are a student and you are interested in developing tools like Maneno, one of the best opportunities is right around the corner. Every year Google sponsors a “Summer of Code” which brings together students who want to practice computer programming and existing open-source applications. For example, one of the problems with Google Translate is that it is only available in a few major languages. Apertium is an open-source machine translation website that focuses on “lesser-resourced and marginalised languages.” If you are a speaker of a language that is not listed on translate.google.com and if you are interested in making machine translation available for your language, then I recommend that you submit a Summer of Code proposal to Apertium. Similarly, the Sunlight Foundation, which uses technology to promote greater government openness and transparency, is also accepting proposals from students around the world who want to develop new applications which promote government transparency and fight corruption in their countries. Google seems especially eager to receive proposals from students living in the developing world. On their official Google Code blog they feature information sessions about Summer of Code that have taken place in South America.

Web 2.0 for Women

Even if the day arrives when the right tool exists for everyone, regardless of the language they speak or the speed of their internet connection, there are still many obstacles that stand in the way of an equitable conversation. Cristina Quisbert, a member of the Voces Bolivianas project which trains Bolivians how to use new media, has written a very informative article in the online magazine World Pulse about how women around the world can take advantage of Web 2.0 tools. She writes: “If the voices of women with a good economical situation or status are not taken into account, many times it is worse for the ones that live in underdeveloped countries and from indigenous origen. Mass media sometimes covers only what men have to say. To navigate in the internet and to use these tools gives me a feeling of strength and motivation.”

Fortunately, the McCormick Foundation's “New Media Women Entrepreneurs” is currently accepting applications from women “who have original ideas to create new Web sites, mobile news services or other entrepreneurial initiatives that offer interactive opportunities to engage, inspire and improve news and information in a geographic community or a community of interest.”

Deadline: March 31

Finally, a couple links to start the week off. The Knight Citizen News Network has published another module for their citizen journalism learning guide. This one focuses on how to conduct an interview. And, as we have discussed in the past, the Guardian newspaper in England has a project based in Katine, Uganda which is meant to provide detailed coverage of what development is like in rural Africa. They have finally handed the cameras over to the citizens of Katine so that they can tell their own stories. A description and video of the workshop is here.

All the best,


Thanks to our reviewers!

Dear All,

As you can imagine, narrowing down 270 compelling project proposals to just five select grantees is no easy task. I am heavily indebted to our volunteer committee of reviewers who took the time to carefully read, analyze, and research all of the proposals. The fact that these busy individuals volunteered their precious free time to do this – and then to discuss and debate who should be selected and why – reveals the extent that they value citizen media as a tool to empower voices from under-represented communities. And so, a special thanks to:

Rezwan Islam – Rezwan has continuously gone beyond the call to draw attention to the latest developments from all of the Rising Voices grantees. He knows their projects and their bloggers more than just about anyone else. In addition to his role as Rising Voices’ feature editor, Rezwan is also the South Asia editor at Global Voices, the founder of Global Voices in Bangla, and frequently writes about online censorship issues at Global Voices Advocacy. He was one of Bangladesh's first bloggers with his always-interesting personal blog, The Third World View. You can learn more about Rezwan in a feature written by Solana Larsen.

Eduardo Ávila – Eduardo is the director of one of Rising Voices’ most successful grantee projects, Voces Bolivianas, or “Bolivian Voices“. He is also the Latin America Regional Editor on Global Voices. Eddie has been keeping his personal blog, Barrio Flores, since 2002. You can hear a podcast interview with Eduardo from last year on Rising Voices.

Romina Oliverio – Though not directly related to any of the Rising Voices grantee projects, Romina has been a vocal advocate and supporter of them all. In fact, if you read any post written by a Rising Voices blogger you'll likely also see an encouraging and inquiring comment from Romina. Born in Buenos Aires and raised in Canada, Romina is a contributing writer at We Magazine, the online community manager for Nabuur.com, and volunteer coordinator for Social Actions’ Change the Web competition. She also has a great personal blog.

Lova Rakotomalala – Lova is one of the four founders of Foko Madagascar, and he's recently been attracting the attention of the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and France24 for all the great citizen reporting they have been doing during the lead-up to Madagascar's recent coup. He maintains the excellent personal blog, The Malagasy Dwarf Hippo and writes frequently about Madagascar on Global Voices.

Joan Razafimaharo – Lova's colleague at Foko Madagascar is the fiercely dedicated Joan Razafimaharo. In fact, I have never met anyone as committed to a citizen media project as Joan. A trained architect, Joan spends her nights in Montreal on Skype teaching Malagasy friends, relatives, and strangers how to use citizen media tools to report on their lives and what is happening in Madagascar, all of which was key in bringing Madagascar's blogosphere to the mainstream this month. She frequently provides updates on the Foko project in French and English.

Ivan Sigal – Ivan joined Global Voices as Executive Director last July. He has deep knowledge and experience related to traditional media development, and also the role of citizen media in conflict zones around the world, which he explains in great detail at his personal blog, Burning Bridge.

These experts in citizen journalism from various regions and with diverse interests dedicated countless hours of their free time to find the most deserving projects. What we discovered is that “most deserving” is a subjective term. Though we each probably focused most on the projects related to the regions and topics we have experience in, we were also each more critical of those projects. Long email threads led to some general shared values that we looked for in applicants and proposed projects:

  • Local projects led by local leaders. All of the reviewers agreed on the importance of local community members leading the projects they propose. Not only have local leaders earned the trust of their community, but they will also likely stick around over the long-term. This isn't to say that we ruled out proposals from so-called “outsiders”, but we did consider it a disadvantage.
  • Proven experience in citizen media. Many of the proposals lacked any links to blogs, podcasts, or video created by the applicant. In order to teach these tools and techniques to others we felt it was key for applicants to demonstrate their own knowledge and experience.
  • Partner organizations. Because $3,000 – 5,000 is a limited amount of support, we gave special consideration to project proposals that aimed to link with established partner organizations that offered to provide workshop space, computer access, and networks of potential participants.
  • A place to call home. It was Eduardo Ávila who wrote: “Having to rent internet cafes for workshops is a pain, and may not be the best model for sustainability. The ideal would be to count on an established computer center within the target community. I always point to the model of Convergentes (HiperBarrio) in the community of La Loma, Medellín. Their library with internet access is located in the middle of the neighborhood and the participants have a ‘drop-in’ center at their disposal. That certainly does not guarantee continued participation, but it allows facilitators and coordinators to see the participants on a more frequent basis, even outside of the blogging context. In the case of El Alto, we chose a centrally located internet cafe, but rarely saw the new bloggers outside of the workshops and lost that personal contact because of that.”
  • Where other funders aren't funding. There are some major donors and philanthropic funders who invest large amounts of money in particular regions and communities while ignoring others. At times we took this into consideration when deciding between a project that might likely find funding elsewhere and one that probably would not.

Those were several topics that we considered when deciding which five proposals would receive funding. Stil, I will be the first to admit that it was far from a perfect process. I would like to involve more people from this community in the decision-making. Ideally, I would like all of us to decide (perhaps by vote) which proposals get funded. On the other hand, we want to focus on capacity building and amplifying local voices rather than getting bogged down in debates over which project is most deserving.

In the future we will continue to innovate and consider new strategies to make the selection process as fair and transparent as possible. If you have any ideas, suggestions, or complaints, please feel free to share them with the list.

Warm regards,


[Newsletter] Are Bloggers Born or Made?

Dear All,

I frequently hear from coordinators of citizen media outreach projects who are disappointed by the fact that so many of their participants stop blogging two or three months after their first post. This is a common problem, but in my opinion, it is a problem of expectations rather than results.

Most of us have spent at least a few hours of our lives learning how to play the piano, guitar, or some other instrument. But only a select few have continued playing that instrument throughout our adult lives. In fact, most of us probably stopped playing just a couple months after our first lesson. This doesn't mean, however, that piano teachers should feel demoralized by their supposed “low success rate”. After all, we are only able to find the best musicians by teaching the fundamentals to as many people as possible. Imagine how many Mozarts, Fela Kutis, and Gil Gilbertos have passed silently through history because they were never given the opportunity to express their musical talent.

Blogging is much the same way. Just as everyone can press the keys of a piano, so too can we all start and maintain a blog. But that doesn't mean that everyone will keep at it. In my experience, only about 10% of the participants of the blogging workshops I have facilitated continue blogging six months later.

Important Tools for Important Times

The other 90% of workshop participants will write only occasionally, or not at all. But, significantly, most do still remember how to publish to a blog even months or years later. This is significant because during times of emergency they have the means to share information.

For example, many of the participants of workshops organized by Foko Madagascar stopped blogging for weeks after they first opened their blogs. But when a political crisis hit their country, which led to last week's coup, many of those same new bloggers realized the importance of being able to share local information to an international audience in real time. In fact, those same individuals became the go-to sources of information for everyone wanting to stay informed about Madagascar's political crisis. Lova Rakotomalala, one of Foko's four founders, has explained in detail how Madagascar's bloggers and Twitter users were able to influence international coverage of the crisis.

What This Means for Project Facilitators

Above all else, it is important to set realistic expectations and to feel satisfied if only a few of the workshop participants become passionate bloggers. Heather Ford, a well known South African blogger, recently gave a workshop in Durban, South Africa, which left her feeling frustrated. Heather suggests charging a small fee for workshops to ensure that participants really have a strong desire to learn and apply the skills. Those who lack the money could write a letter requesting a scholarship.

Some psychologists have even suggested that there are certain personality traits common to most bloggers. As a project coordinator you could specifically seek out individuals who share those personality traits.

In my experience, however, it is impossible to accurately predict who will keep blogging and who will not. Blogging, like playing a musical instrument or learning how to draw, is a worthy skill to learn as a simple means of expression. Besides, you never know who will be the next Ravi Shankar, Michaelangelo, or the next great blogger until (s)he has a chance to learn the skills and tools.

New Rising Voices Projects – Stay Tuned

Over the next few weeks we'll be getting to know each of the newest six Rising Voices grantee projects. For those of you who just can't wait, please check out Maryna Reshetnyak's feature on Public Fund Mental Health based in Almaty, Kazakhstan and an introductory video about Project Ceasefire Liberia. Also, keep your eyes on the Rising Voices website for updates from all 20 projects, links to relevant resources and grants, and new pictures and videos.

All the best,


More Funding Opportunities

Dear All,

We're just a couple days away from announcing our five newest grantees. In the meantime, despite the current sorry state of our global economy, lots of other funding opportunities are currently accepting proposals for projects that use citizen media and mobile phones to achieve effective social change.

  • UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge

    The Human Rights Center is sponsoring a challenge to encourage innovations for applying mobile technologies for human rights investigations and advocacy. Through a NetSquared Community vote, 10 finalists will be chosen. All 10 finalists will be invited to present their ideas at an international conference, “The Soul of the New Machine: Human Rights, Technology, and New Media,” at UC Berkeley, May 4 and 5, 2009. A panel of judges, selected by the Human Rights Center, will choose three winners, to be announced at the conference. Winners will receive cash awards of $15,000 (first place), $10,000 (second place), and $5,000 (third place) to implement their ideas.

  • New Media Women Entrepreneurs Grants

    The McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs program will give one-time funding of $10,000 to women who have the vision, skills and experience to launch a new venture. These can be solo ideas or team projects spearheaded by women. Deadline: March 31, 2009.

  • N2Y4 Mobile Challenge

    The N2Y4 Mobile Challenge is a call for Project submissions that engage the use of mobile technology for progressive social change. The Top Three Finalists will be selected by conference attendee vote, and announced May 27. A total of $50,000 in funding will be distributed among three Projects. First place $25,000, Second Place $15,000 and Third Place $10,000. All 14 Projects will receive a travel stipend to cover travel costs and accommodation. Deadline: April 3.

  • Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellows Program

    Each year, Pop!Tech selects 10-20 high potential change agents from around the world who are working on highly disruptive innovations in areas like healthcare, energy, development, climate, education, and civic engagement, among many others. Fellows work in both the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds, have a minimum of 3-5 years experience, and are working in organizations that are well positioned for sustainable growth. Apply here.

  • The Art of Digital Community

    The Austria-based digital arts museum, Ars Electronica, is now accepting submissions for its annual “Prix Ars Electronica”. Among the various categories, the “Digital Communities” category will honor important achievements by digital communities well as innovative artistic approaches towards web-based communities. This category focuses attention on the wide-ranging social and artistic impact of the Internet. Last year Global Voices was a runner-up and our friends at “1 KG More“, an online project that asks young Chinese travelers to bring a kilogram of school supplies to rural villages, won the 10,000 EUR award.

Friday Followup Chat on Blogging Positively

Rising Voices and Global Voices are holding a live online chat for bloggers and activists on Friday March 6, 2009 (5 pm Nairobi time) on how to use blogging to improve awareness and information about HIV/AIDS.

Local Times: New York 09:00 | Buenos Aires 12:00 | London 14:00 | Johannesburg, Beirut 16:00 | Nairobi, Moscow 17:00 | New Delhi 19:30 | Hong Kong 22:00 | Tokyo 23:00

Chatroom: http://www.worknets.org/chat

I hope to see you all at the chat on Friday.



Network for Good

Dear All,

My apologies for the quiet time on the mailing list. A team of six of us have been reading through the more than 270 proposals we received for the current round of microgrant funding. We are close to making an announcement – if not by the end of this week, then by the beginning of next.

In addition to seeking small amounts of funding for digital cameras, internet access, and related workshop costs, many of the proposals we received also expressed a desire to connect with like-minded groups, reach new funders, and spread information about the work they are doing. A number of social and project networks have arisen over the past few years to help NGO's and activists connect with one another, collaborate, and meet funders and volunteers to help carry projects forward and spread awareness about their objectives and achievements.

  • Nabuur | The Globakl Neighbour Network

    “Nabuur.com is an online volunteering platform that links Neighbours (online volunteers) with Villages (local communities) in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Connected through Nabuur.com, Neighbours and local communities learn about each other, share ideas and find solutions to local issues. Everybody has something to offer, and everything is done online.”

  • TakingITGlobal – Inspire. Inform. Involve.

    “TakingITGlobal.org is the social network that connects you to the global issues that affect us all.”

  • BiD Network Foundation

    “The BiD Network sources and selects business plans of small and medium sized enterprises in emerging markets. BiD Network offers tools to the best entrepreneurs, paving the way for them to access finance. The BiD Network Foundation offers investor matchmaking services, runs the business plan competition; the BiD Challenge, from ten countries and operates this online business community website: www.bidnetwork.org.”

  • GiveMeaning – online donation, online fundraising, and creative fundraising ideas

    “GiveMeaning.com is an online fundraising site emphasizing creative fundraising ideas and other unique forms of charity donation.”

  • Amazee | Amazee is social collaboration

    “Do you have goals that require the attention and commitment of more people than just yourself? Then Amazee is the place for you to be. Amazee is a free platform that allows you to share your goals and gives you the tools to connect with like-minded people to run and promote projects. Whatever your goals are, publicize and pursue them on Amazee! Whether you'd like to assemble a multinational football team or set up a massive number of broadband connections in remote towns in Africa, Amazee is easy to use and growing fast.”

  • United Nations Volunteers | Online Volunteering Service

    “The UNV Online Volunteering service connects volunteers with organizations working for sustainable human development. Volunteers contribute their skills online to help organizations address development challenges. Organizations collaborate with online volunteers over the Internet to strengthen the impact of their development work.”

  • Change.org

    “Today as citizens of the world, we face a daunting array of social and environmental problems ranging from health care and education to global warming and economic inequality. For each of these issues, whether local or global in scope, there are millions of people who care passionately about working for change but lack the information and opportunities necessary to translate their interest into effective action. Change.org aims to address this need by serving as the central platform informing and empowering movements for social change around the most important issues of our time.”

  • Givology

    “If poverty is isolation, shouldn't the solutions to poverty focus on connecting people? Givology is a website that does just this—it connects donors to promising students in developing countries. With small but impactful donations, you can sponsor grassroots community education initiatives and help fulfill the aspirations of children worldwide.”

  • Idealist.org | Imagine. Connect. Act.

    “Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.”

  • Avaaz.org | The World in Action

    “Technology and the internet have allowed citizens to connect and mobilize like never before. The rise of a new model of internet-driven, people-powered politics is changing countries from Australia to the Philippines to the United States. Avaaz takes this model global, connecting people across borders to bring people powered politics to international decision-making.”

  • Knight Pulse

    In a world defined by information exchange, we need new ways to give, share, find, and receive information in our communities. This is a community site for everyone to talk about issues, problems, and possible solutions for information delivery. Please join us by creating a profile and commenting on the Pulse blog posts (you can leave a video response too) with your thoughts and big ideas.

  • Pop!Tech Hub

    “The Pop!Tech Hub is a place for people working on the forefront of innovation to connect and collaborate with people who are working to make the world a better place.”

  • Kabissa | A Network of African Civil Society Organizations

    “Kabissa was founded on the belief that technology is a revolutionary force for change in Africa. Over the past 8 years, we have built a vibrant network of over 1100 African civil society organizations who are all striving to integrate technology into their work – from fighting human rights abuses to feeding AIDS orphans.”

On each of these different networks you are able to create profiles, describe your project, and connect and discuss with other members. Many of the networks also provide information about relevant funding opportunities, or attempt to create connections between projects, donors, and volunteers. Given the vast number of networks with similar goals, it should come as no surprise that there are even networks of networks.

  • NetSquared | Remixing the Web for Social Change

    “Today the global community stands witness to a momentous time in history where progressive change is not only necessary, but imminent. At NetSquared, we recognize that mandate and believe the social Web is key to making change. NetSquared works toward this goal by mobilizing individuals and communities, providing Web-based tools, and awarding financial support to leverage social action projects.”

  • Social Actions | You make a difference, we make it easy.

    “We help you find and share opportunities to change the world. First, we collect ways to get involved in the causes you care about from these 40+ action sources, including Care2, Change.org, DonorsChoose.org, DemocracyinAction, GlobalGiving, Idealist, Kiva, SixDegrees and VolunteerMatch. Then, we make it easy for you to find these opportunities by presenting them in a user-friendly search engine.”

All the best,


Newsletter: 2008-02-04

Dear All,

For those of you who, like me, have trouble keeping up with all the emails flooding our inboxes, please accept my apologies for the unusually high volume of messages on this mailing list over the past week. On the other hand, to all of you who sent emails in response to last week's newsletter, thank you, for they revealed how Rising Voices can most effectively serve as a resource for communities and organizations who want to make their voices and their message heard.

Several themes stood out from your responses:

Profiles: It was clear that many of you would like others in our community to know about your organizations, your objectives, and how you are using citizen media to engage with the communities you work with. By offering tags and categories to user and organization profiles, like-minded groups and individuals in our network will be able to more easily connect. When new users register with the same categories and/or geographic location, an optional notification would be sent out.

Funding: Many of the responses also included appeals for funding. I envision a system in which every time we publish a news item about available funding related to new media training the system sends out an optional notification to every user who has listed the same categories that apply to the funding opportunity.

Training Resources: Others asked for more training resources to learn how to produce online media and to train others. I am happy to announce that three members of our community have taken the initiative to develop a complete citizen media curriculum so that anyone who wants to develop a citizen media training project can find all of the necessary tutorials, resources, and suggestions in one single space.

Eduardo Ávila of the Voces Bolivianas project will focus on collecting technical tutorials for the tools and software related to blogging, podcasting, digital photography and video. He will also summarize the best practices that our Rising Voices grantees have come up with over the past year and a half of citizen media training. Sahar Romani from Neighborhood Diaries will concentrate on workshop facilitation. Learning how to use the tools is often not enough – we also need to think critically about how to use the tools in a way that is beneficial to our communities. Finally, Janet Feldman of ActAlive will manage the creation of a citizen media guide that specifically targets HIV-positive individuals and explains the benefits of making one's voice heard online as well as some of the privacy risks that should be taken into consideration.

Rising Voices Grantees Keep on Rising

It has been a while since we've given a nod to the incredible work by our Rising Voices grantee projects. Please head over to the website to see how HiperBarrio is redefining itself in 2009; how the Drop-In Center in Ukraine is influencing public policy by using citizen media; how Voces Bolivianas continues to spread new tools beyond Bolivia's elite by hosting events and partnering with other organizations; how citizen media training in Madagascar was instrumental in getting the word out during a time of crisis; how the REPACTED project in Nakuru, Kenya is using citizen media to spread awareness about contraceptives and to discourage stigma of HIV-positive individuals; and finally how the Orizonturi Foundation is empowering Romanians with mental health issues by giving them an online space to express themselves.

For those of you looking for more funding opportunities, awards, and competitions, make sure to check out our delicious page, which is constantly updated:


All the best,


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. Groundviews.org, 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,


Next Round of Microgrant Funding and Donating to Global Voices

Dear All,

Please consider this week's newsletter a pre-announcement to next Tuesday's official public announcement of our next round of funding. Five microgrants of up to $5,000 will be made available to individuals and organizations from under-represented communities who want to use new media tools to join in the online global conversation. Unlike our previous round of funding, which was specifically focused on health-related projects, this round of grants applies to all projects that use new media to empower under-represented communities. We will begin accepting applications (both via email and on the wiki) on Tuesday, December 23. The deadline will be Sunday, January 18.

We have found that these grants are often used most effectively when existing organizations and social groups use the money specifically to develop a new communication strategy using participatory media tools like blogs, podcasts, and online video. For example, a dedicated librarian in rural Malaysia might apply for a grant to purchase digital video cameras for her users to record videos about their community and upload them to their blogs.

Grantees are expected to host regular workshops to train participants how to start and maintain a weblog, upload and share digital photographs, and produce basic videos. Grantees are also required to post regular project evaluations and updates to the Rising Voices website.

In fact, there is no better way to think of great project idea than reading through the latest updates from our current grantee projects:

FOKO: Growing Strong As A Connected Community

With the help of FOKO bloggers many participants at the ‘Madagascar barcamp’ and the ‘E-Bit youth day ICT event’ learned about digital literacy and citizen media. FOKO bloggers are now taking charge of the outreach activities with a inspired community feeling and FOKO is soon spreading to more parts of Madagascar.

Online Filmmakers Offer New Glimpses of Iran

Despite several unforeseen hurdles, Iran Inside Out has launched an impressive website and published two videos by Iranian filmmakers showing Tehran’s underground heavy metal scene and reflecting on the prospects of peace for the country’s youngest generation.

A Campaign for Suso

A project nine months in the making, the bloggers from HiperBarrio are organizing a festive event this Saturday to raise funds in order to finish their all-volunteer construction of a new house for Manuel Salvador, formerly known as “Suso Mugre”.

Serbian Web Journalism School: Creating Future Trends in Journalism

Ljubisa Bojic and the Serbian Journalist Association are providing training to experienced and novice journalists in New Media and Social Web in an web journalism school in Belgrade, Serbia. The idea is that these journalists will learn to use new technologies like blog, photo and video blogging, podcasts etc. and apply them in their everyday work creating future trends in Serbian journalism. Rising Voices has provided micro-grant to support the outreach work from the second round of workshops.

We had planned on publicly announcing the next round of funding this week, but it has already been a very busy week on Global Voices as we've begun our first annual donation drive. Global Voices needs your financial support in order to remain independent, free and sustainable. Please consider giving a donation to declare your commitment to helping amplify stories, images and videos from ordinary people around the global who use the internet to communicate with their fellow world citizens!

Keep the world talking—donate to Global Voices!

Have a great weekend!



Newsletter: Transcript and Summary from AIDS Chat

Hi All,

Thanks to those of you who participated in last week's live chat to commemorate World AIDS Day and to think deeply about how citizen media can be used most effectively to supplement mainstream media's coverage of AIDS and to empower HIV-positive individuals. You can download an edited version of the transcript from the Google Group page.

Key Points

Collins from the REPACTED project in Nakuru, which uses street theater to spread awareness about reproductive health, said that “blogging has contributed to the information sharing with the rest of the world and offering a free media for the community to tell their stories without going to the mainstream media which is very expensive for a common person.” But Solana, Global Voices’ Managing Editor, pointed out that she was able to find few HIV-positive bloggers in Sub-Saharan Africa when putting together GV's global map of positive bloggers. Some argued that this is because HIV status is so stigmatized and taboo throughout most of the world, but others say the real problem is a lack of training and outreach programs to individuals living with AIDS.

There were also mixed feelings about whether HIV-related citizen media projects should edit the posts of their participants in order to verify the factual information related to AIDS or if it should be up to the bloggers themselves and their readers to make up for their own mind what is trustworthy information. Eric felt, for example, that if “someone is posting on their blog they contracted HIV via touch, and then this information is read publicly via the blog, we have the duty as professionals to step in and clear up the incorrect information.” Others felt, however, that editing blog posts is against the open spirit of the web and that concerned readers should leave comments pointing out what they believe is misinformation. A consensus emerged that factual information should be monitored and edited, but that opinions should never be edited or discouraged.


Once again it was agreed upon by all involved in the chat that the Blogging Positively group should continue their work on a guide which explains some case studies and some issues around blogging publicly as an HIV-positive individual. Solana pointed out that it's crucial to involve HIV-positive bloggers in the process and learn from their experiences and ideas. Samuel Senfuka added that citizen media is much more than just blogging, and that tools like Twitter, Facebook, forums, and online photo- and video-sharing sites should also be considered and included in the guide. Patrick Karanja felt that one of the main objectives of the Blogging Positively project should be to spread more awareness that one can live long and healthy after being diagnosed with HIV. “Most of the information around is on prevention (which is very important)” he wrote, “but alone does little to eradicate stigma.” Lastly, several participants echoed that sections on anonymity and using SMS are important components.

Daudi suggested that a follow-up chat be scheduled for Monday February 9. We will confirm the date sometime over the next month.

Next Steps

  • If you are interested in participating in the creation and editing of the Blogging Positively guide to encourage HIV-positive individuals to start blogging, please sign up for our Blogging Positively mailing list.
  • If you know of any HIV positive bloggers who are not listed on our Google Map mashup, please email solana.larsen@gmail.com with their blog address and location.
  • Please mark your calendar for February 9th if you would like to participate in the follow-up chat. At that time we hope to have more progress on the AIDS-related Rising Voices projects and to have at least a draft of the Blogging Positively guide.
  • Please keep your eyes on the Rising Voices website to stay informed about how groups are using citizen media to promote dialogue about HIV and AIDS.
  • Finally, please write a post on your own blog about this conversation and about how citizen media can be used to help tackle one of the greatest challenges of our generation.

Thanks all! This coming Friday the newsletter will return to its original format with an exciting announcement about about our next round of microgrant funding. 🙂

Take good care,