A global jam session for development

Next week the US government will host what they are calling a “jam session” for individuals interested in, or working in the field of international development. They are calling it Global Pulse, and it will be held, live and virtual, from March 29-31.

Ideas come from other ideas....lots of light nulbs emerge from one large bulb

Using the IDM “Innovation Jam” platform, they hope to have upwards of 20,000 participants sharing ideas and brainstorming on issues such as empowering women and girls, eual access to quality education, civil rights, global health, equitable trade and environmental protection.

Its a neat idea, and an interesting use of technology. All that is required is IE6 or Firefox 1.5 or above.

Oh, and a high speed internet connection.

While I understand the technical need for the high speed connection, I wonder how many people who should be a part of the conversation will be left out?

I’ll be attending the sessions as much as possible. I’m particularly interested in how the needs of people with disabilities will be addressed in the discussions, and I’m curious to find out how people in the field are using media and communications in their programs and ideas.

Stay tuned……

Don’t let your work hide on a shelf!

Messy Bookshelf

Last semester I took a course on children in international development. It was an amazing overview of some of the particular development issues that hit children – child labor, trafficking, education in crisis, early marriage, HIV/AIDS to name a few.

The final project for the course was a case study and we were partnered up with others with similar interests. My partner and I decided to focus on interventions that are in place for young disabled Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

Not only did we have to turn in a paper, we also had to present our research to the class. So, rather than bore everyone with another power point, we decided to create a website.

But not only did this give us a different way to present, it also creates a ‘living document’ so to speak. It makes the information available to others, provides resources, and gives us a way to keep our work from hiding on a shelf somewhere. Because, really, what good is it going to do there?

So check it out! We incorporated videos, photos and all kinds of links!

Feedback is welcome!!


Photo: Home and Garden Webshots

How to get people talking about condoms, in 4 easy steps!

The BBC World Trust is wrapping up a large public health campaign in India in an effort to curb HIV infections. The year long multimedia campaign began in December 2007 and has been running in 4 states. Its objective is to “make condoms more socially acceptable and improve the image of the condom user as a smart and responsible person.”

The campaign included four stages:

Stage 1- A Contest

A riddle was  distributed (via radio, tv, billboards and buses, etc) and people were encouraged to call in with their answer. Then one of the people with the correct answer would win a free cell phone with paid air time!


Nearly 400,000 calls were made by people attempting to answer the riddle, and 25 winners were randomly selected and won a camera phone with paid talk time. According to the BBC World Trust’s impact evaluation of the phase, the campaign reached 52 million men in just 3 weeks.

Stage 2- Changing sport

The second phase of this campaign came in the form of tv, radio and print ads, which integrated local culture with the message. The ads depict a kabaddi match, a team sport where chanting the word “kabaddi” during play is part of the game. In the ad, our hero wins the match by chanting “condom” instead of “kabaddi.” The ad also places more emphasis on an animated parrot, who appears throughout the campaign.


Stage 3- Ringtone

The objective of this phase was to show social support for condoms, and it used a “condom a cappella” ringtone to do it! The ringtone can be downloaded for free on the CondomCondom.org website or through an SMS shortcode in India, and it was promoted through several platforms incuding websties, online games, mobile advertising, as well as tv and radio ads. So far more than 675,000 download requests have been processed, and the website has received over 3.5 million hits. The tagline “the one who understands is a winner” is further reinforced in this phase.


Stage 4- What’s in a name?

This final phase comes in the form of a tv ad (on both broadcast television and in cinemas), and introduces a puppy named…what else? Condom.


The campaign ends this month, but already its producers say it has reached over 100 million men and women in India. A full impact evaluation report will be available in mid-2009.

FaceBook to protest guerillas!

What do Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and Oscar Morales of northern Colombia have in common?

They all use FaceBook (with varying success) to call people to action. But Morales has had far greater success than either of the Democratic candidates.

Earlier this year, Morales created the FaceBook group, One Million Voices Against the FARC and used the site to organize a worldwide protest march. The FARC and other guerilla movements began in the 1960s, and they have been accused of kidnappings, civilian massacres, political intimidation, extortion and other human rights violations.

Colombia has almost 650,000 FaceBook users, but the support for the march came from all over the globe. As the group’s popularity grew, more traditional media outlets pick up on the story. In the end, an estimated 2 million Colombians marched on February 5 in a unified show of protest, and solidarity protests were held in 193 cities throughout Latin America, Europe, North America and Asia.

What made this communication tool so effective?
Online social networking sites are a great way to get information spread throughout your network, and to simultaneously increase your network, so the basic structure and culture of the application helped.

Clarity was another factor of success. Rival and copy capt groups appeared on FaceBook calling for other marches, but their details were less clear. Said one marcher, “I received a FaceBook invite for a different march on December 16, but the message was so vague. The organizers of that event were saying they wanted peace, but they weren’t pointing out who was responsible for the violence. So I didn’t go. With this invite, it was so clear that I sent it to all my friends.”

Tibet, video and Human Rights

I am a big fan of the organization, Witness, and a recent project of theirs is called the HUB. Its kind of like YouTube for human rights.  It will be interesting to see how the project goes – it has its pros and cons, but here is a good example of its use.
Note that the video that is imbedded on this page is actually sitting on YouTube’s servers, but the group is using Witness’s HUB because it has the functionality to lead viewers to do something to help. This is a function that YouTube has lacked for a long time. With the creation of their Nonprofit Channel, they are addressing it, but it is yet to be seen how effective it will be.
So, please visit this page, watch the video, then take one of the actions. This is a very important situation – these protests are the most violent in almost 20 years. The Chinese gov’t say only 16 people have died, but its more likely to be upwards of 80.
International concern is growing as a result of house-to-house raids, imposed curfews, numerous arrests, and increased media repression. 
The Chinese government has reportedly placed restrictions on international media coverage in Tibet, blocking or filtering websites like Yahoo! and YouTube and censoring the local feeds of news agencies including the BBC and CNN. However, eyewitness accounts, photos, and videos (mostly from cellphones) are making their way out — and onto the Hub.   
Three things you can do now:
1) Forward this!- help keep the spotlight on Tibet;
2) Watch the latest videos on Tibet and take action on the HUB’s Tibet action center
3) Upload or embed – if you have or see Tibet-related video, photos or audio. You can also email the HUB.
Also, let me know what you think about the HUB.
Did you take one of the actions?
Why/why not? 


Game Over, Change Begins

Social causes and media have a long history, and nonprofits have become well acquainted with the use of media to further their causes. Beyond typical public relations, nonprofits have increasingly turned to documentaries to help tell their story and get the issues they care about out into the public dialogue.

But at the Making Your Media Matter conference last week, hosted by the Center for Social Media, it became clear that filmmakers and activists alike are turning to more than just the documentary.

Games for Social Change

The conference started off with a great session about using games to help affect change. Although its not exactly new, its becoming a more accepted tool for advocacy and education.

One great example was demonstrated by panelist Dennis Pamielri from ITVS (Independent Television Service). In 2007 ITVS launched an interactive online game called World Without Oil. The purpose of the game was to demonstrate our dependence on oil and simulate what life would be like if that oil were to run out.

The set up for the game was simple – for 32 weeks, the makers “created” an oil crisis. Players were asked to contribute original online stories about how their lives would be affected if this oil shock were actually happening. Contributions could be poems, images, stories, videos, podcast, even cartoons- anything that showed how life would change. Each week, creators posted an update complete with gas prices and story prompts. Week 1, for example, started with regular unleaded gasoline st $4.12 per gallon. After a brief summary of the week’s events, users are asked, “How would $4 gas affect your finances?”

Each week new prompts were posted, and each week players from around the country submitted thousands of creative contributions. It was a perfect example of some of the buzzwords we hear these days – crowd sourcing, collective creativity, collective intelligence.

But what was REALLY interesting was the comments coming in to the producers telling how much the game had changed the way players were living their lives. Players may have been posting imaginary scenarios online, but offline they were making real changes. Some started riding their bikes to work, some traded in their gas-guzzlers for hybrids. Over and over again producers heard about the true impact of the game.

Isn’t that why nonprofits use media? To make an impact? To change lives?

Susan Seggerman from Games 4 Change said this is becoming the norm, not the exception. Games are unique in that they fully engage the user. Players are able to make “safe” decisions – if they make the wrong choice, they can try again. Games allow individuals to see cause and effect more clearly- something that is difficult in the linear storytelling of film. And games put the user into the situation – they aren’t just watching it, they are living it- long after “game over.”

Monks and Mobile Phones

Monk with Cig and Cell

Not an image that comes easily to mind, but its one that is a big concern for police and government officials in Burma. As thousands of monks demonstrate in pro-democracy rallies in Myanmar, Burmese officials are cutting off a main channel of communications- cell phones. According to Agence France-Presse, the military government has cut off cell phone service to anyone it deems sympathetic to the pro-democracy movement. This includes both activists and some journalists. AFP has requested their reporters cell service be turned back on.

The military government warned last Sunday that it would take “effective action” against those supporting the demonstrations. Since then about 50 cell phone services and at least one land line has been cut off. Look for cell phone video of protests online on Burma Digest’s website.

In case you need it, here is report from the BBC to catch you up on the situation in Burma.

Google Launches “Outreach” for Nonprofits

I find this very exciting and intriguing. I will keep an eye on this to see what uses people come up with, and how popular it becomes. It will certainly be a great attention getter for some NPOs, and will help with some advocacy. How it affects their donations is yet to be seen….

From CNET:

Google Earth announces formal nonprofit initiative
Posted by Caroline McCarthy
At an event in Google’s New York offices on Tuesday, the company unveiled a new initiative to make its Google Earth geography software a more accessible tool for nonprofit organizations.

“We’re now officially launching a program called Google Earth Outreach,” said John Hanke, director of Google Earth and Maps. “Google is stepping up and validating this as a bona fide program that will be staffed in our group.”

Google Earth Outreach is now live, and several downloadable layers from the program’s inaugural partners–the Global Heritage Fund, Earthwatch and Fair Trade Certified–are now available online.

The new Outreach program came about, according to Google executives, because the company saw the diverse range of ways that the software was being used. “We just completely didn’t see the majority of uses for Google Earth,” Hanke said. “I think it’s blown away everybody on the team.”

Nonprofit uses, particularly those pertaining to environmental and humanitarian causes, have proven to be one of the most prolific uses for the software. “We think that the technologies we’re developing can be an important catalyst for education, for sharing information, for advocacy, to address global and local issues that affect everyone around the world,” said Elliot Schrage, Google’s vice president of global communications and public affairs.

Organizations can now apply for grants for the Google Earth Pro program, which normally costs $400 per person per year, as well as technical support for its Keyhole Markup Language, which Hanke described as “the HTML of marking up the Earth. It’s pretty easy to use,” he added, “but it’s a new thing, so it needs to be explained.”

The wildly popular, information-heavy Google Earth software has not been without critics who have suggested that perhaps it’s unwise to make so much detailed mapping data freely available over the Internet.

In response, Google has repeatedly stressed that the benefits of the Google Earth software outweigh the drawbacks. Over the past year, different organizations have utilized the tool as a way to promote tourism, animate the spread of a hypothetical virus and highlight architectural marvels.

In April, Google formally partnered with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to create downloadable map layers to help visualize the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

It was the success of the Darfur layer, which Schrage described as “an incredibly vivid, powerful way of informing people what is going on in a faraway part of the world,” that ultimately convinced the company to devote more Google Earth resources to the nonprofit initiative. “We believe that Google Earth can revolutionize the way people see the world around them,” he added.

The announcement featured a videoconference appearance by legendary activist and humanitarian Jane Goodall, whose Jane Goodall Institute has been using Google Earth as a tool for some time now.

“When I began in 1960, my tools consisted of a paper and a pencil,” she said to the audience. “That’s putting the Jane Goodall Institute into a whole new era, and it’s a very, very exciting era…it’s certainly helping us hugely with our conservation efforts.” Thanks to Google Earth, the Jane Goodall Institute now has a “geoblog” that’s “a soap opera for wild chimpanzees.”

Hanke said near the end of the event that footage of the conference will later be uploaded to the Google-owned YouTube video-sharing platform.

World Refugee Day (ii)

Afghan Refugee

June 20 is World Refugee Day. What do you know about the world’s refugee problem? Did you know there are more than 40 MILLION refugees in the world today? And that rather than shrinking, that number is growing? Between 2005 and 2006, the number of refugees increased 14% to a total of 9.9 million!
The largest group were the 2.1 million Afghans still living outside their homeland. The Iraqis were second, followed by 686,000 Sudanese; Somalis, 460,000 and people from Congo and Burundi, about 400,000 each. (The 9.9 million total does not include the 4.3 million Palestinian refugees nor 24.5 million internally displased persons, who are basically refugees who have fled to other parts of their own country)

In Quetta, Pakistan, the government and UNHCR are agressively working on repatriating Afghan refugees by closing two camps, Pir Alizai by July 31 and Girdi Jungle, by August 31. These are in addition to the camp closings along the North Waziristan tribal area near the border by the end of this month.

The fastest growing population of refuess is Iraqi. Nearly 4 million people have been displaced by violence- 1.9 million within Iraq, and 2 million to neighboring countries. And those countries, Jordan, Lebenona, and Syria are beginning to feel the strain of hosting these new populations. According to Refugees International, “Syria and Jordan are rapidly becoming overwhelmed by the numbers of Iraqis seeking refuge in their urban centers. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria consider Iraqis as ‘guests’ rather than refugees fleeing violence. None of these countries allows Iraqis to work. Although Syria is maintaining its “open door policy” in the name of pan-Arabism, it has begun imposing restrictions on Iraqi refugees, such as charges for healthcare that used to be free. In Jordan, Iraqis have to pay for the most basic services, and live in constant fear of deportation. It is also becoming increasingly difficult for Iraqis to enter Jordan or to renew their visas to remain in country.”

And of course, there is Darfur. Years of fighting and violence has displaced more than 2 million people in the region, killed more than 400,00 and the violence continues.

In addition to protecting and capacity building, advocacy is one of the UNHCR’s major tasks. And how does one advocate in the 21st century? Video, the internet and email are a major part of today’s refugee advocacy.

Darfur Is Dying is the result of competition bringing together technology and activism to help stop the genocide in Darfur. It is a “narrative based simulation where the user, from the perspective of a displaced Darfurian, negotiates forces that threaten the survival of his/her refugee camp.”

Eyes on Darfur is an amazing project by Amnesty International using high resolution satellite imagery to let you literally watch over 12 highly vulnerable villages in the conflict region. It is definatley worth a visit. Also available on the site is a way to send a letter to the Sudanese president and Ambassador in support of protecting these villages.

The Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) has a page that allows you to email your congressional representatives to encourage them to pass legislation to:
-Sufficient funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and UN agencies
-Support for host governments and non-governmental organizations to provide shelter, health, nutrition, education, and other needs
– To protect the most vulnerable Iraqis such as women-headed households, unaccompanied children, or those in danger because they worked for the U.S. or a related Western organization.

Many humanitarian organizations have email campaigns. Make sure you check with your favorite to see if they have a special campaign for World Refugee Day.

Film & Video
Film is a very powerful media and it can be used for both education and advocacy.
FilmAid International‘s mission is to use the power of film to promote health, strengthen communities and enrich the lives of the world’s vulnerable and uprooted. In East Africa, Afghanistan, Macedonia and the US gulf Coast, FilmAid Int’l has several programs, including evening feature screenings, daytime educational screenings, a participatory video project called “My Reel Life,” and a youth video exchange project for displaced hurricane Katrina victims.

To learn more about refugees, and their lives and struggles, whether in camps, repatriated to their home country or relocated to a new one, PBS’s Point of View Documentary series has two new films airing this season.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
If the refugee is today’s tragic icon of a war-torn world, then Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, a reggae-inflected band born in the camps of West Africa, represents a real-life story of survival and hope. The six-member Refugee All Stars came together in Guinea after civil war forced them from their native Sierra Leone. Traumatized by physical injuries and the brutal loss of family and community, they fight back with the only means they have — music. The result, as shown in “Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars,” is a tableau of tragedy transformed by the band’s inspiring determination to sing and be heard. A Diverse Voices Project co-production.

Rain in a Dry Land
How do you measure the distance from an African village to an American city? What does it mean to be a refugee in today’s “global village”? “Rain in a Dry Land” provides eye-opening answers as it chronicles the fortunes of two Somali Bantu families transported by relief agencies from years of civil war and refugee life to Atlanta, Georgia, and Springfield, Massachusetts.

Development Radio Goes to Afghanistan

(A special thanks to Jayne in Kabul for bringing this to my attention)

A new radio program has hit the airwaves in Afghanistan. “Let’s Build Our Village” is a soap opera that helps Afghans from Kabul to the rural regions learn about such development issues as democracy and women’s issues. The full article is from US News and World Report.

While development centered soaps may be new in Afghanistan, they have been used for years in other parts of the world. One particularly successful TV soap is called “Sexto Sentido.” Redlizardmedia.com describes it best this way: “If the characters of ‘Friends’ were teenagers, lived in Nicaragua, and had a social conscience to deal with personal and social problems and the importance of solidarity, the result would likely be “Sexto Sentido,” Nicaragua’s only homegrown novela. In just one season this ‘social soap’ has captured 70% of the TV audience in its time slot.”

In one episode the teens are in class and there is a lecture about HIV/AIDS. The director told the extras in the scene that the actors playing the lecturers actually were HIV positive. This way the extras would have genuine reactions, and some were afraid to shake hands. After the shoot the director told them the truth and discussed with them their feelings and opinions. This “after the show” discussion was also shot and aired in the series.

There is a documentary about the development and creation of Sexto Sentido, called Novela, Novela. The official site is in Spanish, but a great Enlish description can be found on the Media that Matters Film Festival Website.