Let’s face it—citizen media projects quite often focus on one of a few common goals, like giving voice to a marginalized people, or freedom of speech, or promoting government transparency. These are all extremely valuable goals, but they’re more concerned with politics than development. Does that mean social media has nothing to offer to development issues, like the ones that Global Citizen Corps leaders work on?
Of course not! Citizen media can also be very beneficial to development projects, and some of the projects highlighted at the 2010 Global Voices Citizen Media Summit proved that in a number of fields.
Environment: The Nomad Green project in Mongolia trains citizens to use social media to report on environmental issues using blogs, mapping, videos, and podcasts. Nomad Green now has dozen of authors writing about environmental issues in the country, and a map where citizens can report environmental problems. They also translate many of their articles into English, Chinese, and other languages—because environmental problems don’t stay within one country’s borders. As the Nomad Green website notes, “There are almost no similarities between Taiwan the small island country in Pacific ocean and Mongolia the second biggest inland country. However, the dust storm that originates from the ever expanding desert in Mongolia affects millions of Taiwanese during winter.” That’s just one reason sharing information and techniques between different communities of environmental activists is important.
Health: In the Congo, the organization AIDS Rights Congo uses social media like videos and blogs to document the stories of people affected by AIDS in Congo, and then employs these materials as part of an effort to educate others about the disease and advocate for their rights.
Education & Conflict: In Medellin, Colombia, activists combined blogging workshops for youth with a public outreach program at their local libraries. The result was a project called HiperBarrio, which combines library time with a program that allows participants—many of whom come from poor neighborhoods rife with violence—to blog about their lives.
Conflict, Education, & Environment: The NGO Bosco Uganda believes that the Internet can provide a way to help communities recover from conflict. This project provides Internally Displaced Person camps in Northern Uganda with internet connections and training, using technology especially suited to such rural communities: solar-powered computers connected to long-range wireless networks. According to the organization’s website, “User groups are trained to produce photo essays and to use Picasa and Flickr to store their pictures. Sharing their story with the world has been a form of therapy in itself helping users recover from the trauma of war.” Bosco Uganda also carries out classroom-to-classroom partnerships with schools in the United States to help students in both countries learn about gathering data and mapping water resources.
Citizen media projects are often designed to collect and aggregate information about a particular issue or make information more accessible. But how do you turn that information into action? Check out the fantastic Ten Tactics For Turning Information Into Action website for more ideas!
Photo: The Mongolian landscape. By tiarescott (flickr)