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Happy New Year Global Voices!

Global Voices has undergone some exciting changes in the past year, and a recap is in order.

Global Voices: The World is Talking, Are You Listening?

In August I had the pleasure of joining this wonderfully energetic and talented group of writers, translators, activists, and bloggers. As the new Executive Director I've been learning every day, and I am proud to be a part of this community as we expand our networks and look for new ways to sustain our work.

In 2008, we've had a number of big changes. First, after being supported since 2005 by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Global Voices took a big step towards its future by registering as an independent nonprofit organization. We are now officially “Stichting Global Voices,” a Netherlands-based foundation dedicated to supporting and facilitating citizen media and blogging.

Our mission remains the same: to call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world; to support the emergence of new citizens’ voices; and to advocate for online freedom of expression around the world.

While we continue to have strong informal ties to Berkman, we now have a constituted board, a growing staff, and independent administration. While our registration is Dutch, we remain resolutely global in character and virtual in our operation.

We have no office; instead the world is our workspace. Our board members hail from Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Utah, and Massachusetts; our staff are in Trinidad & Tobago, Taipei, the Hague, Washington D.C., Toronto, moving between Copenhagen, Puerto Rico, and New York, or simply homeless, caught on the jetways between Antananarivo, Dhaka, Durban, El Alto and Kolkata. Our editors hail from places such as Brasilia, Cochabamba, Almaty, Kiev, Paris, and Beijing, and our authors are simply everywhere.

From the start, Global Voices has been a project powered equally by a volunteer, community effort and by the support of donors. In 2008 that community has continued to grow; we now have some 120 authors and some 130 translators contributing their time and effort to make GV a success.

Financially, GV has also continued to grow. Our donors have included the MacArthur Foundation, Reuters, the Knight Foundation, Hivos, the McCormick Tribune Foundation, Google, and the Open Society Institute. In 2009 we're also lucky to be supported by the Media Development Loan Fund on strategic planning, as a fiscal sponsor, and on funding support. We also have the support of the New World Foundation and the Arca Foundation. And while the financial collapse in 2008 has been hard on everyone, we're hopeful that we'll be able to maintain and grow Global Voices through a combination of volunteer effort, donor support, partnerships with other media, syndication, and possibly select advertising.

With that in mind, we've recently set up a donations mechanism, to help us cover the costs of running our newsroom, paying our server expenses, and supporting our small, dedicated staff.  Even a small contribution will help us to keep bringing you the best of online stories and news from many languages and around the world.

On programs, we've had an excellent year, and are tremendously excited by all the work and projects that await us in 2009.


A group of Global Voices authors at the GV Summit in Budapest in June 2008 (photo by Joi Ito)

Our newsroom is garnering international recognition for its work finding and amplifying unheard stories; we're finding that we are particularly useful in times of crisis and natural disaster. These stories are gathered on our Special Coverage pages, which in 2008 focused on events such as the Kenyan elections violence, the Myanmar cyclone, the Sichuan earthquake, the South Ossetia conflict, and the Mumbai, India attacks. We also ran popular special projects together with Reuters around the Beijing Olympics, and Voices without Votes, about the U.S. presidential elections. For 2009 we're looking forward to continuing our coverage of underexposed and underrepresented stories, especially in light of the continued decline in international media coverage around the world.

Our outreach initiative, Rising Voices, now supports 17 projects to bring blogging and online media to underrepresented communities. Rising Voices is developing from a micro-grants and training program into a network of online community media projects that support and help each other by sharing best practices, training, and knowledge. We're sponsoring another round of micro-grants in January, and planning to expand the network beyond grantees to support other projects in the burgeoning citizen media community.

Our translation community, Lingua, is now translating Global Voices content to 16 languages. Lingua has grown incredibly, from only Chinese and Spanish in early 2007, to “one of the largest volunteer-based online translation communities in the world.” The Lingua community is likely to keep growing in 2009, with another five languages in line to set up sites.

Our Advocacy project has had a busy year, in the face of increasing pressure and attacks on bloggers around the world. In 2008, Internet journalists became the most targeted of all media producers in repressive environments. In response, GV Advocacy has reported on online media persecutions in 40 countries, conducts training and advocacy at conferences and workshops, and provides resources and guides for blogging anonymously and using web 2.0 tools for advocacy. We've translated our guides into seven languages and seen more than 12,000 downloads in the past 14 months. In 2009, we'll be continuing with these projects, and also expanding our news coverage of attacks against bloggers, including podcasts and video reporting.

One of the best things about the Global Voices community is the constant brainstorming about new ideas, projects, and ways of working. GV started as an experiment in the power of networks, and some of our most successful projects have grown out of ideas generated and driven by individuals in our network. For 2009, I'm certain we'll see ideas come together that are only possible when many work on a common goal, but with each contributing their own specific skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

With that in mind, we encourage you to join us! Subscribe to our daily digest email and RSS feeds, and don't hesitate to contact us if you would like to become a Global Voices author, translator (or donor!).

Thanks to all, and Happy New Year.

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