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Rising Voices: The Year 2014 in Review

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In 2014, Rising Voices (RV) continued its work of supporting underrepresented and marginalized communities through microgrant funding, mentoring, and network-building, as a way to develop diverse new voices that use citizen media for self-expression and storytelling. Here is a look back at some of the highlights of Rising Voices’ work over the past year.

Indigenous Languages Digital Activism

Participants of the 1st Gathering of Indigenous Language Digital Activists. Photo by Biblioteca Juan de Córdova.

Participants of the 1st Gathering of Indigenous Language Digital Activists. Photo by Biblioteca Juan de Córdova.

Our interest in how citizen media can play a role in revitalizing indigenous and endangered languages took another step forward, when we co-organized the first gathering of Indigenous Language Digital Activists in Oaxaca, Mexico. This workshop brought together 25 individuals or “digital activists” in Mexico that are actively using citizen media such as blogs, audiovisual content, free software localizations, and the creation of Wikipedia articles to promote the use of their languages on the Internet.

Together with our partners, the gathering provided a space for digital activists, who often are working in isolation, to meet others who share their passion for revitalizing their languages through the use of participatory digital media. At the workshop, the participants were able to share experiences and to take part in a peer-led teaching/learning environment. The focus was not only on the digital tools, but also strategies to overcome technical, linguistic, and socio-cultural challenges that one may face when trying to promote the use of their language online. We hope that the gathering in Mexico is the first of many that can be replicated across Latin America in 2015.

2014 Microgrant Competition

One of RV's major activities is the launch of our annual Microgrant competitions for citizen media outreach projects. Each year, we publish an open call for proposals targeted at communities that want to share the benefits of citizen media with their local communities through training and mentoring activities. Once again, we utilized our new interactive mapping platform where applicants had the option to share their ideas publicly with the wider community as a means of networking and possible collaboration. In 2014, we received 598 proposals from 93 countries focusing on a wide range of topics, such as Indigenous Communities, Environment, and Governance/Transparency.

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Due to this high demand every year, we decided to offer more microgrants in 2014. In total, we funded ten projects selected by our review committee comprised of Global Voices staff members, volunteers, and past grantee winners. The ten projects came from Uganda, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Cambodia, Philippines, the United States, Pakistan, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Read more about each project in our announcement post.

Rising Voices Amazonia

Thanks to a new collaboration with Avina Americas, Fundación Avina, and the Skoll Foundation, RV launched a new project specifically to offer microgrants and mentoring to communities in the Amazon Region in South America. This project is similar to our other work, but this focuses on a specific region, where we can provide unique networking and relationship-building opportunities for the grantees due to their common languages of Spanish and Portuguese, and for issues that may share in common affecting their communities. We replicated the mapping platform, but we allowed applicants to submit their proposal in Spanish or Portuguese.

With the more targeted focus, we received 52 proposals from seven countries in the region. In total, we funded seven projects in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela.

Grantee Site Visits

Refresher workshop in the community of Kuetuvy with the grantee project Ache Djawu.

Refresher workshop in the community of Kuetuvy with the grantee project Ache Djawu.

An important element of RV's work has been our site visits to select grantee projects. These visits allow us to gain a better understanding of the local context in which the project is operating, so that we can better customize our support. We also get to meet the local coordinators and project participants in order to build stronger working relationships that carry over when it comes time to work and collaborate in a virtual space.

The year started with a site visit to our grantee project Ache Djawu, which is taking place across several Aché indigenous communities throughout Paraguay. Our visit to the village of Kuetuvy coincided with the refresher workshop where project participants gathered to strengthen their skills and to connect with one another.

RV also made two site visits as part of the Amazonia project to the Tsimane’ Linguistic Universe Project in San Borja, Bolivia and with Chariboan Joi in Pucallpa, Peru. In October 2014, we also visited the South of South Project in Merida, Mexico where we met with coordinators from the project that is using collaborative social networks to create new music in the Maya language.

Gatherings in Jordan

In late January, RV took part in two gatherings in the country of Jordan, where the Arab Bloggers (AB) Meeting 2014 and the StoryMaker Camp were held. At AB14, we were fortunate to meet inspiring Arab netizens working for social change in their countries and throughout the region, where they shared their work with us through short podcasts that we recorded. Here, Dina El Hawary of Meedan spoke about the project Checkdesk, an initiative designed to promote collaborative verification for journalists and citizen journalists.

Following AB14, we moved to the Dead Sea area, where RV and other members from the Global Voices community participated in the StoryMaker Camp to talk about our experiences with the trainers network and mentoring component of the StoryMaker project. This initiative centers on an Android mobile app that allows users to capture video, photos, or audio for digital storytelling purposes. Partners from across the Middle East and North Africa region, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa shared updates and their experiences with the project. Here, Privilege Musvanhiri of Mobile Community Zimbabwe provides an short update on how the app is being used in his country.

International Mother Language Day Twitter Campaign

The month of February marks the commemoration of International Mother Language Day, and in 2014, RV along with several partner organizations organized a Twitter campaign encouraging people around the world to tweet in their “mother language.” Using specially designated hashtags #IMLD14 and #DILM14 (Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna) in Spanish, we were able to follow the flurry of activity throughout the day. Kevin Scannell of Indigenous Tweets captures a snapshot of some of the activity in the languages being tracked by his project.

For fun, I looked specifically at tweets written in any of the 157 languages we're tracking on the Indigenous Tweets site. In all, there were 491 tweets containing #imld14 or #dilm14, written in 31 of the 157 languages. Leading the way were Gàidhlig with 158 tweets, followed by 74 tweets in Aragonese, 45 in Ojibwe/Nishnaabemwin, 41 in Malagasy, and 28 in Irish/Gaeilge.

Stay tuned for an expanded campaign in 2015 with more features, partners, and promotion.

Rising Voices Blog and Newsletter

On the RV blog, our volunteer authors have highlighted a wide range of interesting projects, tools, and people around the world that share our goal of supporting new and diverse voices using participatory media. In mid-2014, our blog posts began to appear on the main Global Voices site, where we now have our own section, which helps to raise the visibility of our stories. Grantee project updates written by the grantees themselves are now located exclusively on the Rising Voices blog.

Thanks to the work of Laura Morris, Rising Voices Editor from 2013-2014, we re-launched our regular newsletter called “The Amp,” which contains information about competitions, guides, resources, funding opportunities, and other interesting links related to citizen media development. You can find an archive of the newsletters here and subscribe to the newsletter following the link at the top of the Rising Voices blog. Look for the newsletter to return in 2015

We're looking forward to our Global Voices Citizen Media Summit in Cebu, Philippines where members of our community will participate and share their stories. We would like to thank all of the volunteers, grantees, and staff members that made 2014 a memorable year for Rising Voices, and we look forward to more inspirational stories from our community in 2015. Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@risingvoices) for more updates.

Our work building bridges across cultures, languages and perspectives is more urgent than ever before.

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