Tag Archives: Kentucky

Afghanistan meets Kentucky: WKU honors Lotfullah Najafizada of TOLONews

I lived in Kentucky for the first 22 years of my life, and I am a 1988 graduate of Western Kentucky University (WKU), with a BA in Journalism.

I worked in Afghanistan in 2007 for the United Nations Development Programme, seconded to a program at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development as a communications and reporting officer.

What a thrill it was to see my two worlds come together and as Lotfullah Najafizada from TOLONews in Afghanistan was honored with the second annual Fleischaker/Greene Award for Courageous International Reporting by WKU’s School of Journalism & Broadcasting. The award is given by WKU’s Fleischaker/Greene Fund for Excellence in First Amendment Issues.

Although I don’t know Mr. Najafizada personally, I am very familiar with TOLO, and enjoyed interacting with the channel’s staff in my time in Kabul 10 years ago. I still have many friends and associates in Afghanistan, and I’ve let them all know about this huge honor.

The spread of private media has been one of the few clear successes in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led international coalition invaded in 2001 and a myriad of development agencies and donors have worked to lift the country out of poverty and insecurity. Tolo, which airs a mix of news coverage and original entertainment, has dominated the market since its launch in 2003. TOLONews is Afghanistan’s first and largest 24/7 news and current events channel. The more than 100 media professionals that work for TOLONews, in Kabul and news bureaus throughout the country, regularly receive threats from the Taliban and other criminal and terrorist elements for their news coverage of what is happening in Afghanistan. A January 20, 2016 Taliban bombing killed seven Tolo employees.

Najafizada started out in journalism as a page designer at a local newspaper in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. He later began writing and reporting, which led to a job in the online department at Kabul-based media group MOBY. When the idea came at MOBY to start a 24-hour news station, Najafizada was chosen to lead it. Among Najafizada’s many honors is being named a Press Freedom Hero by Reporters Without Borders for his fight for free press in Afghanistan.

You can follow Mr. Najafizada on Twitter: @LNajafizada

I hope he got to visit the Corvette Museum (& sink hole)… I wonder if there’s a photo of him with Big Red?

Here’s a photo after the presentation, from the WKU School of Journalism and Broadcasting Facebook page.

Here’s the official press release/announcement from WKU.

Here is coverage from the College Heights Herald, the university newspaper.

Here’s coverage by the Bowling Green newspaper of the event.

I will forever be grateful for finding the KFC in Kabul – um, I mean Kabul Fried Chicken. Okay, actually, it was Afghanistan Fried Chicken.

And, btw, Kentucky is nowhere near the size of Afghanistan. According to this web site, this is their size relation to each other:


Kentucky, Tennessee, other parts of USA need digital access help

logoBack in the 1990s, I got into a heated debate somewhere online with someone who said community technology centers and computer literacy programs would be gone by the turn of the century. I knew there would always be a need for such groups, at least in my lifetime. And, sadly, I was right.

I love my home state of Kentucky oh-so-much. I lived there until I was 22, and really enjoy visiting whenever I can. I plan on retiring there some day. I think it’s an amazing state. But I also know that Kentucky has quite a few people who are under-educated, even illiterate, that are living in poverty, that are struggling with nutritional needs, health care, dental care and more. And when it comes to Internet speed, Kentucky is stuck in the slow lane – this story is from 2014, but not much has changed 2 years later.

But in addition, Kentucky, and its neighbor, Tennessee, don’t have many computer literacy projects or digital equity programs outside of its grade schools. Seniors, people in their 40s and over struggling with unemployment, and many others in those two states lack computer literacy skills: they don’t know how to use word processing programs, they don’t understand the Internet, they don’t understand online safety, and they may not even understand what’s installed on their smart phones. The nearest NetSquared group for Kentucky or Tennessee? St. Louis. Chicago. Columbus. Atlanta. Hundreds of miles away for most people in those two states. SeniorNet doesn’t serve either state. There is nothing in Kentucky or Tennessee – and probably a lot of other US states – like there is in big US cities known for their tech-savviness, or even like there is in many large cities in Africa. Portland, Oregon has FreeGeek and an NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, Austin, Texas has Austin FreeNet and also an NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, and San Francisco has more programs helping various communities with digital empowerment than I care to try to list here. Heck, I even discovered the Crook County, Oregon Mobile Computer Lab in Paulina, Oregon on a motorcycle ride a few years ago.

Not that there aren’t organizations expressing the need for such in these two states – and others, probably. ElderServe in Louisville needs a volunteer to teach basic computer skills such as how to operate a computer, email, Google, Facebook, etc. to its senior participants. The Louisville, Kentucky public library hosts computer literacy classes at many of their sites. Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has computer classes for clients. in Nashville.

Does the University of Kentucky do anything regarding building the digital literacy of high-poverty communities or under-served people? Western Kentucky University? Eastern Kentucky University? Murray State University? University of Tennessee? Middle Tennessee State University? University of Memphis? Vanderbilt? Not that I could find. I used the names of these universitys, or the largest cities in these two states, and phrases like digital literacy, computer training elderly, and computer literacy at-risk teens to search.

Computer literacy projects, digital equity programs, “access for all” groups, geeks4good initiatives – even in 2016, these kinds of initiatives are still needed, not just in developing countries, but right here in the USA, and not just in Kentucky and Tennessee. I have no doubt that such initiatives could easily recruit qualified, committed onsite and online volunteers in these areas, and attract funding. There are lots of people that would love to teach classes, market the classes, find places for the classes, and build web sites for programs providing these services. Photos of seniors, rural people, at-risk youth and others engaged in these programs, and their testimonials after their participation, would be oh-so-attractive to sponsors.

If you want to start such a program in Kentucky, Tennesee, or wherever you are, there are lots of resources to help you:

  • NetSquared
  • Start a Cyber Seniors program
  • See the San Francisco Bay Area’s Community Technology Network for a model program
  • Archived web pages from CTC Net and its members: go to archive.org and search for www.ctcnet.org and look at any of the web pages from mid 2005 and look up the CTCNet Center Start Up Manual and the CTC Toolkit, with resources regarding
    preparing a business plan, identifying potential partners, determining program focus, staffing, evaluation, budgeting and funding
  • United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) contributions to the UNESCO Multimedia Training Kit, a list of the content UNITeS provided UNESCO in 2005. The overall kit was meant to provide trainers in telecentres, community media organizations, civil society organizations and the development sector with a set of modular training materials on information communications technologies; the materials were intended for use by trainers in face-to-face workshops rather than for self-instruction by learners. UNITeS contributions were regarding volunteer engagement in these community tech initiatives.

And I hope if you do start such an initiative, you will share information about such in the comments below!

Update: for clarification, I’m talking about digital literacy and access for all citizens – I’m not talking about a company hiring people to code or expanding its company operations in either state.

April 17, 2017 update: on a related note: “Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies.”

Things I learned in Kentucky last month

This week, I’m blogging and launching new web resources based on my experience in October as the Duvall Leader in Residence at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development (CFLD), part of UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.

Monday, I blogged about one of my workshops regarding Democratizing Engagement. Specifically: has the Internet democratized community, even political, engagement. Yesterday, I launched a new web page about online leadership.

Today’s topic: things I learned while in this program, as well as before, during and after presenting in my hometown in Henderson, Kentucky for the Kentucky Network for Development, Leadership and Engagement (Kyndle), serving Henderson, McLean, Union and Webster counties in northwestern Kentucky:

  • People under 30 love Instagram. When I asked University of Kentucky students, and a small group of high school students, what they were using, they said Twitter and Instagram more than anything else. Snapchat also was always mentioned, though not as widely used. Periscope got mentioned a few times as well. Facebook is long gone as a regularly-used tool by the students I addressed.
  • Different communities, neighborhoods and cultures use vastly different online communications tools: I thought Topix, an online forum founded in 2002, was long gone, like Cupertino’s first official online community for its citizens, built on FirstClass. But, no – Topix still very popular in some communities, probably because of the ease of anonymity in participating in its online discussions/debates.
  • I’m not the only one that thinks nonprofits are using social media too much as an old-fashioned advertising tool and not nearly enough as an engagement tool – this article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy came out on the Friday I left Lexington. It is amazing to me that I’m still talking about this – something that I first read about back in the 1990s via the Cluetrain Manifesto.
  • Twitter remains so much better than Facebook when it comes to promotion and networking and engagement. I tweeted a lot, and was almost always retweeted or “liked”, and got lots of replies. By contrast, Facebook resulted in few “likes” – and maybe two comments.
  • Email is still a killer app. An email about one of my evening workshops, sent to various student organizations by a student energized by one of my earlier workshops, resulted in probably twice as many people as expected attending that evening event. In addition, my appointment for this residency was because of an email I sent to faculty at the CFLD last year about The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook and my ties to Kentucky.
  • People under 30 are volunteering, they are passionate about various causes (particularly the environment), and they want to volunteer even more! And they do not see their community service and political activism as merely getting tasks done: they see it as building community, as career exploration, as career preparation, and as fun. And they will stuff envelopes if you tell them why that really, really matters… and give them pizza.
  • A lot of people over 30 have given up on using social media, because they have no idea how to control the onslaught of content that came their way – they felt flooded with useless information, rants and hurtful comments, so they stopped signing on. Facebook in particular makes it oh-so-difficult to figure out how to put different friends on different lists, to hide people without unfriending them, to prevent certain friends from seeing a status update, to unlike pages, etc.
  • GooglePlus just doesn’t get talked about… except by me, who still finds it valuable…
  • If I didn’t attempt to use humor in my workshops, I might offend fewer people, but wow, I, and my audiences, would die of boredom.
  • Lexington, Kentucky is a jewel of a city, and my hometown of Henderson is infinitely more fun than it was when I was growing up there.

That’s what I learned. I wish I had thought to survey the students while I was there – I could have found out even more. They were a gold mine of information. I also talked to faculty and nonprofit staff from different organizations, and they were all lovely and interesting and fun – but I cannot lie: the students were my favorite audience.

University of Kentucky Duvall followup

logos for u of kentucky programsThe last week in October, I was the Fall 2015 Duvall Leader in Residence at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development (CFLD), part of UK’s College of Agriculture,Food and Environment, in Lexington. CFLD supports leadership related activities within the UK College of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky campus, the local Lexington community and counties statewide. My visit was sponsored by the W. Norris Duvall Leadership Endowment Fund and the CFLD, and focused on leadership development and community development and engagement as both relate to the use of online media.

It was a fantastic experience! I just can’t say enough about how well the residency was put together, how well my time was utilized. My time and knowledge were fully exploited – exactly as it should be! Thanks, Lissa and Dakota!

Here is a list of topics for all the workshops and consultations I created and delivered for such:

I cover all of these topics throughout my web site and in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, but I will be blogging in detail about a few of the aforementioned individual topics in the coming weeks, because there’s more to say – particularly “Democratizing engagement: leading in a virtual world,” which proved to be a fascinating project and discussion. 

1028151154This consultancy got off to a rocky start, so I’m very glad it ended up working out so very well. My favorite part was getting to talk with the university students: they ask fantastic questions, they make me think, and they are so fearless when it comes to just about everything (except asking questions in class). AND THEY USE SOCIAL MEDIA: they were tweeting about what I was doing, replying to things I was posting, inviting people to later workshops – loved it! I want to give a shoutout to the University of Kentucky football team in particularly, as two of its players provided some key input in three of my classes that really helped move things along – and as one of those players went on to score a touchdown a few days later against Tennessee, perhaps I should be brought in to address the entire team?

They say that, to be a great at a sport, you have to “leave it all on the court” or “all on the field.” I tried to do the consultancy version of that in Kentucky last month. Proud of my work but, wow, I’m still exhausted!

Here are some more photos from this fantastic experience.

And I’ll say it again: oh how I dream to teach an entire university course (or two!)

Have I offended?

A few years ago, whilst doing a training in Louisville, Kentucky, I explained that online volunteers shouldn’t be segregated in program management from traditional onsite volunteers, that they are just volunteers, like all other volunteers, and should be treated as such. An attendee was outraged that I had used the phrase just volunteers, even though it was obvious that I had meant solely or specifically, not merely.

A university student in one of my classes told me she didn’t like my use of the words target and setting my sights on something, because these were “references based in violence” (her words). I admit that, later,  I smugly chastised her over her own use of the phrase rule of thumb.

A workshop attendee in Egypt told me it was outrageous that I said volunteers should get written descriptions of the tasks they were getting or that there should be any talk of their commitment or performance. “We should accept their help and be grateful for whatever they can give! We have no right to ask for anything more!” She was almost in tears as she said this.

And then there’s the infamous Florida workshop at the Corporation for National Service conference from the 1990s, where a team of trainers, including me, tried to encourage a group of SeniorCorps program leaders to adjust their recruitment tactics in order to better attract seniors from the Baby Boomer generation. I don’t think I will ever recover from that.

These incidents – and lots of others I could talk about – prompted me to put a slide at the beginning of all of my presentations, called modus operandi. I tell the group there are no stupid questions, that I might not have all the answers, etc. And I also ask for no GOTCHA moments, where an attendee immediately becomes outraged at something I’ve said. I ask that, if anyone hears me say something that they think is offensive to please raise their hand and ask me to clarify. Some people have done so, and it’s helped head off a lot of bad feelings, because most of the time, I did not at all mean what they thought I meant.

I realize that there is no way in the world to avoid saying something that someone won’t like, but I really do want to connect with my audience, on a human level, and for us to be able to treat each other with respect and openness. I love training, and if there is an obstacle to my overall message getting out because of something I’ve said, or a perception of what I’ve said, I want that obstacle addressed post haste.

My work is out there in the public sphere for anyone to read and criticize. That’s the nature of my work, and it can be scary. Most of my work isn’t tucked away on an intranet at a humanitarian organization or in a classroom or high-priced academic journal – it’s on my web site, on my blog, on YouTube, on social media, even on other people’s web sites. It’s not easy to live with that much public scrutiny, and the criticism of me and my work can often be downright hateful, as we Kentuckians say (or, at least, as the Kentuckians I grew up with would say).

I was born and raised in Kentucky, and am fiercely proud of the fact. Fiercely. Ask my non-Kentucky friends and colleagues: they will tell you that they are sick of hearing about my beloved home state. Kentucky is like so many other states I’ve lived in or visited – Texas, Tennessee, Vermont, Iowa – or even other regions of the world – Ukraine, Catalunya, the Westerwald of Germany – where residents are intensely proud of being from that region, where there are unique aspects of their way of talking, even the way they dress, and they have faced jokes – sometimes good-natured, sometimes cruel – about their culture, including their accents. People from such regions get called out almost immediately anywhere else because of their accents, and they can be very sensitive about comments made about their culture, especially when most images about their culture in the media are negative.

Upon hearing that I am from Kentucky, I have heard comments all over the world which have stung me. There is a very particular joke that Germans have about Kentucky that I won’t repeat here, but when Germans would hear I was from Kentucky, and smirk, I would say the joke, in German, and they would be flabberghasted that I knew their “secret.” Instead of being offended, I turned the tables, and it actually often lead to some really great conversations about Kentucky – they got to learn just what an interesting, beautiful place it is, in contrast to what they thought. I hear a lot of hurtful comments from people from other countries when they learn I’m from the USA, because of how they perceive this country, based on our foreign policy, our movies and our TV shows. I have to find a way not to become overwhelmed with outrage at their comments, however cruel, because I’m there to work with them. I guess that’s why it takes a lot to offend me, as someone from Kentucky or from the USA as a whole.

Because of this worldwide perception of Kentucky, I sometimes comment about it at the start of a workshop I’m doing. It’s my way of disarming (oops, gun reference!) the audience: yes, I know you hear the accent, however slight. It’s also my way to represent: hey, you are going to get communications and tech advice from a gal from KENTUCKY – get your stereotypes about my state around THAT! I hope that, by the end of the workshop, they have not only learned about communications strategies, social media, volunteer management, etc. – I hope they have a new, better opinion of people from Kentucky.

I do just that at the start of this video. And it was recently brought to my attention that a Kentucky university professor was offended because of it. She didn’t tell me, however. Instead, she told her colleagues about her offense. Someone else had to tell me about her judgment.

So let me make it clear that my modus operandi isn’t just for my workshops; it’s also regarding my web site, this blog, and anything else I do online. If you read something of mine that you think is offensive, write me, via email (jc@coyotecommunications.com) or, as so many have done, in the comments section of my blog, and immediately ask me to clarify. Maybe I don’t mean what you think I mean. Maybe it’s exactly what I meant. But you won’t ever know unless you ask me.

And, no, I’m not wearing shoes right now. And I did use an outhouse last week, but it was in Canada.

Also see:

Could your organization be deceived by GOTCHA media?

Feuds in the nonprofit/NGO/charity world

Me: Fall 2015 Duvall Leader in Residence at University of Kentucky’s CFLD

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be in my Old Kentucky Home in October 2015, for two reasons:

logos for u of kentucky programsI’ll be the Fall 2015 Duvall Leader in Residence at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Leadership Development (CFLD), part of UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Oct. 26 – 30, in and around Lexington.

The week before, I’ll be in Henderson, on the other side of the state, to be the keynote speaker for a capacity-building event for nonprofits organized by the Kentucky Network for Development, Leadership and Engagement (Kyndle), serving Henderson, McLean, Union and Webster counties in northwestern Kentucky, and the Henderson Community Foundation.

CFLD supports leadership related activities within the UK College of Agriculture, the University of Kentucky campus, the local Lexington community and counties statewide. My visit is sponsored by the W. Norris Duvall Leadership Endowment Fund and the CFLD, and will focus on leadership development and community development and engagement as both relate to the use of online media. I’ll be talking a lot about virtual volunteering, of course, as well as using online tools for communication outreach and engagement,.

As Kentucky is my birthplace, was my home for the first 22 years of my life, is where most of my family resides and is where I will, someday, retire (when I’m not still out traveling the world, as I intend to do), this is a particular thrill and honor. Growing up in Kentucky was, in fact, fundamental to my success at working in international aid and development abroad.

I relish any and all university-based experiences: I have guest lectured many times at the university level. You can see my academic / research work at my profile on academia.edu. Most of the academic articles that have cited my work regarding virtual volunteering are listed at my Google Scholar account. And it is my dream to create &/or teach an entire university course – even better: to be based at a university.

Interested in having me a part of YOUR university? Or to consult for your nonprofit? I have a profile at LinkedIn, as well as details on my own web site about my professional activities. I’m also happy to share my CV with you; email me with your request. If you have any specific questions about my profile, feel free to contact me as well.

Could a Twitter exchange lead to change in a Kentucky nonprofit law?

Could an exchange on Twitter lead to a change in a law in Kentucky?

My tribal homeland of Kentucky has finally made it legal for boards of nonprofits to vote online; it’s an issue I have been talking about since the 1990s, as a part of virtual volunteering, so I’m glad Kentucky got around to it at last. According to this article in the Nonprofit Quarterly, “Boards of directors can now take action outside of a meeting through means of electronic voting, unless the organization’s bylaws prohibit such action. If that vote is taken, and the directors vote for it unanimously, the action passes and is effective just as if a vote had been taken in a regular meeting.”

Sadly, the laws has some flaws: “Similarly, board directors are now allowed to telecommute into a meeting. If a director is using a method of communication whereby they can hear all the other participants in the meeting, they are allowed to be deemed ‘present’ in the meeting and, therefore, count towards quorum. It is probably unintended that this precludes people who are deaf from taking advantage of this newly acceptable way of participating in a meeting. Interestingly, the law also does not require a director who is telecommuting to have the same materials as all of the other directors, a stipulation that has been included in laws in other states.”

Why the state didn’t simply use the laws already in other states – California has allowed online board meetings and votes since the 1990s – so that it didn’t leave anyone out, I don’t know.

I tweeted several times about the law, including one tweet about not being happy about leaving out people with hearing impairments. Below is that Tweet and the conversation it lead to. Could it also lead to real change? (transcript of the conversation after the screen capture). Kudos to@kynonprofits for not getting defensive but, instead, ENGAGING with us on Twitter:
kylaw twitter exchange



Me, @jcravens42: Kentucky Updates Rules For Nonprofits – but excludes people who are deaf from taking advantage of new rules  link

David J. Neff ‏(to me): Ouch. Why such a big mistake?

Me, replying to David: No idea. It’s quite shameful. @kynonprofits ? Ideas?

@kynonprofits, to me and David: we not finished working on these laws! Would love your input on what technology might be used to address!

Me, replying to both @kynonprofits @daveiam : Contact the nonprofit org @knowbility – they are experts in accessible tech (& dear friends of mine).

@kynonprofits to everyone: will do. We’re just getting started with improving these laws. Thanks!