Tag Archives: tolerance

Community radio – we are in dire need of it

logoAs I said in a blog last year, I don’t come from just a town in Kentucky; I come from a community. It’s not always cohesive, there are conflicts (thankfully, mostly unarmed), not everyone likes each other, but it’s a community: people there have common experiences and common values, across economic and education levels, even if they don’t have the same religion or political beliefs. In addition to the local newspaper, one of the things that has helped to build this sense of community in my hometown is the local radio station, WSON. For many residents, listening in the morning to WSON is a non-negotiable morning ritual. Listeners hear about school sporting events, obituaries and funeral notices, farm reports, information on community arts events, information on events at the local community college, and interviews with candidates for local office. In the evenings, high school basketball games – boys and girls – or baseball or football games are broadcast live. You can see their program lineup here.

As a result, even if you don’t have children, you care about the schools in the area. You know when friends and co-workers have had a death in the family. You have opinions about local elections or local bond issues coming up and you’re more likely to vote. I haven’t lived in Henderson since I was 18, yet, anytime I go back, I listen to WSON in the mornings, because I know my family will be talking about what they heard later in the day. It’s hilarious to see my sister’s Facebook posts when she’s listening to a high school sports event on WSON, posting her pleas to the Interwebs for the team to do better, or her congrats for the team doing well.

Now, I live thousands of miles away, in a city in Oregon that’s just about the same size as where I’m from, but there’s no community radio station, commercial or nonprofit. The local paper is published only twice a week and isn’t read by most residents – I have a lot of thoughts as to why, mostly having to do with the quality of reporting, but I’ll save that for another blog. Most people I talk to here don’t know when there is a local election coming up, let alone who is running or what ordinances they are being asked to consider. Twice I found out a neighbor had died weeks after his or her passing, and I was mortified that I hadn’t offered condolences to the surving spouse at the time. I don’t know when events at the local university are happening, and frequently hear about things I would have loved to have attended.

Facebook helps a little to know what’s going on, but it’s not enough. Even if an organization types its events into the Facebook event feature, and frequently shares that event on their status update, people on Facebook may never see it in their newsfeed, because of the network’s algorithms, which push sponsored content and often hide the content from a user’s friends and from pages that user has liked. Twitter helps only if I happen to be on Twitter at the exact moment a local event is posted – otherwise, I miss the tweet, and the event. I try to remember to visit to various web sites and Facebook communities to see what’s going on, but I often forget. TV? The TV stations here are all based in, or focused on, Portland – they rarely even talk about the state legislature (which is in Salem), let alone something nearby. Public radio? Again, the nearest public radio station is focused on Portland, not any of the cities or towns around it (I love OPB, I really do – but it’s no substitute for a local station).

World Radio Day is February 13. It’s promoted by UNESCO, and it’s an example of how the United Nations and other international development agencies still have a lot of programs that leverage radio to help promote agricultural knowledge, educate communities about HIV/AIDS, keep a community up-to-date about a water and sanitation project that will affect the area, help promote gender equality and opportunities for women, promote inter-cultural understanding and tolerance among different groups in the same area, and on and on. Radio remains a powerful force for human rights and development. Here are examples:

I can listen to the radio for free, and while mowing the lawn, driving in my car, cleaning my house, etc. – I can’t do that with a newspaper or TV. What about a podcast? Well, that could work if you have a fantastic broadband connection – here in my town, most people don’t – or you remember to download the podcast every day, which I’m sure I wouldn’t. As Radio Boise says:

A radio can be found very inexpensively at almost any thrift store, plugged into an electrical outlet, and the sounds of nearby broadcasts come spilling out, instantly available. The internet, a wonderful place, is rarely provided for free and, because our country is so large, it will take a long time to develop a pervasive public wireless network. And mobile is also a reality – but also has a monthly fee for access. Radio can be heard by anyone, even by a kid with a crystal-based home-made radio or like me, with an old stereo receiver that my parents gave me that has a simple bundle of wire shoved into the antenna port, or streaming online in a browser or your mobile phone . . . the root of the broadcast, radio, is a signal sent into the air and received for free…

The internet provides vast means in which you can entertain your ears, most of which at their root are computer programs. When human beings program a show to share on the airwaves, the idea is that a warmth and personality is communicated with awareness of our communities’ nuances that the automated mechanisms cannot provide. That is one definition of community.

Imagine attendance surging at community theater productions and local sports events, imagine donations increasing to local nonprofits. Imagine the local police being able to be interviewed on a local public affairs show and putting to rest rumors that are creating conflict and fear within the community. Imagine local service clubs not having to disband from lack of members, but rather, seeing a surge in membership. Imagine people running for office getting to each make a pitch to listeners. Imagine not finding out your neighbor died two weeks ago because you cheerily asked his wife, “So, how’s your husband!” – imagine, instead, being able to attend the funeral or send flowers.

In my community, in addition to all that desperately-needed local information a local radio station could provide in English, it could provide an hour-long program in Spanish, helping our growing Spanish-speaking population to know about public events and free events at the local library that could help them integrate into our community even more.

This town where I live, right here in the USA, needs a local radio station. And I bet this is true for towns all across this country.  When local information disappears, local connections disappear as well. And I think it’s disappearing here – and in communities across this country.

So, now all we need is the space, the equipment, the know-how and the appropriate federal filings. Piece of cake. The Prometheus Radio Project says “Many stations get on the air for under $15,000 and can stay on the air for less than $1,000 per month.” Maybe if I win the lottery…

Also see:

Goodbye newspaper, goodbye community?

My Blogs re: social cohesion, building understanding

Volunteering & social cohesion in a post Brexit world

social cohesionOn 15 September, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) National Volunteering Forum met in Manchester, England to talk about the potential implications of Brexit for volunteering, and to discuss evidence and real life examples demonstrating the role that volunteering can play in improving social cohesion. The slides from the event are shared online, and the associated tweets, here.

The tweets are SO worth reading, a mix of comments said at the forum and comments from people following online. GREAT questions and comments that will give you pause, because you shouldn’t think of obstacles to social cohesion as just a British phenomena: all over Europe, as well as the USA, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Mexico, and on and on, societies are struggling with divided socio-political landscapes. Emotions are running high, driving nationalist movements and, often, racist and xenophobia movements as well. In many places, neighbors aren’t talking to neighbors because of differences in politics, religion, language, values and more.

As I note in my paper “Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU: Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion” for the European Commission in 2014, researchers for vInspired, in exploring the contribution of volunteering to employability for young people, found that volunteering contributed to young people’s feeling of social inclusion:

  • Volunteering helped young people to develop their networks and mix with a more diverse social group. It also increased their ability to work within and across authority structures. This suggests that providing volunteering opportunities to a wide range of young people will help to break-down social barriers and lead to greater community cohesion and personal well- being.
  • The positive contribution made by young people to the organisations and communities with which they were involved, helped to overcome the negative stereotypes often applied to them, and improved perceptions of young people amongst adults such as staff, volunteers and service users.
  • Many young people are currently in a precarious economic position with the high level of youth unemployment, and some commentators are warning of a lost generation. Helping young people to stay connected to society and their communities, to develop leadership and employability skills that will shape their future, is one of the most urgent and critical tasks of the next decade.

As I note in that paper, this and other research demonstrates that volunteering can play a crucial role in building the personal resilience and capabilities that young people need to prosper in the work place and in society in general.

However, garnering those benefits from volunteering, as well as using it to encourage social cohesion, multi-cultural understanding, reconciliation, etc., is a tall order giving the current landscape in many countries:

  • War and dire economic circumstances are driving immigration at a historic rate, with desperate people seeking to migrate to more peaceful, prosperous countries, straining resources and emotions of those living in areas immigrants want to travel through or to.
  • Different ethnic, socio-economic and religious groups, among others, are clashing over everything from perceived threats to their culture and values to police relations to access to jobs to perceptions of crime rates and quality of life compared to the past.
  • Certain people are being excluded from participating fully in the societies where they reside, or from receiving the same employment, educational, societal and other benefits others in that society may receive. These people feel they are marginalized, that they have limited access to decision-making bodies, various institutions and employment.
  • Some people’s religious and ethical values clash with public social and working life, where others that have different ethical values also socialize and work. Not everyone embraces ideas of free expression, equality for all humans in all aspects of life (employment, education, marriage, etc.), democracy, non-traditional roles for women, and the value of diversity and inclusiveness. When these people are living in a society that insists on these values, by practice and laws, hostilities can arise, with ideas of tolerance and multicultural understanding clashing with deeply held beliefs and legal practices regarding human rights.
  • Change is rampant and is frightening to many people, particularly when economic situations are fragile, or perceived as such. People are hearing different languages than the one they have grown up with, they are seeing people dressing in a way that’s different than what they believe should be the cultural norm, and technology is rapidly changing employment, education and how services are delivered. The popularity of a restaurant serving food that isn’t perceived as indigenous or is perceived as being from a country local people don’t like, a poster in a church that isn’t in the official or unofficial national language,  a woman not wearing what local people believe she should be wearing – all of these acts can be perceived by a community as a threat to their local culture and values, and lead to hostilities.

The result of all of this is people feeling more and more powerless over the decisions and forces that affect their day to day lives. Fear and uncertainty is sweeping many communities, misinformation is rampant, and everything in the environment feels politicized. Many communities are becoming more segregated, with people choosing to live and socialize with people they perceive as like them in terms of culture and values, and choosing to stay away from festivals, neighborhoods, even restaurants where they believe a different culture prevails.

Can volunteering help bridge divides, increase understanding, reduce hostilities and nurture respect and social cohesion? Certainly there are organizations and researchers that think so:

What’s lacking is research showing that these efforts have, indeed, lead to multi-cultural understanding, a lessening of hostilities, etc. 

In my paper about Internet-mediated volunteering in EU countries, I identified challenges to promoting online volunteering as a pathway to social inclusion, and I believe it is, in fact, the biggest challenge for ANY volunteering as a pathway to social inclusion: resistance to including social inclusion goals into current volunteer engagement at an organization. In other words, most managers of volunteers don’t want to make social inclusion a part of their goals for volunteer engagement. Most organizations that involve volunteers have no stated reason relating to contributing to greater social inclusion for volunteers. They may not see the benefits of adapting their volunteer engagement to contribute to such. They may not have the expertise in how to do this. And they may not have the resources needed to build their expertise to do this. Agencies may resist adapting volunteer engagement schemes to include a social inclusion element, for fear of it draining resources or focus from their primary missions which may have nothing to do with social inclusion. In short: any effort to leverage volunteering as a path to greater social cohesion has to include money to pay for training of those in charge of volunteering engagement at various agencies. Otherwise, such efforts will, every likely, be doomed to failure.

Also see:

Managers of volunteers & resistance to diversity – my blog about comments that are generated when a discussion breaks out about diversifying volunteering ranks.

This lesson plan from the University of Nebraska Extension office, “Engaging Intergenerational Volunteers“, offers practical tips on having volunteers from a variety of age groups working together, as does this how-to guide from Bridges Together.

The Victoria Volunteering Portal (Australia) offers an excellent free guide on encouraging diversity among volunteer ranks.

I also offer my own free guide on Recruiting Local Volunteers To Increase Diversity Among the Ranks.

Tourism, a catalyst for peace and development

World Tourism Organization

Press Release

Madrid, Spain, 14 July 2016

PR No. 16055

Tourism, a catalyst for peace and development

Tourism can play a key role in building peace and supporting reconciliation processes, concluded the UNWTO Conference on ‘Tourism, a catalyst for development, peace and reconciliation’ held in Passikudah, Sri Lanka between 11 and 14 July.  

Community engagement and empowerment, capacity building and training, and public/private sector partnerships are key factors in advancing a culture of peace through tourism in post-conflict societies. Participants recalled the importance of placing tourism at the heart of the peace and reconciliation agenda, to ensure the sector can deliver on its capacity to generate development and social inclusion.

“Tourism is a vehicle for trust and goodwill. Cultural understanding can change attitudes and build peace. Tourism’s role in peace building is also  enacted through its contribution to poverty alleviation, cultural preservation and environmental conservation,” said President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena in a message to the Conference.

“For most of the last thirty years, this place has been a warzone. Today, Passikudah is an example of how people affected by conflict have picked up the pieces and rebuilt their lives. We would not be meeting here if it were not for peace,” said the Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands of Sri Lanka, John Amaratunga. “We will work to provide an example to the world on how to rise from the ashes of conflict to become a leading tourism destination,” he added.

“We face a deficit of tolerance. Tourism brings people together; it opens our minds and hearts”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, opening the Conference. “Yet to gain peace we need to give people opportunities for a better future; we need to create jobs and bring them hope,” he added.

“The Petra National Trust conducted a number of informal surveys that suggest that when tourism is poorly managed, societal tensions persist, local communities’ connection to their heritage weakens, responsible practices around tourism sites suffer, and local culture and values erode,” said HRH Princess Dana Firas, Chair of the Petra National Trust, Jordan, in her keynote address.

The Conference focused on four main topics: the contribution of tourism development to peace, local community involvement and ‘peace sensitive tourism’, public/private partnerships, and marketing in post-conflict destinations.

“This was an historical event in an area once torn apart by war. We trust that tourism development in Sri Lanka will bring more opportunities to the people and particularly the youth of the country,” said Paddy Withana, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism, closing the event by recalling that the conference welcomed perspectives on how that can be done in full respect of communities and traditions from across the country.

On the occasion, five Sri Lankan companies – Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC, Lanka Hotels & Travels PVT Ltd, Laugfs Leisure Limited, Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health Resort and Theme Resorts & Spas Pvt Ltd. – signed the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Code of Ethics for Tourism, pledging to upload and promote the values of the Code. The signing ceremony was witnessed by UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai, the Sri Lankan Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands of Sri Lanka, John Amaratunga, and Hiran Cooray, Member of the World Committee on Tourism Ethics.

Additional information:

The conference website

Tourism and Peace book

Photo album of the conference

Contacts:

UNWTO Media Officer Rut Gomez Sobrino
Tel: (+34) 91 567 81 60

UNWTO Communications & Publications Programme
Tel: (+34) 91 567 8100 / Fax: +34 91 567 8218

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), a United Nations specialized agency, is the leading international organization with the decisive and central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. Its membership includes 157 countries, 6 territories, 2 permanent observers and over 500 Affiliate Members. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr

Propaganda for good

I am fascinated with propaganda – information meant, specifically, to encourage a particular way of thinking – and with social engineering, the social science regarding efforts to influence attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale – call it propaganda for good.

Propaganda is communications not just to create awareness, but to persuade, to change minds, and to create advocates. It’s communications for persuasion. These are communications activities undertaken by governments, media, corporations, nonprofits, public health advocates, politicians, religious leaders/associations, terrorist groups, and on and on, and they aren’t automatically bad activities: such messaging has inspired people to wear seat belts even before there were laws requiring such, to not drink and then drive, to engage in activities for sex that prevent HIV, to read to their children, to spay and neuter their pets, to a lessening of intolerance among different groups, and on and on.

I use these techniques myself, to a degree, in trying to get nonprofits and government agencies to embrace virtual volunteering and in recruiting for diversity and in creating welcoming environments for everyone at nonprofit organizations and within government initiatives. I’m not just trying to create awareness about those concepts and practices; I’m trying to create buy-in for them, to break down resistance to them, to get initiatives to embrace them. I’m evangelizing for those concepts.

My fascination with propaganda is why I track how folklore, rumors and urban myths interfere with development and aid/relief efforts, and government initiatives, and how to prevent and address such. That subject was almost my Master’s Degree thesis; I decided the data I’d collected before I abandoned the idea of it being my thesis was too helpful not to publish, and I’ve continued to research this topic and update this resource. And I have attempted to apply my elementary understanding of social engineering in my work, most recently when I drafted Recommendations for UN & UNDP in Ukraine to use Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and Other Social Media to Promote Reconciliation, Social Inclusion, & Peace-Building in Ukraine (PDF); it offers considerations and recommendations for social media messaging that promotes reconciliation, social inclusion, and peace-building in Ukraine, and provides ideas for messaging related to promoting tolerance, respect and reconciliation in the country, and messaging to counter bigotry, prejudice, inequality, misperceptions and misconceptions about a particular group of people or different people among Ukrainians as a whole.

My fascination with communications for persuasion, not just awareness, is also why I’m fascinated with the rhetoric in the USA about how Daesh – what most Americans, unfortunately, call ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State – uses social media to persuade. There are few details in the mainstream media and in politicians’ rhetoric on how this is really done – just comments like “He was radicalized by ISIS on Twitter,” which makes it sound like the app is somehow causing people to become terrorists. That’s why I was so happy to find this blog by J.M. Berger, a nonresident fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings and the author of “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam”. The blog, “How terrorists recruit online (and how to stop it),” provides concrete information on how Daesh uses social media to recruit members – and it sounds a lot like the same techniques various cults have used to recruit members, before social media. The blog also provides concrete ways to counter the message, and how reporters can avoid robotically amplify the Daesh message.

Here’s the manual that Al Qaeda and now ISIS use to brainwash people online, which provides an outstanding summary of what it says – that echoes the aforementioned analysis.

December 28, 2015 addition: in an analysis paper released in early 2015, J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan, as part of the The Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, answer fundamental questions about how many Twitter users support ISIS, who and where they are, and how they participate in its highly organized online activities. It notes that, in its 2014 tracking of Twitter accounts that support ISIS, 1,575 of them tweeted more than 50 times per day on average, with 545 tweeting more than 150 times per day. “These prolific users—referred to in ISIS social media strategy documents as the mujtahidun (industrious ones)—form the highly engaged core of ISIS’s social media machine. These users may not tweet every day, but when they do, they tweet a lot of content in a very short amount of time. This activity, more than any other, drives the success of ISIS’s efforts to promulgate its message on social media. Short, prolonged bursts of activity cause hashtags to trend, resulting in third-party aggregation and insertion of tweeted content into search results. Prior to the start of Twitter’s aggressive account suspensions, highly organized activity among the mujtahidun—who at one point we may have numbered as many as 3,000, including bots—allowed ISIS to dominate certain hashtags and project its material outside of its own social network to harass and intimidate outsiders, as well as to attract potential recruits.”

And here’s another article I was pleased to find, Fighting ISIS online, talking about the tiny and not-so-effective effort to counter Daesh online, and which notes:

Humera Khan, executive director of Muflehun (Arabic for “those who will be successful”), a Washington, D.C., think tank devoted to fighting Islamic extremism, says people like her and (Paul) Dietrich who try such online interventions face daunting math. “The ones who are doing these engagements number only in the tens. That is not sufficient. Just looking at ISIS-supporting social-media accounts—those numbers are several orders of magnitude larger,” says Khan. “In terms of recruiting, ISIS is one of the loudest voices. Their message is sexy, and there is very little effective response out there. Most of the government response isn’t interactive. It’s a one-way broadcast, not a dialogue.”…

Social-media research has shown that messages from friends and peers are more persuasive than general advertising. Other bodies of research show that youth at risk of falling into many kinds of trouble, from drugs to gangs, often benefit from even small interventions by parents, mentors, or peers. But so far, major anti-ISIS programs don’t involve that kinds of outreach.

That emphasis is mine. I find these articles fascinating – and woefully ignored by governments and moderate Muslims in the fight online, and via traditional media, against Daesh.

This article from The Atlantic explores the strategy further: “ISIS is not succeeding because of the strength of its ideas. Instead, it exploits an increasingly networked world to sell its violent and apocalyptic ideology to a microscopic minority—people who are able to discover each other from a distance and organize collective action in ways that were virtually impossible before the rise of the Internet.”

I would love to see moderate, peace-focused Islamic social groups with a good understanding of online communications, like MuflehunQuranalyzeit and Sisters in Islam, receive grants to hire more staff, train other organizations, and create a MUCH larger, more robust movement on social media with their loving, pro-women, Islamic-based messages. Such tiny organizations are doing a brilliant job of countering extremist messages regarding Islam, and doing it as Muslims and from an Islamic perspective. But they are drowned out by Daesh. Governments also need to not do this.

December 11, 2015 addition:  Mohamed Ahmed, once a typical middle-aged father and gas station manager, is one of many Muslim Minneapolians to do whatever he can to fight extremism in his state. Frustrated by the Islamic State’s stealthy social media campaigns, Mr. Ahmed decided to make a social media campaign of his own. Ahmed has used his own money to produce and develop his website, AverageMohamed.com. On his site, Ahmed creates cartoons and videos so average people can share “logical talking points countering falsehood propagated by extremists.” More about how Minnesota Muslims work to counter extremist propaganda.

The reality is that the Hulk, Smash! strategy will not work to fight terrorist ideology and the violent results of such. Nazism survived the bombing and defeat of Nazi Germany. Bombing cities is not what marginalized the Ku Klux Klan, and bombing cities does not stop people like (and that have supported the ideas of) Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph or Jim Jones. We know what’s work. Let’s fund it and do it.

Index of my own communications advice

Oct 15 deadline for apps to facilitate dialogue, prevent conflict

PEACEapp is a global competition to promote digital games and gamified apps as venues for cultural dialogue and conflict management.

Have you already developed a game or app like this? You could win $5000 in recognition for your work. Do you have an idea or a prototype for a PEACEapp? You could win expert mentorship to support its development.

The PEACEapp global competition organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the United Nations Development Program in collaboration with Build Up to promote digital games and gamified apps as venues for cultural dialogue and conflict management. Additional partners of PEACEapp include GamesForChange and the Institute for Economics and Peace.

The competition is open to three kinds of entries: (i) digital games and gamified apps developed purposefully for this competition; (ii) already existing digital games, and (iii) creative re-purposing of existing digital games to meet the aim of PEACEapp.

The competition will consider entries at all stages of development – from prototypes to fully developed. PEACEapp’s international jury will select five winning entries: three that are fully functioning and two that are in development. The three fully functioning games or apps will receive an award of USD$5,000 each. The two in development will receive mentorship from expert partners. In addition, one member of each award-winning team (completed or in development) will be invited (all travel costs covered) to the Build Peace conference (Cyprus, April 2015) to share their product with conference participants.

The deadline for applications is October 15, 2014. Winners will be announced by November 30, 2014.

And on a related note: I am looking for examples of using social media to promote respect, tolerance, reconciliation.

Using social media to promote respect, tolerance, reconciliation?

The Center for Disease Control in the USA uses a special Twitter account, @CDCSTD, to help people” to be safer and healthier by the prevention of STDs and their complications.”

The initiative @EverydaySexism uses Twitter to create awareness about the every day harassment and sexism that women experience. This organization does this both via its own tweets and using this hashtag, #everydaysexism, which they encourage others to use with their own tweets; they monitor use of this hastag and, often, retweet messages using it.

These are two examples of organizations using social media – Twitter, specifically – as a part of their program delivery. They aren’t using Twitter to point to a press release or provide updates on programs; Twitter IS the program delivery or, at least, part of it.

I’m looking for examples of organizations using Twitter, Facebook, even just simple, old-fashioned text messaging, to promote:

  • tolerance
  • respect
  • reconciliation

And to counter:

  • bigotry
  • prejudice
  • inequality
  • misperceptions and misconceptions about a particular group of people or different people

I’m not looking for just organizations that are promoting tolerance, respect or reconciliation among different groups; I’m looking for examples on Twitter or Facebook of organizations actually using social media as a way to build tolerance, respect and/or reconciliation – they are sending out messages that somehow encourage two groups that have previously been or are currently in conflict to respect each other, for instance.

I’m going to be gobsmacked if some organization somewhere in the world isn’t trying this…