Published by Kerry on 07 Oct 2009 at 04:15 am
Jennifer Ruwart, Global Program Director of WorldPulse, recently sat down with us to talk about her new program Voices of our Future. Together with the Press Institute, the OpEd Project, and the Empowerment Institute, Jennifer is creating a network of 30 emerging leaders who will harness the power of web 2.0 to broadcast social change news from the frontlines of some of the most forgotten communities in the world.
World Pulse began with the vision of Jensine Larsen, then a journalist in Burma and the Amazon, who noticed that many important stories never received global attention. World Pulse, the online media organization she founded, aims to change all that by engaging women writers to share their stories via a print magazine, bimonthly e-magazine, and PulseWire, the community newswire service. Women from over 140 countries follow PulseWire, where women can speak for themselves to the world and collaborate to solve global problems. As Jennifer notes, “We have an editorial cycle of empowerment where women come onto PulseWire, connect, collaborate, and tell their stories in their own words. As their breaking stories rise to the top, other women’s stories provide context to these current news events, which you’re just not seeing anywhere else.”
The problem for World Pulse is, as Jennifer explains, “Many women that we’re targeting are just coming online for the first time. They don’t have regular access to the internet, they don’t know the basics of journalism, and then need a peer-support network to be comfortable sharing their stories with other people.” Whereas previously PulseWire had relied purely on submissions, World Pulse wanted a grassroots network of women correspondents breaking stories from underheard regions of the world. Jennifer saw this as an opportunity to teach women in the Global South about about web 2.0 and journalism, and these ideas merged to culminate in their newest project, Voices of our Future.
The project is centered around citizen journalism, rapid-response reporting, and op-ed writing, and trains women to report on the issues in their often tumultuous countries. World Pulse, in conjunction with partners, is now actively mentoring and supporting 30 women correspondents in 21 countries, from Mexico to Kenya, from Palestine to the Philippines. Jennifer shared with us the process by which they selected and nurtured the new network:
- Open Application – 500 women entered, in a four-week long series of writing assignments, and praised the process as an enjoyable task, rather than an arduous application.
- Selection Process – Ultimately, 30 were chosen based an on aggregate score, and in the later stages, voting by judges. According to Jennifer, the selection criteria ultimately “focused not on grammar or punctuation but poise, clarity [of] voice [and] accessibility to an external public.”
- Mentoring, Training, and Stipends – Each correspondent receives writing assignments and support for the duration of the six-month program (including post-training). World Pulse has partnered with the Empowerment Institute to provide a mentor for each, who supports and nurtures them through the technical, financial, political, and emotional challenges. The Institute also recruited, oriented and coordinated ongoing support calls for the mentors. In addition, correspondents received online “editorial midwives,” through The Press Institute: professional journalists and editors who would guide them through the nuts and bolts of ethical journalism and the process of reporting in general. The Press Institute and the Op Ed Project generously donated their curricula for the first year of Voices of our Future, continue to participate in monthly question/answer conference calls, and provide ongoing journalism-specific support for correspondents. The Busemeyer Foundation provided need-based technical stipends for internet access.
- Award – The Empowerment Institute is awarding a full-time scholarship for their certification program next year, allowing one correspondent to come to the US two times in 2010 for more training and exposure.
Jennifer also shared a few of the challenges they’ve faced developing the program. One has been language barriers: one correspondent who spoke no English had to drop out. A second is Internet access, and another correspondent was unable to participate until World Pulse provided home access. Others have faced delays due to political and social upheavals.
Jennifer notes that the program has tried to strike a balance between maintaining commitment, producing a high-quality product, and being flexible and patient with the needs of the women, many of whom face oppressive government regimes and other delay-causing situations out of their hands.
Voices of our Future has already provided some great results despite being only partway through. Here are a couple of highlights so far:
- Halima, a Sudanese woman living in Saudi Arabia, was Skyping with Lubna Hussein (a Sudanese journalist sentenced to flogging for wearing pants) the day she was arrested. She courageously chose to publish the story. PulseWire was one of the first news wires to break the story, which later showed up in the Huffington Post and on the front page of the New York Times.
- Gertrude in Zimbabwe shared the best practice of women opening up a day center for AIDS orphans. This was picked up by Women’s News Network: the first of the program’s writings to be picked up by an external organization and re-broadcast to an even larger audience. She also met a woman she had not had social access to before. When she said she was doing a story for PulseWire, they connected and have now formed a task force for sexual violence against women.
- Gifty Pearl, from Ghana, met her mentor Cathy, who traveled to the country for work. Gifty Pearl so impressed her mentor’s colleagues through her intellect and her passion that she is now in contract talks for a project in Ghana.
The sheer volume of resource donation and the rapid success of the program have been profound. “I’ve never seen something develop so effortlessly and so fast, and with such a high impact,” Jennifer says. “I just think that we are filling a need, and people are responding to that need.”
This project was made possible by The Starry Night Fund of the Tides Foundation and the Beyond Our Borders Fund of the Colorado Foundation for Women.
|If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.|
2 Responses to “World Pulse: Training women from the Global South for Web 2.0”
Leave a Reply