The Role of New Media & Pop Culture for Youth Engagement & Mobilization

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The Sixth Assembly
Youth Engagement & Empowerment

The Role of New Media & Pop Culture for Youth Engagement & Mobilization

Organizers:
 
Moderator:
Rose Nyawira – Pamoja Trust (Kenya)
 
Rapporteur:
Ivan Stojanovic – Youth Initiative for Human Rights (Serbia)
 
Presenters:
Aissa Penafil – Democracy Video Challenge Winner (The Philippines)
Tsering Choden – Y! Magazine and Democracy Video Challenge Winner (Nepal)
Darko Brkan – Dosta! Movement (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

The workshop began with several presentations. Darko Brkan presented experiences from the Dosta! Movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He began with a story about the founding of the Movement, which grew from an Internet forum group to a very significant social movement in the country. The Movement uses Internet activities to recruit people, street actions to engage new people, and new media for outreach (7,000 people gathered on the street in one of their actions). They also use personal contacts with artists, primarily musicians, to reach a greater number of people. Mr. Brkan said that the Movement was a pioneer in SMS activism in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In their first action, the Movement gathered more than 2,500 people for protests in the streets. He then presented two videos that demonstrated cooperation between the Movement and musicians, who became famous because of their engagement in the Movement’s pre-election campaign. One of the videos of a song integrated problematic statements of politicians, thus sending a clear message to citizens that they should not put up with corruption.
 
The second presenter, Tsering Choden from Nepal, shared her experiences as a radio reporter in a live dialogue program. After a few months of airing the show, she realized that a very small number of people were listening to the program, so she decided that broadcasting alternative music within the program would attract more listeners. The new program was promoted through online chat rooms, and, in fact, the number of listeners began to grow rapidly. Ms. Choden drew the lesson that it is crucial to listen to the needs and interests of a target group, in this case young people, and attract them with content that matches their interests.
 
Following her radio experiences, Ms. Choden joined a print media organization, which required a completely new approach. However, a common feature of these different media is that they all require the promotion and use of new technologies. Still, even then there are challenges; one particular issue is that when using the Internet as a promotional tool it is difficult to reach people living in rural areas. She realized the potential for reaching people through new media when she took part in the U.S. State Department’s Democracy Video Challenge. The film she created for the contest received over 100,000 hits on YouTube.
 
Aissa Penafiel, a presenter from The Philippines, also participated in the Democracy Video Challenge competition. She described her experience as an independent filmmaker who was not connected to any activist groups or movements. She found out about the contest on the Internet and won the prize. In her presentation, she noted that the Internet provided an easy forum for individuals to express themselves and reach out to the world. She also used the Internet to promote her film, and consequently won a grant for another film project. She pointed out that it is very important that new media bring sustainability to one’s creations, thus making it available for discussions and perpetual availability.
 
Challenges
 
  • How can those dedicated to both activism and creative work find a sustainable way to cover their living expenses? How can they assure potential donors that what they are doing is important?
  • While there may be millions of Facebook users supporting certain causes, there oftenis nothing happening at the grassroots. How can we bring these online activities “to the streets”?
  • How can we engage ordinary people in activities by using new media as an outreach and mobilizing tool? One suggested strategy is to include ordinary people in Internet-based polling and voting to give them a sense of ownership and opportunities to make political statements.
The documentary film about the Youth Initiative for Human Right’s GOTV campaign provided answers to some questions, such as how to organize a large campaign with a small amount of money, how to transfer messages to the streets, and how to use street activities to engage people in causes and campaigns.
 
Recommendations
 
  • Use social networks as mobilization tools and new media as outreach tools.
  • You can use a small amount of money to accomplish your objectives if you skip the intermediary (i.e., the general media) and produce content for distribution through new media and social networks.
  • Don’t forget to include the rural population in your activities by using more conventional media, such as radio.
  • It is important to encourage artists to get involved in activism and make the cause popular. So interesting artistic content for new media and social networks should be produced.
  • It is important to use new media, not so much to change people’s minds, but to mobilize them to take part in causes, activities, and campaigns.

At the conclusion of the workshop, Ivan Stojanovic presented his organization’s plan to develop a Web portal to allow individuals, organizations, and networks to exchange experiences and ideas, present themselves and their causes, raise funds, publish news and announcements, find relevant information for building their skills, and improve and promote cooperation on a global level. He invited World Movement for Democracy participants to use this new Web portal.