Finally, finally, finally. I brought my notepad home with all the juicy info from an event I went to a couple of weeks ago: “Media as a Global Diplomat II: New Findings on the Science of Media and Conflict”. It was organized by the US Institute of Peace, and boy, was it a blockbuster event! Great and inspiring people like Al-Jazeerah’s Riz Khan (formerly of the BBC) and Jordan’s Queen Noor were present, as were a whole bunch of amazing individuals. I really enjoyed the event cos I’m all about policy and media, and at one point in my life I figured I’d be a psychologist (until I had to take psych 100 at 8am and chickened out.)
One of the panelists presented an amazing project he’s running to try to help resolve the Gaza Conflict. It’s called Gaza Sderot -“Life in spite of everything” and basically what they do is put 2 new videos on the website everyday, showing life in Israel’s city Gaza and Palestine’s Sderot. The point of it all, to show that the people aren’t as different as they’ve been led to believe. Another great aspect of it is that its translated in many different languages including Hebrew and Arabic so the inhabitants of these two cities and countries can understand it. Check out the Gaza Sderot Project!
Some other things that were highlighted:
>The fact that even though the new social media is phenomenal, innovative and life-changing, many of the communities in the developing world – that really need these tools- don’t have access to them. [That’s definitely true, and I think its for this reason that the cell phone revolution is regarded as extremely amazing in many circles. I got the chance to speak to an Iraqi social innovator at a George Mason event and what he did was set up a text-message recruiting system whereby people (especially women who had to stay at home) who were job-searching could text in to the company and provide their details. The company would then look into their database of prospective employers and match them up. Helped save money (travelling to cities in search of jobs), time and energy. Talk about innovation!)
> The quality of journalism today and publishing heresay rather than fact. [Apparently there’s less and less education and training for journalists, and this affects the quality of reporting and management in the broadcasting sector. Riz Khan stressed how important being a journalist is since your words can actually determine history. He gave the example of a journalist writing “eject” instead of “elect” during an important election in a volatile region. By using eject, the title of the article gave the impression that there was a coup…you can imagine the mayhem!]
I find it quite interesting that the world is going back to the ancient tradition of storytelling, albeit in a more technologically advanced manner.At the end of the day, everyone has a story to tell. So go ahead a tell yours. Whether its through music, poetry, articles, comments on blogs, whatever. Nobody’s gonna secure your place in this world unless you do it for yourself and the timing has never been better! To listen to the entire USIP event, go here. Happy storytelling people, and leme know what you think about the research findings!
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.