Donors for Scholarship Fund

Currently, some friends and myself are developing our own organization. It is a scholarship fund and our target is African American males who are matriculating from high school to college. The tradition of communication this would fall under would definitely be empowerment. Often times, it is difficult for African American families to send their child to school because they don’t have the funding. Our goal is to assist with that journey. Our aim is to promote the growth of young African American males through mentorship, academic support, and service learning and to empower our future leaders.

Under the Waisbord’s “family tree” of development perspectives, social marketing will best fit the theme of my organization. Market segmentation is very important with the social marketing strategy and our target audience is very specific so it will be easy to expand. The idea of having a scholarship fund for young black males is socially relevant, considering the great amount of media, political, and social attention that is directed to the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to Waisbord, the exchange model is embedded within the social marketing development communication strategy. Our hope is for voluntary exchanges through donors for the scholarship fund. The main development need for the project is donors. In order to raise money and gain donors for the fund, candidates for the scholarship could compete in an oratorical contest. This way, they could showcase their talent and donors would get an opportunity to see the very important cause their money is going to.

The concept here is to network and bring possible donors together for the fund and to showcase the purpose of what the scholarship is about. Since it is still in its start-up stage, it will also raise awareness of the scholarship. This will be done through our social media Facebook, Twitter, and our webpage. We will also team up with other notable NGO’s in the area related to education to get the word out about our scholarship fund.

Our hope for the future is to create an exchange program where we can send students overseas during the summer to gain cross-cultural experiences through foreign language or STEM programs.

 

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Communicate, Unite and Expand

There has been a growing attention placed on communication and technology placed on developing telecommunication and internet capabilities on the continent of Africa. The continent has the fastest growing rate of mobile subscriptions and sales. I would like to concentrate development efforts to three Southern African countries (members of the South African Development Community or SADC) to access information and communication technologies. SADC was originally formed in 1980 and reorganized in 1992 under its current name. Its goals are to increase economic development and investment into member countries. Infrastructure is one of their highlighted themes to build up their economies. The need for low cost ICT and telecommunications technologies in rural and underprivileged urban cities is a key issue of theirs. I would like to work with the government and private companies to increase the number of mobile phones with active subscriptions, number of Internet hosts (computers connected directly to the internet) and international internet bandwidth (bits per person), which would focus on speed and reliability of the connection.

I selected number of mobile phones with active subscription because I believe that it characterizes the ability for people to stay connected and receive information locally and possibly internationally if they have an adequate calling card. I did not choose to use landlines as a variable because infrastructure is very poor in some villages but many people can still use a cell phone. Even with the most basic phone, public health workers and governments have used mass text technologies to send out messages to their citizens. Even without smartphone capabilities, people are still able to receive information from out of network sources. Number of Internet hosts measures how many computers are connected to the Internet. This measure shows access to possible global information. It does not measure efficiency or use though, therefore I have chosen Internet bandwidth as a target to depict use of the Internet.

 

Sources:

http://www.sadc.int/themes/infrastructure/ict-telecommunications/

Livingston, S. (2011). The CNN effect reconsidered (again): problematizing ICT and global governance in the CNN effect research agenda . Media, War & Conflic , 4 (20), 20-36.

 

Facebook’s Free Basics: An improved version

The issue to be addressed: The digital divide in India
Actor: Facebook (or similar company), NGOs, Governments, local leaders

The issue I’m going to address here is one that I’ve already talked about in my paper. However, in light of more research and class discussions on communication for development, I believe there are lots of improvements that can be made to the internet.org initiative that Facebook has launched. I’m going to briefly outline the plan that I believe will be able to help bridge the digital divide.

Approximately half of the world does not have access to something that the rest of the world has taken for granted. This seems inherently wrong. While nothing but time can equalize this access, we have a way to temporarily bridge the gap until more permanent solutions are found. Offer some of the internet for free to those that have access to none of it. Along with this access (which Facebook is currently offering in the form of the Free Basics app), NGOs work on the grassroots level to promote media literacy. However, before full-scale operations take place, local leaders (village panchayat or government) are consulted and educated about the internet and its benefits. Convincing them will make it easier for this plan to be adopted by other people. It is also important to make sure that the Free Basics app contains the portion of the internet that would most benefit each particular region in which it is offered.

Village panchayat heads are influential leaders in rural India with a large amount of power to shape opinions. Before the courts, all disputes and governance issues were solved by the Panchayats and some of them still retain that power. This, in part, is the reason for India’s three-tiered system of governance (Central, State and Vilage) and it must be taken advantage of using Katz and Lazarsfeld’s two-step flow of communication theory.

One of the biggest drawbacks of Zuckerberg’s plan for free internet is the lack of instruction manual for people who have no experience with it. This is why the media literacy program is especially important.

However I believe this plan is just a tiny step towards bridging the divide. It is meant to simply act as a way for people to discover how the internet could help and this, hopefully, will lead to a more sustainable solution.

Strategic Narratives and the Public

Extra credit Question:  Are “strategic narratives” something everyday publics can control or shape? Do publics, in a sense, “matter” more to the idea that strategic narratives get international actors to change their behavior or “see the world” differently? Why? 

After I wrote my blog last week, I came across a post from Vox about  the “Not in my name” campaign that challenged my thinking about what I wrote last week. It made me want to clarify some things with regard to strategic narratives and I’m glad this gives me the opportunity to do just that.

I had written that the message needs to come from other Muslims or else it won’t be credible. I had written this thinking that other faiths would be considered “infidels” and not versed in scripture and thus not credible.

I still think this is true. However, upon reading a few other articles and reading this proposed blog post question, I think this is a topic worthy of clarification.

Some have said that Muslims should ALL be speaking out because they as a whole could help the strategic narrative and as this question poses “get international actors to change their behavior or see the world differently.” However, is expecting someone to denounce something because of their faith inherently bigoted? I think it is if we are talking about blanket expectations based on religion or ethnicity.

In an article, Vox news highlighted a conversation between Chuck Todd and the author of the book “Who Speaks for Islam,” Dalia Mogahed, about the issue of anti-Islamic sentiment in the U.S as well as the expectation that Muslim leaders speak out after terrorist events.

Her interview is worth watching because she has some interesting points about how anti-Islamic sentiment aligns with the presidential elections and lead-up to the Iraq war. But she also, rightfully so, says that no one would expect any other ethnicity to denounce something that is inherently abhorrent to human beings. It would just be understood that it is horrendous to all people.

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/21/9774766/muslims-condemn-terrorism

Still, I do think credible voices can have a positive influence when their voices are amplified.

Dovetailing on that logic, British teen Kash Ali saw his tweet go viral when he wrote:

“I don’t understand why non muslims think we British Muslims can stop isis. Mate I can’t even get a text back from a girl I like and you expect me to stop a terrorist organization. Ffs.”

His tweet was retweeted by members of parliament, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.

It’s a hilarious tweet. However, I also think it demonstrates both sides of the coin. On one hand, I do think it helped shed light on the subtle bigotry of expecting Muslims to fight the ideology of what most reasonable people would call a cult. On the flip side, his tweet also shows how social media in the hands of the public can work to reverse a flawed strategic narrative. So in conclusion, I think both are possibilities. Again, I think a lot depends on the receptiveness of the receiving parties.

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/21/9770948/muslims-condemn-isis-reaction

Strategic Narratives: From DARE to Try Again

Is there a way to use a “strategic narrative” to combat violent extremism? If so, how do you think this might work in practice?

Strategic narratives are stories used to change an outcome. Its power relies on the belief that human pathos, ethos and logos can connect to a story of shared value or premonition of things to come. The first strategic narratives I can remember growing up was in DARE classes that included “case studies” of kids that did drugs and ended up with horrible consequences. These narratives that the program provided were meant to educate and sway kids from using drugs and alcohol at an early age. Still, many teenagers alike get peer pressured into trying some type of drug before they leave high school and memories of DARE classes become running jokes. I use this example to highlight that even on my most impressionable minds at an early age, before a “first interaction”, there are outside forces that work stronger than some strategic narratives can deliver.

DARE-America-Logo

Britain and the US have sought to use strategic narratives to combat violence extremism, through shared stories and aggressive social media campaigns to cartoons and TV shows. On March 16th the US military dropped 60,000 pieces of paper out the sky with a cartoon rendering of what happens to people with they join ISIS. The international community views tactics like these as inadequate and silly.

5955eab5-c7d7-4ff8-84a0-f9730afd7b2c-620x372

The State Department’s Eid al-Fitr Celebration this year was themed “ The importance of Story Telling: Highlighting the Voices of Muslim Woman”. They had the bright idea to show a US propaganda, cartoon which depicts a Middle Eastern woman (without hijab) fighting off terrorists. Needless to say, the room filled with dignitaries from the Muslim community and MENA state officials did not clap. This tactic to combat violet extremism by targeting the youth appeared miscalculated and offensive.

It is quite difficult for a government to use a strategic narrative to combat violent extremism in practice. For one they lack the ethos. The US and other western countries are seen as the enemy and non-credible beacons of authority. They lack logos and ethos. ISIS connects to its supporters through an ideological and emotional frame. The US’s war on terror or their social media tactics are not successful with garnering enough emotional appeal to combat those interested in joining ISIS.

The War on Terror as a strategic narrative played on the fears of the autonomy and safety of US citizens. The campaign was able to garner great support with the American people and Congress. The US knew their target audience and was a credible source to the American people. It falls down to any communication challenge: who is the audience, is your target audience actually accessing the information, is the person delivering the content a credible source? The US and other nations will need to think more strategically to combat the daesh complex, skillfully crafted ideology.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/27/us-airdrops-anti-isis-cartoon-propaganda-raqqa-syria

https://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/07/31/power-storytelling-highlighting-voices-muslim-women

https://twitter.com/UKAgainstISIL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

A War of Narratives

“The United States is engaged in a war of ideas – and it’s losing.”

This is the opening line of J.M. Berger’s recent piece in for The Atlantic, one that looks at the narratives coming from both sides, and how and why America is perceived to be losing. Berger does not necessarily agree with the above statement; instead he uses it as a point of exploration for investigating how ISIS’s narrative has been constructed, and how it can best be torn apart.

Berger points out, “The myth that America’s narrative is losing to ISIS’s persists despite the fact that millions of people are fleeing ISIS territories, while mere thousands have traveled to join the group. It persists despite the fact that the Islamic State’s ideological sympathizers make up less than 1 percent of the world’s population,even using the most hysterically alarmist estimates, and the fact that active, voluntary participants in its caliphate project certainly make up less than a tenth of a percent.”

Regardless of widespread condemnation of ISIS’s actions, and vigilant counter-propaganda being produced, ISIS’s strategic narrative has proven to be stronger, more comprehensive, and ultimately more successful in many ways than those meant to counter it.

One narrative that ISIS has built is one of fear. The terrorist attacks that occur with more and more regularity are meant to incite just that – terror. Through these attacks the group has also built a narrative of strength – it would not succeed in continuing to gain recruits if the group was perceived as weak. ISIS as a force has promoted and ridden on these narratives through widespread use of social media, a phenomenon that Berg points out could only happen in this type of highly networked world. Producing propaganda videos and utilizing Twitter and Facebook are two ways that the group has succeeded in disseminating their message to a huge audience.

Despite the fact that social media sites continually try to block members of the group from posting, multiple second-hand videos of beheadings, re-posted by other (not necessarily extremist) users, each have over 1 million views. By contrast, the US State Department produced counter-propaganda video Welcome to the “Islamic State” Land (part of the Think Again Turn Away campaign), posted on the Department of State’s official YouTube channel, has only around 880,000 views. It cannot be denied that ISIS’s propaganda has had a hugely wide reach, regardless of what percentage of viewers agree with their ideas.

Part of this is shock value. As Simon Cottee writes for Defense One, “ISIS has beheading videos. The CSCC doesn’t. Beheading videos are shocking and repugnant. But they are also weirdly fascinating – and they go viral for this reason.”

Here, he hits on another key point – ISIS is succeeding through shock and fear, not through the strength of their ideas. In what has been presented as a “war of ideas” or an “ideological war,” ISIS’s actual ideas are the weakest part of the group’s narrative.

Berger claims, “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.”

One way to successfully build a strategic counter-narrative is to capitalize on this weakness. This is being done by campaigns such as #notmyname, which disseminates a powerful anti-ISIS message from Muslims themselves, invalidating ISIS’s ideological message and incorrect interpretations of Islam.

By and large, however, this has not been the approach up until this point. Rather than attempting to disrupt ISIS’s process, the US has focused on diminishing the appeal of terrorism. The Think Again Turn Away video is one example of this, aimed at those believed to be at risk for joining ISIS by somewhat sarcastically highlighting the true atrocities taking place. In his article Berger quotes Will McCants in The ISIS Apocalypse: “Reducing the mass appeal of ISIS is pointless, given that it doesn’t have mass appeal.” The audience that ISIS targets for recruitment is miniscule compared to those who rally against the group.

Terrorism does not have mass appeal. It appeals to a small minority of (admittedly dangerous and concerning) people. Perhaps then, instead of focusing our narrative on these minorities, a better strategic narrative would be to rally together global communities against ISIS (such as the Islamic community in various nations around the world), showing unity despite cultural differences, and exhibiting strength in a non-violent way through the force of rational ideas.

#notinmyname

Is there a way to use a “strategic narrative” to combat violent extremism? If so, how do you think this might work in practice?

After the Paris attacks on Friday, a friend of mine who is Muslim posted a picture with this quote from the Quran: “Whoever kills an innocent person it is as if he has killed all of humanity.”

She posted it along with a message of peace and a plea not to judge all Muslims by the extremists in Daesh.

I thought of this as I heard Farah Pandith speak on Face the Nation Sunday morning. Pandith was the first ever special representative to Muslim communities with the U.S. State Department. She now is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.  She had some very smart takes on the challenge facing the West with Daesh’s recruitment of soldiers.

For one, she says, we had to accept Daesh has a strategic narrative:

“By demonstrating military power (taking over territories) and psychological power (stoking fear and recruiting youth) they have developed a narrative of success. This narrative is critical to them. They can’t win over new recruits if they are perceived as weak. Thus, their momentum must be broken in both the military and ideological war.”

Pandith also makes a very good point that the best way to counter violent extremism is by amplifying the credible voices that counter it. She points out it is possible to create a new narrative, however, she suggests we need to treat the response in the same scale that we would consider a military response.

“Since the September 11 attacks, the military response to terrorist organizations has been vital, as well as the ability to shut down their financing. But, we cannot win the war against extremists without a “soft power” strategy. Their armies can’t be built without recruits,” Pandith said.

Pandith suggests that governments don’t have credibility in this arena. She suggests governments should give support to organizations who have a credible voice but don’t have the avenues to amplify that voice.

For instance, last year, a small group of Muslims living in London made a powerful anti-Daesh video. Using the hashtag #notinmyname, they started a campaign to counter the messages from Islamic extremists on social media.

There is an opportunity for a credible strategic narrative of peace, but that message has to come from other Muslims or else the narrative and the message will not be received.

In addition, there also needs to be a strategic narrative countering the narrative of fear and power promoted by the heinous acts committed by Daesh. That can be done by, as one opinion column in the Boston Globe suggests, using the term Daesh instead of ISIS since ISIS suggests that Daesh is a legitimate nation-state. In a small way, the pictures of buildings lit with the French flag are countering that narrative. However, there could be a more organized “anti-fear” narrative. I’m just not exactly sure what that would look like without looking militaristic. Perhaps others have better ideas?

Sources:

http://www.cfr.org/europe/countering-extremism-after-paris-attacks/p37250

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/full-foreign-affairs-panel-november-15/

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/10/09/words-matter-isis-war-use-daesh/V85GYEuasEEJgrUun0dMUP/story.html?event=event25