Iraqi bloggers for social change
IMS, by Mia Beyer, freelance consultant
More than two years after the Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM) was officially established, the young bloggers continue to fight for social change, freedom of speech and for people’s rights despite the increasing levels of violence facing outspoken writers and media workers in Iraq.
The Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), uniquely consisting of bloggers from both Iraqi Kurdistan and southern Iraq, write and debate about society and politics, often touching upon issues which are not kindly looked upon by government or religious power holders. But as Nawres Alshabani, a 29 years old female blogger from Aldiwanyah, Southern Iraq says:
“I blog because I want to be the voice for those who do not have one.”
Empowerment through organisation, identity and direction
In early November, 17 INSM members took part in a three-day workshop held in Sulemaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan at the Hawlati Newspaper’s 200 square meter workspace bathed in sunlight through the glass walls. Hawlati was the first independent newspaper in Iraqi Kurdistan, and its dedication to produce objective news filled the room with positive energy and engagement.
The aim of the workshop was to empower the Network by looking at ways to strengthen the organisational structure, identity and direction. Setting up and developing formal structures around networks and associations remains new to most parts of Iraq where there is no tradition as such for civil society organisations. When the Network elected its own Board in February 2012, this marked a major step in the development of the Network.
Methods and approach in organisational training
The workshop was developed by trainers Mia Beyer and Sine Johs who have expertise in the area of education, youth and active citizenship and IMS. The trainers employed the Marshall Ganz organising model which challenged the members of the network to take responsibility to act. Empowerment begins with accepting responsibility and having the possibility to show commitment. diagram
The model focuses on three types of stories: The story of self, the story us, and the story of how to build strong organising skills. The approach was participatory and the method was active learning. The trainers provided exercises and guidance on the learning process and the participants provided the knowledge, ideas and decision-making.
Deciding upon a common vision and mission for the Network was not an easy task. This was also reflected in the workshop. The group of bloggers found it very challenging and many highlighted a wish for more specific training on decision-making processes in the future.
Sense of shared understanding
At the end of the workshop there was a clear sense of shared understanding of what it meant to be a part of the Network, what changes the bloggers wanted to make through their work in the Network, and what direction they wanted the Network to move in. Importantly, the participants seemed to feel empowered as a team. Hayder Hamzoz, the coordinator of the Network, felt he saw clear signs of motivation and ownership amongst the participants.
A tangible result of the workshop will be INSM’s Code of Conduct. The workshop also contributed to bringing the bloggers closer together and cementing the benefits of fighting for change together – and not as isolated units in different parts of the conflict-ridden country.
Check out some of the bloggers here (in Iraqi):
Mustafa Saad at: www.beiq.blogspot.com
Nawres Alshabani at: Nawrespress.com/candleoftruth
Mohammed Kirkuk at: mohmedkirkuk.blogspot.com
Upcoming educational initiatives
In 2014,plans are being made to bring together young Iraqi bloggers and Danish and Swedish students to exchange views, communications skills and make web video productions. This training will be carried out by IMS, trainer Mia Beyer and Jyderup Folk Highschool (jyderuphøjskole.dk/iraq-video-battle). Read about it below.
IRAQ VIDEO BATTLE
Video production, civic journalism, a folk high school and a journey to Iraq to visit Iraqi bloggers
Battle with Iraqi bloggers. The media we will use is video. The subjects are many. You will learn how to make web video productions from scratch to finished online products placed on social media. We will focus on civic journalism, working with International Media Support, a media development organisation to connect Nordic youths with Iraqi youths to further social change through social media.
The course will start on 30 March 2014 (10 weeks at Jyderup Folk High School plus two weeks in Iraq)