Across the world today, citizens are active participants both as members of the audience, news makers and reporters. People are contributing to the story of change as technology lowers barriers to participation, making it possible for many more to participate. Local changemakers share media coverage, which in turn has the potential to affect how foreign policy and global affairs are conceived.
These changemakers are bringing to light issues and stories that are frequently neglected by traditional media companies still playing by the old rules of hierarchy, lack of transparency, a focus on transaction, and the ‘authoritative’ voice. On the other hand, there is a crop of innovators whose primary focus is on the collective. This shift away from the individual mindset to one of solidarity and empathy is a critical approach toward more solutions in all sectors. The innovators of those solutions, social entrepreneurs, therefore see opportunities and don’t simply adapt to change, but lead it.
This June 21- 24, several Ashoka Fellows came together at the DW Global Media Forum to discuss how they are providing powerful solutions that leverage media and technology to address challenges within in a world defined by change. These leading social entrepreneurs have developed media and technology solutions that are for the good of all.
1. Addressing government censorship and countering the “Global North” narrative — In Senegal, Tidiane Hamadou is addressing the issue of government censorship, and challenging the Global North’s narrative on the Global South by making way for African voices in the conversation through Ouestaf News. When independent journalism began to emerge as an opposition-led press, journalists were not always adequately trained and many were exposed to a host of pressures from political and business interests—a situation that still exists. Tidiane has founded a region wide online news outlet—Ouestafnews—in which a corps of independent, investigative journalists report on the stories they care about without being subject to outside pressure. Tidiane hopes to show the world that this approach to news is both sustainable and accomplishable by a new generation of journalists.
2. Strengthening media in post-communist Eastern European countries — In Eastern Europe and Eurasia Jeremy Drucker is strengthening the professionalism, independence, and impact of the news media in post-communist countries. Beyond publishing and training programs, TOL (Transitions) targets “media multipliers,” who are already making an impact through their work or with the potential to do so. Jeremy is also the founder of PressStart.org, a new crowdfunding site that works to raise funds for independent reporters in countries where freedom of the media is severely limited. Jeremy is working to ensure that amongst the content that citizens consume will be professional, long form investigative journalism, that is currently expensive and often impossible to produce in countries with limited freedom of the press.
3. Improving corporate transparency and accountability — In Latin America, Ben Cokelet founded PODER (Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research) to improve corporate transparency and accountability. Ben’s organization acts as a corporate watchdog, leveraging business intelligence, transparency technology, and grassroots organizing to build a citizen-led corporate accountability movement. He then trains civil society organizations to become community guarantors of corporate transparency.
These changemakers are leading the design and deployment of disruptive and collaborative communications architecture, in which many more can contribute to free and open communication in a world defined by change.