I believe its time I write about the Blogging Outreach Project I had designed and now look forward to take further.

Outreach means to reach out to a section of people with something which originally wasn’t there domain. By that definition this project should not be called ‘Outreach’ project because, blogging is everybody’s domain.

The project is an initiative to reach out to the less privileged, socially, economically, culturally and so on, and introduce them to the concept of ‘blogging’ an amazing new media tool currently used by handful people belonging to urban middle or upper class, but actually meant to be used by the most ordinary.

This has been for long in my mind. Such an amazing thing blogging and people hardly know about it. For example, traditionally, NGOs reach out to their beneficiaries, funders, supporters etc mostly via email groups or by putting up press releases on their website. Maintaining a website is not possible for smaller website and they also cannot update it frequently. Such NGOs can achieve better networking by using blogging and other social networking tools.

Then there are students, young professionals who have an easy access to internet, they spend a considerable amount of time on the internet emailing, using social networks like Orkut or Facebook, but that’s about it. It occurred to me that they sure would take up blogging once they know about it.

By way of blogging they can reach out to the largest global commune, the internet, in real time by just a push of a button without requiring fancy equipments or technical expertise and incurring almost no cost. The information delivered is first hand and untainted. So, the life and time and voice of a prostitute or an HIV+ person or a farmer or a destitute child can reach to the whole world whenever they feel like reaching out, even if they themselves are not blogging, but if a bunch of enthusiastic bloggers having the time and resource to blog and therefore does blog on their behalf.

While the thought was always on mind the project was actually designed when I heard about the Global Voices Online Summit 2006. It was encouraging to see that they were also trying to answer the same questions that I had in my mind. Over the past couple of weeks friend Swagat who is a film maker and a great champion of new media, one of his students Kamakhya, a budding documentary film maker, and I worked towards the first outreach workshop which was successfully conducted with a group of students on 10th December 2006.

Blogging outreach can be done with anybody and everybody from students, to civil society members, young professionals, faculty members at the college and university level, retired personnel and so on. However the first workshop being a pilot workshop we had focused on students and civil society members.

As a first step of this project an interview sheet was prepared to assess the Student’s accessibility and understandability of internet and secondly, their inclination to pick up blogging and do it for a cause. The interview sheet was also supposed to work as a filter to form a focus group of students who would really want to know more about blogging. However the responses to the interview was quite encouraging and we pretty much called all who responded to the workshop.

There were 10 students from 3 different educational background and Broadcast Journalism, Mass communication and Social Work.

The workshop was conducted in a Reliance Web World where all the students had access to a PC with internet. The content of the workshop had 3 major parts.

  1. Blogging: What is it all about? Why it is the most talked about new media in today’s date. (Session taken by me)
  2. How to Start a Blog of Your own (Session taken by me, Tutorial was given on Blogger.com being one of the most simplest blogging platform)
  3. How can you integrate blogging with other social networking tools. (Session taken by Swagat)

At the end of the workshop the students were given the task of creating one collaborative blog where they promised they’d blog about their experiences from various field activities. We intend to have one collaborative blog from each of these workshops which would help us follow up with the participants as to how are they utilising the learning and if they are disseminating or not.

The first workshop was just a pilot project. I intend to conduct a series of such workshop and want to make it a bigger project involving a considerable amount of funds. We didn’t have any funding or sponsorship for this project, the venue cost was split by Swagat and me, I made food at home in the morning and packed it for everybody and we ate them sitting at a community park in Noida. It was not fancy but it was hugely satisfying.

Here are some of the workshop photographs.


Update 1: I was on BBC

Click here to hear me talking to Gareth and Bill about this project on BBC World Service technology program Digital Planet.

Update 2: Alootechie wrote about the project here.

Update 3:

I was on Indian Express Print version on 27th December talking about the blogging outreach project. Here is a link to the e paper. http://www.indianexpress.com/story/19421.html