e-Mediat: Putting Civil Society 2.0 into Practice

e-Mediat team photo (clockwise from top-left): Chris Blow and Ed Bice from Meedan, Heather Murphy and Heather Ramsey from IIE, a representative of TechSoup, Jessica Dheere and Mohamad Najem of Social Media Exchange (SMEX) Beirut, Beth Kanter, Shradha Balakrishnan of IIE, me, Kit Bartels of Middle East Partnership Initiative, Andrea Burton of Meedan. (photo: Beth Kanter)

In November of 2009, Secretary of State Clinton announced her “Civil Society 2.0” strategy which aims to “help grassroots organizations around the world use digital technology.”   A corollary of the more controversial Internet Freedom agenda, Civil Society 2.0 aims to use digital technology in a way even Internet Freedom cynics like Evgeny Morozov might support – as a tool for strengthening civil society by identifying existing institutions that are already stakeholder group for political accountability and provide a digital skill set to strengthen it.

But how do you operationalize this strategy?  The Department of State, through the Middle East Partnership Initiative, has provided approximately $5 million in funding to a small number of projects to provide this training.  I am a consultant one of the largest, a project by the Institute for International Education to provide training to over 100 grassroots organizations in Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon, and Morocco.

Along with nonprofit tech guru Beth Kanter and Jessica Dheere and Mohamad Najem of Social Media Exchange Beirut (SMEX), I’ll be training a group of local trainers from these countries, who in turn will be responsible for training NGOs in their own countries.   We know that in order to create stability be need to link these NGOs with local resources, so in addition to developing a cohort of local trainers, we’ll also be working to develop outreach strategy that connect local techies to the NGOs in their own countries.

We are starting this project at an interesting time.  During the course of our meetings we learned about – and eagerly tracked – action on the ground in Tunisia.   e-Mediat is working in the context of a rich environment of regional activists, digital and traditional.  We seek to find a niche where we can do some good.

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