Guardians of the Community: Supporting Guardianship Efforts in Asipulo, Ifugao through Mobile Blogging

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Guardians of the Community: Supporting Guardianship Efforts in Asipulo, Ifugao through Mobile Blogging

Philippines
Organization type: 
for profit
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Guardians of the Community harnesses mobile blogging and Twitter to enable citizen reporters in Asipulo, Ifugao to share stories

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The small town of Asipulo, Ifugao Province (Northern Philippines) is more than 300 kilometers from Manila, its mountains forming part of the Cordillera chain. It is home to some 15,000 people as well as a variety of flora and fauna—among these, the civet (“motit” in the Ilocano language or “alamid” in Filipino), a nocturnal animal that feeds on the cherries of shade-grown coffee trees grown organically throughout the mountains. Farmers and community volunteers have banded together to conserve the civets, which are still trapped and killed. There is a need to level up conservation efforts by calling the attention of environmental agencies and concerned organizations, and the general public who may not even be aware of this part of the world. Aside from this, there is a need to monitor development and economic activities to make sure they preserve the community's way of life and do not pose any threats. With the nearest local office of the national broadsheets and radio networks some eight hours away, this community has no voice in mainstream media, and therefore, no participation in the national or global conversation.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We propose an Internet news portal tentatively called Guardians of the Community, focusing on the “guardianship” efforts of community members—especially in terms of environmental concerns, cultural preservation, and community development. Portions of the site will be dedicated to the care and conservation of the civet, and to the Julia Campbell Agroforest Memorial Park, where much of the conservation work is focused. But access to the Internet in Asipulo can be a challenge. Community members living in the central part of the community, near the municipal hall, have electricity—but those living deep in the mountains do not. As such, many are not even computer literate. These conditions could prevent a concerned community member from becoming a citizen reporter. Guardians of the Community will harness mobile phone technology, which is widely used in the Philippines. Community volunteers will send in their stories through their mobile phones. Farmers and students alike have access to mobile phones, and with mobile networks competing for subscribers, there is network coverage across the community. Reports will be in the form of text, audio, photos, and video taken with mobile phones. These reports will be received by the site for editing, after which, the site manager will update the site through the Internet.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Internet has challenged the way traditional journalism works and made it more of a conversation among concerned citizens. Unfortunately, the lack or absence of access to the Internet in a locality such as Asipulo makes participating in this conversation difficult, if not impossible, whether at the local, national, or international level. The proposed solution takes the Internet-based model of citizen journalism (e.g. blogs) and makes it more accessible. For instance, if there is a case of civet poaching or a cultural activity, volunteers can send reports in the form of a story, a photo, or a video, through their mobile phones. These will be sent directly to the site and queued for editing. Once posted on the site, it can be read or viewed, and automatically posted on Twitter as well. If a comment is posted on the site in response to the report, it will automatically be sent via text to the volunteer—who will also have the option to reply. By making stories like this public, government agencies and other organizations concerned can be alerted and can take action as needed. Guardians of the Community takes advantage of the widespread use of mobile phones and the low cost of text messaging to support the guardianship efforts of community-based volunteers.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

As far as we know, this will be the only community-based citizen media site in the Philippines, much less in Northern Philippines, focusing on environmental, cultural, and development concerns.
About You
Organization:
Ideas For Good
About You
First Name

Isabel

Last Name

Templo

Facebook URL

none

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Ideas For Good

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

Less than a year

Innovation
Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Idea (you're poised to launch)

How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

The first “Aha!” moment came in 2007, when my co-worker and I first did volunteer work in Asipulo. We had just finished teaching a group of high school students how to write for and design a newsletter, and they showed interest in putting up a blog to share stories about their community and connect with people in other parts of the country and the world. I realized then that they felt left out of the national discourse and basically wanted to have a voice—to let others know what’s going on in their part of the world.

As a freelance journalist interested in stories of people and places, I have traveled to different places to learn more about the stories of people living there and write about them. But places like Asipulo get very little coverage in mainstream media because of how remote they are. For instance, stories of civets being trapped and killed do not get any attention much less action from the government and conservationists because they never get told in the first place.

When I found out that mobile blogging is offered by blogging platforms such as WordPress and Posterous Spaces, I saw the potential and everything just fell into place.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

Guardians of the Community will empower members of the community—even a student—to tell their stories and participate in the regional, national, and global conversation on issues that are relevant to them, such as development, culture, and the environment. Reporting from the grassroots opens itself up to so many uses and applications. As a citizen journalist, a community volunteer can report how they are affected by climate change, discuss the impact of local and national governance in their lives, or share thoughts about the effect of rising prices on them.

In other words, the community member can report on hyperlocal issues in the context of a bigger story. By calling attention to their situation and to their concerns, the project has the potential to benefit the community as well. They may receive help from the government, from development agencies or other organizations, or from volunteers.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

It is hoped that within five years, Guardians of the Community will have expanded in terms of number of citizen journalists, sections or number of stories published, and audience reached (i.e. site visitors as well as Twitter followers). More importantly, it is hoped that the site will be quoted or otherwise used by mainstream media as a source of news from the region, and will be linked with alternative news sites or blogs.

The idea can certainly be replicated throughout the country, and in fact, that would be most welcome. If this happens, the community-based citizen media sites can form a network throughout the country.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

In six months, the site should have registered at least 15 citizen reporters and 900 unique site visits.

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Set up, develop, and test the site with mobile phone access system and automatic Twitter feed.

Task 2

Form editorial board, conduct training workshops on citizen journalism and the use of the site, and register citizen journalists

Task 3

Link up with government agencies and organizations on Twitter and through email newsletters/updates.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

In 12 months, the site should have registered at least 30 citizen reporters, 1,500 unique site visits, and 100 Twitter followers

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Conduct surveys or focus group discussions among community members on how the site can further support guardianship efforts.

Task 2

Conduct follow-up workshops and register more citizen journalists.

Task 3

Promote the site among alternative news sites and blogs.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

Fewer than 100

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

1001‐10,000

Sustainability
Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Business

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

The project has not been implemented because of lack of funds. Without the funds needed, it is not possible to set up the site and develop the mobile phone access system. At this stage, an immediate solution is to get donors. After a few months of operation, it would be easier to market the site and get advertisers.

A potential problem could be the lack of input (i.e. stories or reports) from members of the community. We anticipate enthusiastic participation in the early stages of the project, especially from the youth. However, this may decrease in light of other duties or commitments in the community, family, or school/job.

This may be overcome through constant encouragement and reinforcement. Regular meetings and training workshops will help them develop much-needed confidence.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

Within 10 years, mobile Internet could be just as accessible and widely used as text messaging. If this happens, the site can feature live streaming multimedia stories—audio or video—direct from the community. These could be live feeds of activities or live interviews.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

The same technology would be useful to campus journalists in the same region, especially in a mountainous province like Ifugao, where it may be geographically difficult to meet regularly. It could also be used by nongovernment and people’s organizations as a tool for advocacy, particularly for advocating or reporting on environmental concerns. Certainly there are many applications and the technology can be used to empower any marginalized group or any community even in remote areas.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

The site will accept advertising from local (i.e. province-based) companies, as well as private organizations and individuals. However, as a news site, it must maintain independence from its advertisers.

Further on, the site can be used to market and promote products from Asipulo such as civet coffee, raw wild honey, and baskets and other handicrafts. We will have awareness-raising activities that will double as fundraising activities, such as paid workshops, which will be tied to the objectives of the site.

Another source of funds would be donations from its readers. Upon donating a certain amount, they will receive goodwill bags containing samples of products from Asipulo. As a last resort, paid subscriptions for access to certain stories will be considered.

Tell us about your partnerships

As community volunteers, my co-worker and I have worked with members of the community. We conducted workshops in 2007 for the youth organization, and in 2008, for the local high school, commissioned by the local government. We plan to continue these partnerships, eventually developing partnerships with other organizations and agencies. Specifically, we would like to work with other members of the community, especially the youth, and foreign volunteers—anyone who shares the same concern for the community’s people, environment, culture, and development.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

The project will require web programmers/developers to set up and maintain the site. Editors, site managers, and coordinators will also be required. Lastly, community volunteers will be needed to act as citizen reporters.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

We would welcome the support, in any form, of other changemakers in setting up Guardians of the Community. Our organization is quite small and we need help specifically in the areas selected above, to move Guardians of the Community forward.

In return, we could collaborate with other changemakers. As a consultancy business, we can also help in brainstorming for new ideas or solutions, especially in our part of the world.

Summary
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Guardians of the Community is a citizen media site supporting guardianship efforts in Asipulo, Ifugao, Northern Philippines.

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