A Digital Newsroom where Journalists and Citizens in the Arab World Can Work Together

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

A Digital Newsroom where Journalists and Citizens in the Arab World Can Work Together

EgyptUnited States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Combining technology, translation and training to amplify citizen voices from the Middle East.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Citizen media has played an important role in the Arab Spring, and will continue to grow as an integral part of the regional media landscape. Mainstream media in the Middle East, however, largely fails to harness the potential of citizen journalism, and fails to represent the plurality of citizen voices found online. This limits access to citizen reporting for the general public while also demonstrating a need for journalists to be given tools to better empower them to amplify citizen voices and citizen journalism in their reporting. We believe that wider access to citizen media among the general public would help improve knowledge exchange, critical thinking and media plurality in Egypt and the wider Middle East as a means to increase awareness of issues relating to governance and human rights and to underpin the ongoing transformation toward democracy in the region.

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

The Meedan Swift project is a digital newsroom that helps connect journalists at mainstream media outlets with citizen reporters using collaborative, cross-language curation technology. Meedan will work with leading media partners (starting with Egypt’s Al-Masry Al-Youm Arabic and English editions) to ensure that the cutting edge technology being developed meets the needs of professional journalists. This partnership also means that the content produced in the digital newsroom will reach both the online and print readerships of Egypt’s best-selling daily newspaper. Citizen journalism thus becomes accessible to both online and offline communities, which is particularly important given the region’s comparatively low internet penetration. Additionally the project emphasises the importance of translating citizen media, both from and into Arabic. In parallel to the development of the digital newsroom, Meedan will work with Al-Masry Al-Youm and Birmingham City University to build and train a community of at least 100 citizen journalists (in Phase 1) in Egypt, who will work with journalists to help them find the best citizen media to be highlighted for the mainstream media audience. Phase 2 will see the expansion of the training to 1000 citizen journalists in at least 3 different countries in the region in collaboration with 5 media partners who will also deploy Meedan Swift as a reporting and publishing tool.
Impact: How does it Work

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

In November 2011, Egypt will hold the first parliamentary elections since the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-long dictatorship. Holding a credible poll that meets the hopes of an Egyptian population desperate for democracy is a huge challenge for the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces and will reveal much about how willing the SCAF is to cede power to a democratically elected body. Citizen media will play a crucial role in the elections, in two main ways: > Reporting - citizen journalists are often those best placed to report on the election and events as they occur across the country, posting rich images, sound and video that adds crucial detail to a picture often painted in broad, Cairo-centric strokes by the national and international media. > Opinion and analysis - new media is an important space for discussion and analysis of the election process and the results, among citizens, activists and political figures. In the Meedan Swift digital newsroom, journalists from Egypt’s leading daily publication will work alongside trained citizen editors to find, corroborate, tag and publish the best citizen journalism being posted across Egypt. The rich variety of reporting found in citizen media is thus amplified for the attention of the mainstream media audience, leading to a broader and deeper understanding of the events, and increased accountability for those responsible for organizing the elections.

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

There are several tools that journalists can use to integrate citizen journalism into reporting (Storify, Curated.By, Storific), however in spite of the availability of these tools, the penetration of citizen journalism into mainstream media remains low in Egypt and the wider Middle East. Meedan Swift distinguishes itself from other tools in 3 ways: > Integrating translation technology to take citizen reporting across languages (many leading citizen journalists in the Middle East post in English, while citizen reports posting in Arabic are often overlooked by the international media) > Working in partnership with leading media outlets to build the tools they need > Training citizen journalists and building a community of citizen editors to work with mainstream media voices The most tangible output of the project is content published in mainstream media that utilizes a trained network of citizen journalists. As such, this content will compete for the attention of the media audience much as any other reporting or content would. We believe that the rich variety citizen media provides and the value it creates will make Meedan Swift content a viable competitor as a media product.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


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

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Start-Up (a pilot that has just begun operating)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for less than a year

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.

In January 2011, a week before the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Meedanis gathered at Meedan HQ in San Francisco were left frustrated at the lack of mainstream media coverage of the quickly developing situation in Tunisia. As our regional community of content producers and translators struggled to find high quality, original media reporting from traditional media, we turned increasingly to Twitter, YouTube, and TwitPic for the latest and best coverage of what was happening on the ground in Tunis.

As the wave of protests spread from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya, and the rest of the Arab world, and as mainstream media struggled to keep up, we devoted our efforts to translating citizen media: Twitter on Curated.By; blogs on News.Meedan; YouTube videos and voice messages as principal partner in the Alive.In Egypt & Libya projects.

Meedan Swift is a project born of a thirst for citizen voices which are under represented by the international media. By working with media partners and by developing advanced translation & curation tools, we can help journalists in their difficult work of covering fast-breaking news situations, and help amplify citizen voices to a global media audience.

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

With Meedan Swift still in a startup phase, the main social impact achieved has been in building links with journalists and leading international and regional media organizations. Meedan will also work with Noha Atef, a leading Egyptian activist and social media expert, and Birmingham City University on the training resources and workshops for citizen journalists. We believe that working with these high-profile partners and collaborators will greatly enhance the social impact of the project.

Meedan Swift builds on the principles and technologies first developed for News.Meedan.Net project, which saw the world's first cross-language media sharing platform launched to help broker online intercultural dialogue. Visitors to Meedan can read about news events as covered by a variety of citizen and mainstream media, which always includes content translated from and into Arabic and English. Translated content from News.Meedan.Net has been published by The Economist, the Guardian, Time magazine, Wired and the Huffington Post.

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

Over the next 3 years Meedan Swift will expand into a second phase, embracing further regional media partners in a variety of countries and training more regional citizen journalists. Once expanded, the project will allow media audiences across the Middle East to access citizen media, which in turn will encourage more people to participate in citizen journalism. Meedan’s development process will be described step by step on the Meedan blog, for others to learn from and observe, and technology developed through the project will be open source, for others to use and contribute to. Although Meedan Swift focuses on media in the Arabic/English language pair, others are able to take the open source software and adapt the technology for other under-served language pairs such as Chinese/English.

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

Full-time journalists using Meedan Swift to produce daily citizen journalism-centered content for line and offline publication

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Build an early iteration of Meedan Swift that stems from user research carried out with journalists

Task 2

Source and engage journalists with a passion for citizen reporting

Task 3

Set-up a project office in Cairo, housed within the media partner newsroom

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Media partnerships with 5 publishers in at least 3 different Arab countries, further 1000 citizen journalists ready for training

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Build relationships with leading regional publishers, demonstrating Phase 1 success

Task 2

A Meedan Swift tool that fully meets the needs of Phase 1 media partners

Task 3

Build an active and engaged community of citizen journalists and editors who contribute to the project

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

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

More than 10,000

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


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?

An important obstacle for Meedan’s first cross language news project was the highly complex codebase of the original site. This made it difficult to update and add features to the platform, which hindered the development process. Since 2010, however, Meedan has been working on creating cross-language web spaces based on the Drupal platform. Drupal is an open source content management system that allows modular development, making it easy to develop and integrate new features into a platform without compromising core functionality. Drupal’s community ethos also allows and encourages us to share any modules with anyone wishing to deploy or build on the work we’ve done.

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?

At Meedan we aspire to drive change in the way the internet functions as a network for ideas. We believe that language is the biggest barrier to global knowledge exchange, and our mission is to tackle this head on through the development of online translation workflows. Meedan Swift will not only be fully bilingual, but will integrate translation solutions that will help translate citizen voices across Arabic and English. We also believe in the power of community, and an active and engaged community will be a central pillar of the digital newsroom.

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?

Although Meedan Swift is designed for use in a media context, we believe that an online cross-language platform that empowers communities to gather round resource curation and translation is an invaluable and innovative tool, whether it be in a context of citizen journalism, open education resources, religious texts, academic abstracts, business localization efforts - the list could go on. Because all technology developed will be open source, whether Meedan Swift fails to gain traction or is a hit, other creative minds can adapt our ideas and work to find their own solutions.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Meedan Swift has received start up funding from the Swedish International Development Agency, with grant applications that would expand the project’s scope and impact also being considered by major funders. These grant applications are in close collaboration with leading international media outlets that would help expand the project to a global media audience. SIDA’s support over a 3 year period, means that the project will be scaled up to involve more media partners and wider training programs in more countries in the Middle East. With leading media publications using Meedan Swift tools and training for news gathering and publishing, the project could become self-supporting, either as a paid service provided for publishers or as a media services project syndicating content to publishers.

Tell us about your partnerships

Phase 1 partners with Al-Masry Al-Youm, who will work using the tools we develop and publish Meedan Swift content in print and online. AMAY will provide office space for the project in their Cairo newsroom, ensuring that Meedan Swift is housed at the very heart of Egypt’s media community. Meedan has engaged tech non-profit Ushahidi as a technology partner, to work collaboratively on Swift River, which will be developed as the digital newsroom platform. Meedan’s training partner for the project is Noha Atef, representing Birmingham City University.

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

Meedan Swift requires journalistic and editorial staff, community managers, a training manager, a translation manager, front-end UI/UX developers and back-end developers. Journalists and editors will ensure that the community-journalism driven content meets the highest journalistic standards. The community managers and translation manager will manage communities of volunteer journalists, editors and translators who have been trained by the training manager and his/her team.

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

Human resources or talent, Collaboration or networking.

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

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

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Meedan Swift: A Digital Newsroom Where Journalists And Citizens In The Arab World Can Work Together