71 Civic Voices Aim to Change the World with Media-Orientated Solutions

More than seventy students come together to solve development challenges of youth unemployment, sustainability, climate change, human rights, and corruption
The largest ever cohort of seventy-one students of twenty-three nationalities from sixteen colleges*, joined together for three weeks in order better their understanding of the role of media as an agent for change in the digital age– particularly in the context of their role as citizens of local and global communities.
 
Over the course of the three-week program at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change, international students from five continents listened to lectures, took part in workshops, and worked in groups to develop media-oriented solutions to the challenges posed by the United Nations Development Program’s Knowledge, Innovation and Capacity Group (UNDP).

As a new addition to the annual program, the UNDP staged real world challenges that they are currently working on in the developing world in regional country offices and called on students to examine and make proposals on how media can be used to address challenges around youth unemployment, sustainability, climate change, human rights, and corruption.



The Salzburg Academy began in 2007 as a partnership between Salzburg Global Seminar and the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland, and now in its eighth year, the Academy has attracted partner universities from across the world that are home to reputable journalism and communications schools. At this year’s Academy, resident faculty members welcomed new staff from first time colleges including University of Rhode Island, George Washington University, USA, Jadavpur University, India, Jordan Media Institute, Jordan, American University of Sharjah, UAE and Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China.

Entitled “Civic Voices - Justice, Rights and Social Change”, this year’s students worked in small groups to develop emerging challenges to civic rights and justice and sought to discover how digital media can help support social progress in a more globally connected world. This work emerged in the form of Media Action Plans (MAPs) which explored where civic activism can help bring forth the marginalized and oppressed voices around the world.

Students outlined the Media Action Plans (MAPs) for their chosen country where they framed the issue at hand, offered solutions and implementation ideas and produced a visualization to highlight their findings. With a focus on new media, the groups narrowed their focus to revolve their ideas around the use of interactive games and apps. To facilitate such proceedings, the Academy welcomed back Eric Gordon, director of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College.

Jennifer Colville, policy advisor to the UNDP Knowledge, Innovation and Capacity Group set the stage for students to engage with their projects by initiating a full-day program in the first week of the Academy giving an overview of the development landscape as well as the challenges to be researched. The 2014 Academy students also took part in the UN’s “MY World” survey, providing the UN insight into what the students consider to be the most important global issues for them.
 
They then pitched their final 14 ideas to Colville who joined the Academy over Skype on August 7.  

She praised the students for their attention to funding implications – particularly in mobilizing resources to perpetuate the development of their app ideas.

She said: “They are very inspiring and encouraging, so congratulations to all of you. I know the country offices are very excited about looking at what some of these opportunities might be for their country offices.”

All project presentations – including Media Action Plans, Prezi presentations as well as group videos can be found here.

In previous years students have contributed towards many research projects, including UNPLUGGED, which analyzed the technological habits of university students around world and “A Tethered World” which looked at mobile phone use in daily civic life, as well as additional projects focused on exploring global media coverage of the Beijing and London Olympics.

The program was led by faculty from partner universities, including resident faculty members and award-winning documentary makers Sanjeev Chatterjee and Rhys Daunic. Together with six competitively selected students, Chatterjee and Daunic led a multimedia production team who produced two video which focus on what media can change, and the other looks at how the media can change.

The multimedia team videos

What Media Can Change

 

How Media Can Change

 

A number of guest speakers also joined faculty members to deliver lectures to students including Anwar Akhtar, Director of the Samosa – a culture and politics site focused on Britain and South Asia, developed to support welfare, human rights, education, and citizenship groups in Pakistan. Dean of Media School at Bournemouth University, UK and returning Faculty member, Stephen Jukes also delivered a lecture on ‘Journalism Norms in a Digital Culture’.

The Academy also welcomed back guest speaker Justeen Hyde, director of research and evaluation at the Institute for Community Health in Massachusetts and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. In her talk with students, she offered a workshop in conducting participatory research with communities. This tied in well with a video presentation via Skype by co-founders of Everyday Africa, Austin Merrill and Peter DiCampo who talked about their photography project which uses images captured on smart phones to refute stereotypes of Africa and re-direct focus toward a more accurate understanding of normal life on the continent.

The annual Bailey Morris-Eck lecture was made by visiting scholar, Najib Sharifi, who discussed how his interdisciplinary career has given him a sound knowledge of media reporting – particularly conflict-sensitive journalism.

Changing from Within

In addition to improving their knowledge of development challenges, many of the students felt that the Academy inspired them to make some sort of change – particularly within themselves.

For some it was on a personal development level, such as Aupula Ghosh, a Masters student at Jadavpur University, India, majoring in film studies.

“After these 3 weeks we will not just go ahead and change our country or change the world but this Academy is really creating a certain mindset in us. I can now try to find my own creative, innovative ways in my own locality, my own community and this Academy is providing me with that mindset.”

University of Maryland government and politics student, Matthew Bringuier also believes that the Academy has offered him an experience that has opened his eyes to the depth of diversity within cultures – particularly the different types of Arabic.

“It has been very eye-opening and you just have to keep an open-mind. It has been so great being able to talk to people in an open forum and to study with the professors from all of the universities from different countries. It has been a monumental experience,” Matt explains.

Fernando Garcia Alvarez, a communications student at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico, will take back what he learnt and apply it to how he views the world.

He said: “It [the Academy] has changed me because when you look at the world you think about it at from other regions – you think about it in a cold, external and ‘other’ way, but here I felt that I got more sensibility about trying to understand deeply about culture, people, religion - everything - in other regions of the world.”

Unexpected Outcomes

Other students now feel inspired in their career prospects to try and make change, like a student from Bournemouth University, UK.

“One of my aspirations is to work for the UN….the networks created here have made clear [that] you never know, the people you meet in our age range, could in the future, be a colleague or they might be the ones giving you a job at the end of the day,” explained third year politics and media student, Douglas Tham.

Other students left with a similar global outlook – something they did not expect to have when they arrived such as Balquees Basalom, an American University of Sharjah, UAE, majoring in mass communication with concentration on journalism and a minor in Arabic literature.   

She said: “I think it made us all feel like global citizens for example the projects we are working on. We are putting so much effort into something we won’t see the benefit of directly but know we are working towards a better world in general. It’s making, enhancing and enforcing the concept of a global citizen rather than just having routes for one country or one culture.”

Antony Ojwang, communications student at Daystar University, Kenya also looked back on an unexpected outcome from his experience at the Academy – teaching him to talk less, and listen more.

“For me the Academy is like dropping me in to a sea. In the sea you have of all types of creatures. In the Academy you have all types of people. Before I used to talk a lot but I have realized that there are people who think better than me and for me that’s a plus because whenever I find somebody who does better than me, I listen to them and pick out something from the experience. Being here has taught me to listen rather than talk,” Antony explains.

Moving Forward

Selma Zaki, one of the 23 American University of Beirut students at this year's Academy advocated the importance of the work at this year’s Academy – particularly as a major of psychology.

“My experience has been very fruitful and I’ve learned a lot of skills and techniques. I learned not to generalize from a nationality and not only a nationality, but even in Lebanon, you have different sects and different types of people and we get so used to stereotyping everybody – that’s what I’ve learned from interacting with others.”

Selma also reflected on how previous Fellow’s recommended the program to her.

“The people who came before me kept on telling me ‘it’s the best time of your life, you’re going to have so much fun’, so I focused so much on the positive that I didn’t realize that even the difficulty of adapting is a beautiful experience. We are getting out of our comfort zone which in the moment is a negative feeling but then it turns into a positive one,” she explains.

The Salzburg Academy has become a lot more than a program just dedicated to “Media and Global Change” – it has allowed students to transcend geographical, technological, social and cultural boundaries. This year, the theme was “Civic Voices” and from the work and responses by both faculty and students – many are leaving with a global voice.


A selection of photographs from the 2014 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change are available on Flickr

Winning entries from the 2014 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change photography contest are available on Facebook

A selection of student-made videos from the 2014 Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change are available on Facebook

*Participating universities this year were: American University of Beirut, Lebanon; American University of Sharjah,UAE;  Bournemouth University, UK; Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China SAR; Daystar University, Kenya; Emerson College, USA; George Washington University, USA; Jadavpur University, India; Jordan Media Institute, Jordan; Pontifica Universidad Catolica, Argentina; University of Rhode Island, USA; Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico; University of Maryland, College Park, USA; University of Miami, USA; University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Slovakia; University of Texas at Austin, USA and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China