Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CrowdOutAIDS.org: Influencing decision makers online and offline

Bonjour! Warm greetings from Geneva! I’m currently attending the UNAIDS Board meeting called Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) 2011 as a CrowdOutAIDS representative with Aram Barra, the Latin America forum moderator (follow the conversation on twitter @UNAIDS and hashtag #PCB2011).

While at PCB, Aram and I will be speaking on our experiences on CrowdOutAIDS project. We will also serve as bloggers :-), reporting on the PCB process the commitments and support raised during the meeting. We will generally be keeping you informed on how PCB work and how high level decision makers shape policies.

You might want to check out our first blog post on: http://www.crowdoutaids.org/crowdoutaids-team-at-pcb-meeting-crowdoutaids/

Other reports will be published on CrowdOutAIDS Blog as we progress.

Meanwhile, today, the CrowdOutAIDS team held a session themed “Strategy development 2.0: How UNAIDS is crowdsourcing its new youth strategy.”

In case you missed the session! Read my presentation below- okay just a talking point, it changed a bit! :-) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asAfWqF2eJo)

As CrowdOutAIDS blog-editor and online content curator

My name is Jennifer, I am the blog editor and online curator for CrowdOutAIDS. I am Nigerian journalist with a keen interest in youth development issues.

When I first heard about CrowdOutAIDS and the process of crowdsourcing new UNAIDS Strategy on young people and HIV, I knew I had to be a part of the project. The whole concept of developing a UNAIDS strategy on youth and HIV online and offline looked timely and innovative.

Over the past 5 weeks, I have been working in the capacity of spreading the word about the project online. Reaching out where young people interact on different social networks and professional forums.

My job has been to pass on the message to one group and encourage and trust them to in turn disseminate it to other networks they are active on. This way we have been able to reach thousands of young people around the world as you saw on the crowdmap.

Such networks include: Facebook and the different groups within Facebook, online interest forums such as Youth Making Change group on Yahoo, Blogs focused on youth audience and of course Twitter.

We also have a CrowdOutAIDS blog where we communicate the process of the crowdsourcing as well as issues affecting young people in relation to the project. I think this is really important because it creates a feedback loop where we can keep participants up to date about what goes on in the project.

Every week, writers and journalists are invited to guest blog and share their perspective on different themes, such as HIV and youth, youth leadership and engagement, How NGOs, the government and the UN agencies can better work with young people etc.

We have published some really interesting articles with authors from Tanzania, to Tunisia, Nepal and Chile, all sharing their unique perspectives and experiences.

Offline forum
One of the critics I heard at the beginning of this project was why we were only reaching out to the elite youth; that is young people who are mobile or connected to the internet. Many people wanted to know what we are doing in terms of engaging youth offline/youth at the grassroots.

It is interesting to see how CrowdOutAIDS team have been able to integrate an offline twist to the whole process of crowdsourcing. Thus, no youth are left behind.

A tool kit was created for young people online to adapt to their local communities and take the lead in hosting offline forums with youth at the grassroots. Young people were given the tools and were empowered to take it upon themselves to organize and lead– they didn’t have to wait for an invitation from anyone.

I had the opportunity of attending one of the Offline forums that was organized by Kikelomo Taiwo, a young Nigerian advocate and peer-educator. The Offline forum took place in Abuja and had young male activists in attendance.

It was interesting to see the high level of energy and strong sense of ownership expressed by the participants.

The usual sense of detachment that can often be seen among young people in HIV-related seminars was absent. It was like the youth participants saw the need to really share their views and ideas on how UNAIDS can better work with young people. It was seen as an opportunity to influence global policy. They understood that this was a youth driven project and their stake in it is high.

Personally, I also think that model of engaging people in conversation, rather than just throwing information at them is truly empowering.

You can also see this in a quote from a CrowdOutAIDS forum hosted in Lesotho, were the participant said:

“I strongly believe that this strategy is going to work.  This must be the first time the UN and its Member States are trusting us completely regarding addressing challenges brought by AIDS particularly amongst the YOUTH! Big UPs UN!”

Resource you can use
For more information on how to participate or connect to the project, FREE of charge, please visit www.crowdoutAIDS.org
Follow on Twitter: @CrowdOutAIDS Hashtag: #CrowdOutAIDS
Put yourself on the crowd map for possible future collaboration with UNAIDS: http://www.crowdoutaids.org/crowdmap/

Thank you for reading! :-)

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