Young Bloggers Conduct Citizen Diplomacy in Eurasia

Posted by Anna P. Mussman
May 3, 2010
Social Media for Social Change Conference in Republic of Georgia

About the Author: Anna Mussman serves as a Program Officer in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' (ECA) Youth Programs Division.

Developing Online Tools for Civic Outreach and Mobilization (DOTCOM) is a program for Armenian, American and Azerbaijani youth to create socially conscious media that can impact communities across the United States and the Caucasus. Ten students from Armenia and Azerbaijan participated in advanced media training in Vermont and Washington, DC, in the summer of 2009. In March 2010, after 14 months of intensive online social media training, nine U.S. DOTCOM students traveled to the South Caucasus to join their Azerbaijan and Armenia peers to learn more about their countries, to attend a journalism training and to participate in a social media conference in Tblisi, Georgia. Discussing the growing role of new media with journalists and government officials, students found that representatives in both countries agreed on the need to maintain strong news agencies to provide reliable information to the population.

DOTCOM students in Armenia and Azerbaijan joined their American counterparts for dynamic cultural and professional development events in each country. They spent time at embassies in Yerevan and Baku, where they spoke with representatives of the Public Affairs Sections to learn more about conditions within each country. In Baku, students also participated in Global Pulse 2010, a USAID event that brought together socially engaged participants and organizations from around the world for online discussions about global social issues.

While in the Republic of Georgia, students took an active role in the first international Social Media for Social Change Conference in the region. ECA-grantee PH International, in partnership with the Open Society Georgia Foundation, hosted more than 150 participants from 40 international organizations across the United States and Eurasia. During the conference, DOTCOM youth bloggers shared their insights about the power of social media as a tool to promote global civic activism. Their roundtable discussion about the program (in five parts) can be viewed on YouTube. Other DOTCOM-related videos can be viewed on the YouTube channel PHDOTCOM2010. Don't miss the conversation between acting Public Affairs Officer Brent Maier at the U.S. Embassy in Baku and the DOTCOMers.

For more information about the program, please see the ECA website.

Comments

Comments

Rob W.
|
Vermont, USA
May 4, 2010

Rob W. in Vermont writes:

@ Anna:

Thanks for this story on DOTCOM, Anna. A remarkable experience for all involved. Social media has some tremendous potential as a cultural bridge-building tool! Hope to see you soon.

Ann M.
|
United States
May 4, 2010

Ann M. in U.S.A. writes:

Here at PH, we've learned and continue to learn so much from the amazing DOTCOM students. We are inspired by their ongoing commitment, creativity and determination to engage with the social issues that matter most to them. Great thanks to ECA for the support that has made so much possible for all of the students and those whose lives have been touched by their participation in DOTCOM.

Mariam M.
|
Armenia
May 4, 2010

Mariam M. in Armenia writes:

This is a great account of the DOTCOM program. As one of the adults involved in the coordination of the DOTCOM program I wish we had such programs when I was at school. We have talked a lot with the Armenian students about the experiences that the DOTCOM program has offered to them, and nearly everyone accepts that it has been a life-changing period for them in so many ways. Has been an eye-opener related to cross-border understanding, has been a test to re-assess their own capacity as an individual in their families, schools, and communities. It has above all become a source of volunteerism and social activism. Understanding the vital role of social media in creating and sharing alternative information to challenge biased mainstream media, the Armenian students have created their own Web 2.0 tools training modules and shared their knowledge and skills with their peers in 2 other Armenian schools. It is interesting to realize that for a few of them DOTCOM has become an important starting point for their educational and "entrepreneurial" journey. Three Armenian students have applied and been selected for the DOS-funded FLEX program to study in the US for a year, while the rest of their Armenian peers are in active brainstorming on new community initiatives where they can apply and share their knowledge of social media with a larger public.

DOTCOM has been a genuinely useful and productive program both for the students as well as for the independent adult bloggers following and commenting in the students' blogs.

Jeanne K.
|
Vermont, USA
May 4, 2010

Jeanne K. in Vermont writes:

We were a host family for 2 DOTCOM'ers from Azerbaijan when they came to Vermont in 2009. The closing "film festival," when the teams presented their documentaries, was remarkable for the power of their messages. These young people are engaged, bright and thoughtful. For jaded and cynical 50-somethings like us, it was inspiring to see their commitment to civic engagement and the importance of truth-telling. From this posting, it's clear that the power of DOTCOM is evident, and that these young people have been changed, and will be part of change in their own nations. What a great story!

Kristin R.
|
Vermont, USA
May 6, 2010

Kristin R. in Vermont writes:

In July 2009, my husband and I with our own two teenagers opened our home to not just one but four young ladies, from Armenia and the US, sometimes all at once, other times there was just one "Armenian Daughter." Our only regret is that we did not have all four girls full time because we thoroughly enjoyed our expanded family! The students were great. They were helpful, worked hard on their projects, and offered lively discussions over dinner on a multitude of local, national and global topics. We were astounded at their passion and knowledge on specific subjects. The DOTCOM program has broadened the understanding of the need for developing tools to communicate online as well as offer insight to the various forms of social media that is available. The students selected for the program were just amazing. Each one brought their own knowledge, ideals and style to the table but were also able to listen and learn from each other as they experienced differences between countries and even within their own country. What they learned by participating in DOTCOM will be part of their lives as they move forward in the world. This was an incredible program which we have followed via their Blog as well as Twitter and Face book. The students we hosted continue to touch our lives and as DOTCOM parents, we are proud of what they have learned and what all DOTCOM students taught us, because they CAN make a difference!

David A.
|
Armenia
May 21, 2010

David A. in Armenia writes:

DOTCOM has been an amazing opportunity for me to speak out, share my ideas, thoughts and bring them to reality. Myself as a DOTCOM'er I share my knowledge and experience with people in my community and try to engage most of them in my endeavors.

Besides Media literacy, the interaction aspect was also really important throughout whole project. We made friendships with Americans, also stereotypes between us and Azerbaijanis were broken and we got to talk to all of them. DOTCOM changed my life, views, made me much more mature, open-minded and self-confident.

You can also follow my blog about the post-DOTCOM life and FLEX adventures.
davidisinamerica.blogspot.com/

Thanks for helping this program work.

David A.
|
Armenia
May 21, 2010

David A. in Armenia writes:

And also I do appreciate State Department's investment in such programs and I'd encourage you to make such projects in different regions, especially the ones that are in conflicts, in order to reestablish peace everywhere, as it once was.

.

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