Media Buffer Zone Project – Raising Capacities of Civil Society for the Production of Multimedia in Cyprus, the Middle East and South East Europe

As a follow up to winning the audience award for best project idea at the Power of One Conference held in Nicosia, Cyprus in October 2012, the Media Buffer Zone Project team was invited to present and workshop their innovative project at the “POINT2013 – Political Accountability and New Technologies Conference” held in Sarajevo 23-26 May 2013.

 

Now you may be asking yourself what does this prestigious “unconference” featuring many fascinating speakers such as UZROK from Serbia, Milica Begović of UNDP-Montenegro, “The Facebook Girl of Egypt”, Esraa Abdel Fattah and the famed Amira Yahyaoui of Al Bawsala from Tunisia have to do with a group of committed activists from the MENA region, Cyprus and Central Europe who want to provide media skills trainings to NGOs and develop an Internet platform linking media talent to civil society have to do with this group of incredible entrepreneurs? Well, more than you’d think!

 

It seems our unique idea formulated during long days and coffee-fueled brainstorming sessions, but whose birth was really a product of the group’s years of passion and experience working for their respective communities, is something that many innovative people relate to and are inspired by. So, it was a natural fit in this turbo-charged and “change the world for the better” atmosphere.

 

The crowd response to our informative workshop session included people from Egypt, Libya and across Europe and was overwhelming positive. We all wish we could have started the trainings on the spot! However, we agreed to settle for stimulating idea creation, exchanging the needs of various communities in a more in-depth fashion and creating a space for a better understanding amongst the regions.

 

In-between the conference sessions members of the Media Buffer Zone Project team gathered in hotel lobbies, coffee shops and Labor Union halls (yes really, we met at the headquarters of the “Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, thanks labour leaders!) to discuss how best to implement the project to satisfy the needs of all.

 

The first order of business we thought of was to gauge the pulse of the people by conducting an in-depth needs analysis of what NGOs from our regions really need. So naturally we turned to our trusted partners from Palestine, Near East Consulting, who have years of experience in just this type of data mining. Next we thought to design the trainings from the actual research and turn that info into training materials civil society can use in their efforts to build their capacity in media skills.

 

Then we planned to use these tools to train “trainers” in media skills to multiply across the regions with media skills trainings in both Cyprus and Egypt to better equip our target audiences from the vast experience of both media partners CCMC and Qabila. From there we decided to develop a web-based platform which will link interested media professionals to active NGOS in the region to better serve the needs of the people these organizations serve. Whew! From an idea to being productive is an exciting and challenging proposition.

 

In order to make this all work we realized we need the vast networks of our partners Universal Patient’s Rights Organisation (Cyprus) and Zašto ne? (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to activate their networks to communicate, inform, and motivate the participants. Only in times of true inspiration due the stars align and such partnerships are formed!

So, here we go on our journey from a loose confederation of NGOS scattered throughout the Middle-East, Mediterranean and Central Europe to a tight-knit group of dedicated civil society leaders working for an innovative inter-regional knowledge exchange to strengthen the role of citizens and civil society in stimulating positive social change. Follow our adventures on twitter at @MediaBufferZone.

Youth Ambassador project kick-starts in Romania (supported by great coffee, and Count Dracula)

What happens when you combine the talents of a soft-spoken teacher from Morocco, an experienced and incredibly knowledgeable activist from Romania, a sharp and witty young project coordinator and a fiercely passionate communications manager from Cyprus? The Youth Ambassadorship project is finally on the go – and the characteristically diverse team, got tight and productive in a tiny little village in Transylvania this month, to get the ball rolling. Find out what Kristy Eliades had to say about this exciting new project that was sparked at last year’s Power of One Conference (hosted by Peace-it-Together and supported by UNDP-ACT).

942756_251569334981135_540742211_n“I looked around the room, slightly hurt that I’d just been told that the term ‘youth’ does not actually apply to thirty-something year olds, no matter how young at heart they felt. Katerina laughed so I asked how old she was. She is 24. I nearly fell off my chair.

The mission was relatively simple – create a training manual for Youth Ambassadors to instigate cross-cultural dialogues in their region. The partners (NGO-Support Centre, Resurse Service, Youth Power, Forum De La Citoyennete and Kontea Heritage Foundation) would be nominating young people from Morocco, Romania and Cyprus to become Ambassadors whose role would be to mediate debates and group conversations in an effort to enhance understanding across cultures, challenge stereotypes, and reduce prejudice and xenophobia.

I very quickly realised that the team of partners could not be more diverse in character, appearance and working methods. ‘How brilliant,’ I thought, ‘all the best things come from teams with powerfully individual members – this is going to be great’. And it was.

The team became close very quickly, bound by the urge to get the job done effectively in order to create as much impact as possible. Together, we outlined the manual structure, created terms of reference, branded the project, researched mediation techniques, customized them and started working on the content. After what seemed like hundreds of cups of coffee and flip chart sheets, we took a step back and looked at our work. It was good. Actually it was more than good. Everyone had their own individual expertise and had worked on specific components of the manual that were most suited to them based on both experience and passion. For the short amount of time we had spent together, the four of us had done an amazing amount of work.

The trip was intense, but the long hours we all put in paid off. The project finally had a clear vision, character, image and a training manual that was very near completion. We rewarded ourselves with a half-day visit to Bran Castle (home to Vlad – the Impailer – Dracul – which of course meant Cosmin and I spent the day making ‘Mwahhhahaha’ sounds in every room) and got caught in an incredibly stubborn hailstorm. Thankfully, by then the team was close enough to actually enjoy getting soaking wet in an unknown medieval setting and we made the most of it – Khadija and Katerina did some light shopping while Cosmin and I continued making funny references to Dracula.

Only great things can come from a collaboration like that, so keep your eyes and ears open for much, much more. To catch up on what we are doing and keep yourself updated, please visit (and like) our newly launched facebook page.”

Kristy Eliades
Communications Manager
NGO-Support Centre

The Launch of the Shared Words Language Learning Game

10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3 Yes we are indeed counting down to launch the SharedWords language learning game. Well, not just yet but we are almost there! SharedWords project has been an interesting and fruitful project and a starting point that has the potential to affect, motivate, as well as to contribute to rapprochement between the two major communities of the island.

Shared Words project is not only about language learning through the use of common words between languages. It is the outcome of a peace-building philosophy that seeks common ground between different cultures, different nations, or different backgrounds; the desired objective is not only help build communication with each other, but also to hopefully touch the hearts of each other to relief themselves from the grieves and hatred of the past and from the doubt and fear of the future.As Nelson Mandela Said, “If you talk to a man in a language that he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his own language, this goes to his heart.”The approach of Shared Words project provides us the opportunity to use the common words between our first language and the language in which we want to communicate,even if we have never learned that other language.

Looking at the image below,which presents a prototype of the Shared Words game, we are happy to see that our good cooperation and effective communication with our game developer resulted in a really attractive design and great game functionalities that will allow good interaction with the players.

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Our game developer (the Interaction Lab of the Cyprus Technological University) is not the only organisation with which we have cooperated. Our cooperation with the recently launched MYCY radio, which is the only multilingual web radio of Cyprus, will broadcast the common words of Shared Words project with an interesting format:every week, the etymological story of a shared word andits traveling history and in languages will be presented in English, Greek,and Turkish. You can listen to MYCY radio and on http://mycyradio.eu.

We are also working with Youth Power to use all of the communication channels to outreach public by publishing a SharedWords booklet and distributing it to educational institutions and to other community stakeholders.Our booklets will be available on the second week of June. Keep in touch with us for more by following us athttps://www.facebook.com/Sharedworlds and https ://twitter.com/_SharedWords

The Thin Green Line… almost there!

Our Knowledge and Innovation products are almost ready and The Thin Green Line team gets some closure after trying to balance stress and creativity on a daily basis, over the past few months. 

The Thin Green Line is a challenging project undertaken on by Longfish Productions that asks for Cypriots to “tell their story of romantic relationships or encounters with people from ‘the other side’” in order to develop one of the most unique documentaries in Cyprus, ever.

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“The last two weeks were full of energy, creativity and hard work. Rahme and Anthie prepared the scripts for the interviews, based on the original recordings and having been directed to be as faithful to the original as possible. We then emailed the scripts to the actors and we started the rehearsals immediately.

My directions were clear and simple: Do not act! Be as natural as possible!

I already knew how hard it is for stage actors to switch to the camera, but I guess the style of the documentary helped us a lot in this case. Also the fact that there are no faces in the frame gave them the opportunity to express themselves through body and gesture. This physicality is after all one of the main targets of this project!

The shoots were long, difficult but utterly enjoyable! Looking at the rushes just before I start importing the footage on Final Cut I knew there was some gold there. And I was not wrong; it was so difficult to cut bits off… so hard to fit a love story in no more than 10 minutes. But the Goddess of editing helped me through and by the moment Helena had the Fusion Tables of the Thin Green Line Project set, the interviews were already uploaded on Youtube waiting to go live on the Thin Green Line Map!

The Thin Green Line Map is 99% ready and looks wonderful! Blue dots link to the archival footage we got from CyBC and BRT and red dots to the five interviews, the five hot stories that negotiate both the archive as well as our views of the world, our notions of the national, the temporal, the spatial, of gender and, last but not least, of sex itself.

The first big step of the Thin Green Line Project, that is the TGL MAP, will be up and running soon, available on the Mahallae hub! We hope you enjoy it :)”

Marios Psaras
Longfish Productions

Animating our Actions: PeacePlayers’ Cyprus Innovative Educational Tool

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Ashley from the Peace Players team wrote about their  Knowledge product and practitioner’s exchange to Israel.

The challenge that lay in front of us was to capture our years of experience and wealth of knowledge in approaching peace buildingfrom a youth and sports angle and create an originalproduct to share this approach.  From this challenge arose, the soon to be revealed, PeacePlayers’ animations.  

The moment we heard of the opportunity presented by The Knowledge and Innovation Fund of the Peace it Together network, the brainstorming began.  We confidently and passionately believe in our organization’s powerful approach to peace building through sport.  At PeacePlayers we have a wealth of experience bridging divides, developing leaders and changing perspectives in Cyprus and across the world.   Through the series of 5 short animated films we have worked to harness the depth of our experience on and off the court and the richness of our conflict transformation curriculum, based in part on the The Anatomy of Peace model, into a unique educational product. 

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The creation phase began this past December and has seen us proceed over the last 4 months from brainstorming, to script writing, to storyboarding and finally on to animation.  As we find ourselves in this final phase we were presented with a tremendous opportunity: a Practitioner’s Exchange trip to Israel. 

Stephanie Nicolas and Ashley Johnson of PeacePlayers – Cyprus spent 6 days this past week visiting social media, peace building and youth development NGOs in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem to share the videos and receive feedback from well versed practitioners and participants in the field.  Israel proved to be the perfect location to test out our animations.  The individuals from whom we sought insight were all too familiar with dealing with conflict and gave us honest and in-depth perspectives on each of our completed videos. 

We met with 4 organizations:

 -Peace Factory, creators of the widely followed social media campaign; Israel Loves Iran

-Kids4Peace Jerusalem, an NGO offering inter-faith and inter-cultural education to Israeli and Palestinian youth

-Windows for Peace, an NGO that promotes understanding and reconciliation between communities through youth journalism and media related educational programs.

-PeacePlayers – Middle East, our sister program in Israel who works to unite and educate Palestinian and Israeli youth through the game of basketball.  Combining on the court opportunities with experiential learning activities and the implementation of “The Anatomy of Peace” curriculum to create deep open communication and understanding amongst participants. 

Throughout the week we visited each organization, shared our videos and asked a number of questions whose responses will guide us in the refinement of our product and creation of our a corresponding training modules that will accompany the videos.  

After showing the videos to various audiences, including 5 different focus groups with PeacePlayers Middle East participants, coaches and staff, we can confidently say that we have an outstanding engaging product transferrable across various cultures and perspectives.  

In returning to Cyprus we have a renewed energy and enthusiasm to approach the final stage of creation, now we have many followers not just in Cyprus, but Israel as well, anxiously anticipating the debut of our films.  So, please continue to follow the Peace it Together blog as well as PeacePlayers Cyprus’ blog and look for PeacePlayers animated educational films on Mahallae soon! 

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Cyprus history archive now available online

ImageCrossposted from Voices from Eurasia Blog, check out what Pembe Mentesh wrote!

The Cyprus Critical History Archive gives access to digitized articles relating to intercommunal relations in Cyprus

I’m pleased to announce that you can now browse a new online database – the Cyprus Critical History Archive – for Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot newspaper articles on inter-communal relations and conflict-related violence during 1955 and 1964.

The archive is a digital resource on the troubled history of Cyprus, and is a joint initiative between the Association for Historical Dialogue & Research and PRIO Cyprus Center.

The archive is a first attempt to offer an οnline trilingual collection of sources on the 1955 to 1964 period.

The purpose of the archive is to facilitate the quest for knowledge, understanding and different perspectives, and will enhance historical dialogue through access to primary sources.

“60 years on, the fundamentals of public political discourse as reflected in newspapers on both sides remain largely the same. Looking at this in a value-free fashion means that understanding the discourse of either side and bringing it into dialogue by looking at its articulation in different points in time can be a useful tool for civil society and reconciliation”

Dr. Antonis Hadjikyriacou, Project Leader

Eventually, it is hoped that the project will include articles up to 1974, and that the typology of sources will include private and public archival documentation, photographic archives, audio-visual material and oral accounts from Cyprus and abroad.

For more information, please call +357 22445740 and +90 5488345740 or send us an e-mail at: ahdr.mide@gmail.com

Τhis initiative is part of the Association for Historical Dialogue & Research’s Multiperspectivity and Intercultural Dialogue in Education project, supported by UNDP – Action for Cooperation and Trust.

Cyprus history archive now available online

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Crossposted from Voices from Eurasia Blog, check out what Pembe Mentesh wrote!

The Cyprus Critical History Archive gives access to digitized articles relating to intercommunal relations in Cyprus I’m pleased to announce that you can now browse a new online database – the Cyprus Critical History Archive – for Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot newspaper articles on inter-communal relations and conflict-related violence during 1955 and 1964. The archive is a digital resource on the troubled history of Cyprus, and is a joint initiative between the Association for Historical Dialogue & Research and PRIO Cyprus Center. The archive is a first attempt to offer an οnline trilingual collection of sources on the 1955 to 1964 period. The purpose of the archive is to facilitate the quest for knowledge, understanding and different perspectives, and will enhance historical dialogue through access to primary sources. “60 years on, the fundamentals of public political discourse as reflected in newspapers on both sides remain largely the same. Looking at this in a value-free fashion means that understanding the discourse of either side and bringing it into dialogue by looking at its articulation in different points in time can be a useful tool for civil society and reconciliation” Dr. Antonis Hadjikyriacou, Project Leader Eventually, it is hoped that the project will include articles up to 1974, and that the typology of sources will include private and public archival documentation, photographic archives, audio-visual material and oral accounts from Cyprus and abroad. For more information, please call +357 22445740 and +90 5488345740 or send us an e-mail at: ahdr.mide@gmail.com Τhis initiative is part of the Association for Historical Dialogue & Research’s Multiperspectivity and Intercultural Dialogue in Education project, supported by UNDP – Action for Cooperation and Trust.