Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events

Central Asian Social Innovation Camp Redux

“Social innovation” is quickly becoming one of the biggest buzz phrases among techies and budding entrepreneurs. And it’s not hard to see why; the mass get-togethers of activists, programmers, designers, entrepreneurs, and wide-eyed dreamers have spawned some of the most creative and exciting social and business ideas happening today.

Now the social-innovation bug is making its way east – all the way to Kazakhstan, with the help of Transitions.

More than 50 participants from all over Central Asia came together in Almaty in early June to participate in the second annual Central Asian Social Innovation Camp. The organizers, the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan and Internews Kazakhstan, were inspired by the region’s first camp, which was held last year and co-organized by TOL as part of a UN Democracy Fund project.

This time, TOL sent two of its experts, Alaksiej Lavoncyk and Jaroslav Valuch, to help run the camp.

The participants – coming from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and even two from Uzbekistan – arrived at the event armed with ideas for potential projects that needed a little push.

After a brief presentation of the ideas, diverse teams (made up of participants from all the countries as well as with varying talents) got down to business: coming up with attractive and workable projects in two days.

The ideas that saw the most success at the camp included a social network for teenagers leaving foster care, a social network to help disabled people find jobs; and an e-diary for Kazakh students. All three of these teams will now have the opportunity to submit their project ideas to the OSI/Soros Foundations in their respective countries for funding. The award for “Best Project Idea” went to the group who came up with the employment social network. They will receive a domain and a year of free hosting for their project’s website.   
Regardless of who won, everyone came away better off, Valuch said.

“It is not so important whether you win or make your idea take off – the most important thing is that you have come up with ideas and that you are not indifferent to social problems,” he said.

TOL Correspondents Sharpen Skills at Education Conference in Brussels

As a journalist, covering the education beat can sometimes feel like being a voice in the wilderness. Reporters and media organizations regularly covering the field are few and far between, especially in TOL’s coverage region.

Earlier this month eight TOL correspondents from different countries got a chance to come in from that wilderness and meet like-minded reporters while sharpening their skills and discussing important education topics in their countries.

The journalists – hailing from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia – were invited to Brussels to participate in a conference on multilevel governance in education organized by the European Training Foundation (ETF) in cooperation with the EU’s Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.

The Education Support Program of the Open Society Institute also helped fund their trip as part of an ongoing TOL project designed to develop a core group of education reporters.

The conference focused on vocational education and training (VET) and what institutions and NGOs can do to attract more people to VET and to make sure that there are enough jobs once students graduate. The eight reporters, hand-picked to participate by TOL, were asked by ETF to help cover this event and provide notes for a final summary and presentation at the conference.

The eight journalists also had the opportunity to take part in an informal training with Ard Jongsma, an experienced education journalist and the founder of At the end of the session the participants were invited to submit proposals for in-depth reports on education-related issues.

As one of the journalists put it, “It was great and very useful to meet my colleagues from other countries, to talk to them, share ideas and opinions, and participate in the journalism session.”

Hands-On Training in Minority Reporting Gives Bosnian Journalists a Head Start

It’s no secret that how the mainstream media in Europe portray Roma continues to be one of the biggest hurdles in promoting Roma inclusion. Roma, far too often, are misrepresented in local or national media, and many times issues important to Roma communities go under-reported.

But this month, six Bosnian journalists – all part of the Advancing Roma Visibility project – took another step toward overcoming this obstacle by participating in two-week practical training programs at specialist minority outlets in Serbia and Macedonia.

With the support of the EU, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, and the Czech Foreign Ministry, three journalists were guests of the Novi Sad School of Journalism, a project partner, which arranged their stays at the Roma Service and Radio Novi Sad, both outlets of Vojvodina’s Public Service Broadcaster.

The other three journalists were hosted by partners from the Macedonian Institute for the Media, which arranged their work placements at the public broadcaster MTV2’s Roma service. These three journalists helped produce the weekly show Bijandipe.

The goal of the trainings was to prepare them for the launch of a radio news show on Roma issues they will be working on back in Bosnia, set to launch later this year at Radio Slon. For many of the journalists, it was their first opportunity to see how media outlets aimed at a particular national minority operate.

“It was a learning-by-doing experience, with us taking part in the production of specific stories, interviewing people and finding out about key issues for the Roma in this region,” said one of the participants. “We will certainly apply these experiences back in Bosnia to achieve better representation of the Roma people in the media.”

Success Story: TOL Journalist Places Third in RFK Competition

Any good reporter will tell you that journalism is not about the awards, but about shedding light on an important issue. But if those two things happen to coincide, that’s cause to celebrate.

That’s why this month we’re proud to announce that a piece written for us by one of our contributors, Temir Akmatov, won third place in this year’s Robert F. Kennedy International Journalism Award for the brand-new Social Media category

Temir’s article, “No Man’s Land”, published in January 2011, told of the increasing pressure, from officials and vigilantes, faced by ethnic Uzbeks in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, to give up their land because of a severe housing shortage. The article documented the fears of many of the minority Uzbeks in the city who have been afraid for their safety and of losing their livelihood and land.

Temir said he was of course happy with the recognition his piece received, but mostly for the awareness it threw on the topic. “I am glad and proud indeed that the human rights issues raised in the story drew attention of the commission,” he said. “I believe that the main goal of a journalist writing on human rights issues is to tell the world the truth about the situation with human rights in this or that part of the world, to let the world know if human rights are violated”.

The piece was also used as a “good example of a social media piece” as part of the “Social Media and Human Rights” international course conference held earlier this month. 

So to Temir, we say, congratulations!

*Temir Akmatov is a pseudonym to protect the journalist’s identity.

Featured Content

Transitions Online ( often showcases the work produced through our grant programs.  Some of the highlights from May include the following stories:

2 May 2012
Throwing Spitballs from Berlin to Baku
An online prankster plays a serious game with Azerbaijan’s government. Third in a series.
By Arzu Geybullayeva

11 May 2012
Germany Hands Over the Eurovision Baton, With Barbs
With the song contest coming, German media spotlight human rights in Azerbaijan, and Baku hits back.
By Shahla Sultanova

7 May 2012
The Haves and Have Nots of Kyrgyz Prisons
The power of shadowy criminal guilds may explain last winter’s mass hunger strike and outbreak of lip-sewing by Kyrgyz prisoners.
By Askar Erkabaev

17 May 2012
In Kyrgyzstan, Clearing the Air Between Ethnic Groups
News-gathering meets peace-building in an ambitious radio and TV collaboration between Kyrgyz and Uzbek journalists.
By Usman Khakimov

10 May 2012
The Guns of August
The hoped-for Russian blockbuster of 2012, a film set during the 2008 war, failed to catch fire at home while proving too hot to handle for some of the neighbors.
By Vladimir Kozlov

21 May 2012
Healing Waters, Roiling Fights
TOL Special Report: Kremlin plans to ramp up tourism in the North Caucasus raise fears of damage to a famed spa zone.
By Nikolay Protsenko

23 May 2012
St. Petersburg Gets Sorted
TOL Special Report: A test drive for recycling in Russia’s second city gets an overwhelming response.
By Irina Titova

24 May 2012
Nuclear-Strength Kola
TOL Special Report: In Russia’s northwest, a scrappy bunch of young environmentalists faces off against a powerful nuclear lobby. 
By Alexander Tretyakov

25 May 2012
The New Siege of St. Petersburg
TOL Special Report: Protesting residents say overdevelopment of Russia’s second city is destroying parks and greenery at a rate unseen since World War II.
By Galina Stolyarova

31 May 2012
No Wheelchairs Allowed
Brave front-line workers protect Russians from unsightly disabled people.
By Galina Stolyarova

29 May 2012
Lithuania’s Boy Smugglers Go Back to Class
The numbers say that fewer children are skipping school to help with the illegal trade.
By Linas Jegelevicius

Current Projects

Azerbaijan and Moldova
Promoting the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.
Training journalists to cover issues related to the environment.
Central Asia
Promoting the use of Internet media and new media techniques to produce, promote, and distribute new forms of content.
Improving the quality of environmental investigative journalism while increasing the impact of the environmental movement in Russia.
Education Reporting
Using distance learning courses, workshops, and other resources to improve reporting on education-related topics.
Roma Multimedia Training
Training Roma and majority community journalists in multimedia story-telling, with a special focus on Roma issues.

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