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Transitions Recognized for Leading the Way in Online Training

One quick search for “international organizations and initiatives” can lead to hours upon hours of rummaging through thousands of results. It is seemingly impossible to connect curious philanthropists with an organization that best fits their passions.

That is where The Engine Room’s Social Tech Census (STC) rolls in. The STC’s global database of advocacy groups, events, organizations, and projects makes the discovery of initiatives centered on technology and advocacy as easy as switching into autopilot.

An interview with TOL’s executive director and editor in chief, Jeremy Druker, was featured last month in the STC’s October blog post. The segment highlighted TOL’s new online training platform for civil society activists, inaugurated this fall with a series of pilot courses on social media and Internet security.

One goal of TOL’s latest initiative is to help organizations recycle valuable training resources from past projects. Jeremy hopes that this new platform will enable TOL and itspartners to collaborate using a central location and database for information sharing, making resources more readily accessible to beneficiaries.

“We see a huge potential in online learning,” Jeremy said. “It is difficult, expensive, and dangerous to train in parts of this region – and new technology makes it possible to reach across closed borders and provide an alternative school. It is open to all and everyone can attend.”

TOL is enthusiastic about the convenience that the STC provides. “I think it’s going to be incredibly helpful for our e-learning platform, both to find partners around the world and locate existing, freely available resources that we can adapt and localize for activists in this region,” Jeremy said.

To further explore the opportunities provided by Social Tech Census, click here.

Free Speech Conference in Kyiv

Concepts like “tweeting,” “favorite,” “like,” “share,” “#hashtag,” and “@,” so key to establishing networks through social media, have become essential in promoting niche journals like Poland’s Res Publica Nowa, a TOL partner that seeks to enhance discussions on culture, politics, and society in Central Europe.

If you follow Res Publica Nowa on Twitter, you could not have missed the “#FSP2013” tweets from 25-27 October, pointing readers to the organization’s Free Speech Partnership Conference in Kyiv. More than 40 journal editors from more than 14 nations — including countries in the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Four, Austria, Germany, and Russia — joined in various dialogues centered around the conference’s headlining theme, “Discourses of Modernization: Technology and Democracy in a Global Context.” TOL senior editor Ky Krauthamer took part in a panel discussion on “Tech Geeks and Technocrats.”

Throughout the three days, presenters and participants addressed a wide variety of questions, including:

• Does technological progress bring more democracy or is it neutral? Does it really influence democratic change?

• How do we react to modernization? How do responses differ in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe?

A common thread throughout the presentations was the paradox of modernization in the region. In a technological sense, Central and Eastern European countries are at the forefront of advancement, while the development of“modern” politics — democratic, trustworthy, and relatively corruption-free — remains a distant goal.

During the weekend a consensus emerged that the classical model of a subscription- and advertising-based independentpress is almost extinct in the region, and it is hard to predict where today’s ambitious young journalists will be able to selltheir work, Ky said.

“It could be the kind of alternative weekly that is about to launch in Minsk – hip but not ‘dissident’ and aimed at the rising middle class. Or it could be crowdfunding of individual journalists using a platform similar to the popular Kickstarter.”

Get a feel of the conference vibe with some sample tweets:

The Free Speech Partnership Conference is a multi-annual program sponsored by the International Visegrad Fund, Google, the Polish-German Cooperation Fund, and the Polish Institute in Kyiv. Feel free to check out more information about the conference here.

Success Story

Many undergraduate students are all too familiar with the uncertainty of determining a career path. Overwhelming, open­ ended questions that require  self reflection and thinking about the future can leave many students perplexed. When facing such a big life decision, nothing is more valuable for a student than a valid opportunity that can open the doors to professional development.

Lucie Kavanova, a top reporter for the Czech Republic’s best weekly Respekt, knows very well the sound of opportunity knocking. As a young undergraduate student in 2007, Lucie was deciding between a career in international relations and journalism. She then applied and was accepted to a unique three ­workshop program (Prague, Bratislava, and Rome) for aspiring Czech and Slovak journalists, sponsored by the UniCredit Foundation and implemented by TOL and Slovakia’s MEMO 98.

And she hasn’t looked back since.

With that program behind her, Lucie was able to configure a perfect combination of her two fields of interest. Following the TOL training initiative in 2007, Lucie landed her first big journalism position through a connection she made during the course. Her work experience and skill development continued as she became an organizer (and indirect participant) of TOL training courses for budding foreign correspondents. As time went on, Lucie’s dedication and hard work continued to open doors. She earned a three ­month scholarship to intern with Spiegel in Berlin. Her ever­ improving English ­writing abilities later enabled her to study in Hong Kong in 2010.

Before becoming an intern at Respekt in 2011, Lucie attended a second TOL course in 2010 on reporting on minorities and education. The team component of the training provided a great opportunity for her to learn more about what it’s like to collaborate with others toward a common goal, she said. “Also, the TOL training allowed me to work on a report with someone from another continent for the first time – doing a multimedia piece on Roma schools together with a colleague from Kenya was great fun.”

Lucie, 28, has now been a reporter with Respekt for more than two years. Many of her articles cover social issues such as education, health care, and minorities. And she has quickly become a valuable member of the team that has transformed the magazine into one of the region’s top publications (staying serious and investigative in the midst of the general “tabloidization” of much of the Czech media).

“TOL training courses have provided me with the most important thing for every journalist: contacts to interesting people in the field, which enabled me to get some further jobs and which I still use in my daily work today,” Lucie said. “Both of these courses reminded me of how lucky I am to be doing this great job – and helped me develop my multimedia skills, something desperately needed in journalism these days.”

Featured Content

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

8 November 2013
The Banksy of Bishkek
In just a year, Denis Kapkanets took the city’s street art from spray paint squiggles to elliptical visual puzzles.
By Nurzhan Kadyrkulova

14 November 2013
Back to Class
Georgia prepares to launch a bigger and, activists hope, better inclusive education scheme.
By Natia Ejoshvili

27 November 2013
The Princess and her “Gulivers”
Uzbekistan’s Gulnara Karimova may be down, but her cultural impact, especially among the young, is too great to count her out.
By Dengiz Uralov

29 November 2013
The Lord of Nakhchivan
The whims and dictates of one man reach deep into the lives of those in this isolated piece of Azerbaijan.
By Shahla Sultanova

Current Projects

Azerbaijan and Moldova
Promoting the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.
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.