Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events


Camping Out in Bosnia

Earlier this month, Transitions co-organized a regional Social Innovation Camp in Sarajevo with Internews, an international media development organization.  From 9-10 July, participants from 20 countries spent a few hectic days building web-based tools for social impact. Excerpts from the Internews writeup of the event follow:

“It has been a fantastic weekend, full of creativity [and] innovation,” said Nick Heller, one of five Google staff from around the world that joined the camp to serve as volunteer mentors to participants. Developers, designers, and civil society advocates were selected to participate, and self-organized to work on seven ideas proposed by participants and selected by organizers.

Heller joined Tony Bowden of mySociety, Alicja Peszkowska of TechSoup/NetSquared, and Boro Kontić of Mediacentar Sarajevo as a final jury for the projects. Nova Mama, a project intended to build online and offline communities for pregnant women and new mothers in Belarus, won the jury vote, while Newsify, an online and location-based game [for] reporting, was selected as the popular vote winner.  See a wrap-up of the final ideas and winners, as well as a video of the event.  Teams were awarded $1,000 grants to continue their project development.

Mapping, gaming, and crowd-sourcing were key elements in several projects. In the process, many teams built prototypes of their ideas using existing open source and free tools, including CrowdMap, Drupal, and Google Maps, as well as developing independent capability to contribute content by mobile phone. Map4Youth, for example, allows young people to post and check in to social events and locations in their hometowns by phone, and gain rewards for doing so.  All projects had a working prototype by the close of camp.

“Camp showed me another perspective, and gave me new ideas for approaching the work I do,” said Vanja Ibrahimbegovic of Sarajevo, who worked on the Viva Positiva project, a localized, user-generated news feed for positive news in Sarajevo. Inspired by the process and the projects developed, additional Social Innovation camps are in the works, including one in Armenia.

Scouting Media in Georgia

At the end of June, TOL Georgia project manager Elza Ketsbaia and Jakub Gornicki, a new media specialist, visited a series of media outlets in various parts of the country. Their mission: to choose the targets for a TOL-run, NED-financed project to revamp the Internet presence and strategies of a select group of independent media institutions, allowing them to play a greater role on the increasingly government-controlled media scene and as public watchdogs over Georgia’s democratization. Jakub is community manager at Sourcefabric, our partner on this project and one of the largest open source media organizations in Europe. The first visit was to Zugdidi, in western Georgia close to the border of the breakaway region Abkhazia, for a meeting with the staff of livepress.ge, a promising site launched a few months ago that remains the only media outlet in the Samegrelo region regularly producing journalism content. The next stop was Gurjaani, in the eastern part of the country, with the Kakheti Information Center, which launched the first online portal in the Kakheti region in 2009. The same team is now working on a new project, the Mtskheta Mtianeti website, which will be targeted to another region. Jakub and Elza also visited Poti, a Black Sea port town, meeting with tspress, a local media outlet that covers Samegrelo, Ajara, and the upper Svaneti regions. The next step will be to agree on an implementation plan with participating organizations and devise a strategy to adopt the latest trends and technologies for their websites.

The Community of Democracies

TOL was honored to be invited to a series of meetings in Vilnius between 29 June and 2 July organized in the run-up to Lithuania’s presidency of the Community of Democracies Ministerial Conference. The Community of Democracies is a global intergovernmental coalition of democratic countries, with the goal of promoting democratic rules and strengthening democratic norms and institutions around the world.

TOL’s deputy director, Tihomir Loza, attended the Vilnius events, which included sessions on gender equality, the role of youth in democratization, a parliamentary forum, and a meeting of representatives of civil society organizations. On 1 July Mongolia took over the presidency of the Community of Democracies for a two-year term.

Featured Content

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) often showcases the work produced through our grant programs. Some of the highlights from June include the following stories:

2 June 2011
St. Petersburg’s Cultural Icons, Brought to You by United Russia
The ruling party tries to borrow some of the glory of the city’s legendary thinkers and innovators.
By Galina Stolyarova

10 June 2011
A Contorted History of a Complex Part of Europe
With so much history wrapped up in the term “Baltic states,” writing a coherent synthesis of the region is a daunting job. 
By Mel Huang

16 June 2011
St. Petersburg Reins in Those Thieving Parents of Disabled Children
A new rule makes life more miserable and humiliating for one of the country’s most vulnerable groups.
By Galina Stolyarova

29 June 2011
Dam Will Reshape Remote Georgian Mountain Region
The largest of 40 planned hydropower projects will displace thousands of Svans, who say they don’t know where they will go.
By Natia Ejoshvili

30 June 2011
Another Journalist Disappears, but Not in the Way You Think
A critic of St. Petersburg’s governor falls victim to the censor’s eraser.
By Galina Stolyarova


Current Projects

Central Asia

TOL offers distance-learning courses, new media training, and traditional journalism skill-building to the region’s journalists, student-journalists, and bloggers.

Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova

In all three countries, TOL runs programs designed to promote the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.

Russia

TOL is working with the U.S.-based Poynter Institute to localize the popular News U distance education platform into Russian.

Serbia

TOL is running a training project for journalists covering issues related to the environment.

Multimedia Training

TOL is training Roma and majority community journalists in multimedia story-telling, with a special focus on Roma issues.

Roma Journalism Training

TOL runs a multi-faceted program aimed at improving the skills of young, Romani journalists in Central and Southeastern Europe.