MSF & Christian Aid blaze podcast trail!

Is it our role to advocate for change, communicate needs on the ground, promote intellectual debate and ensure education and awareness of different communites of the challenges faced by others?

Fortunately there are trail blazers out there testing new media to and its effectiveness for the rest of us. Podcasts that can be accessed on i-tunes, or downloaded from websites, dramatically further communication and information sharing. MSF

MSF has demonstrated three prominent approaches. MSF Voice podcasts in the build up to the XVI Aids Conference in August 2006 along with daily discussions on key topics and demonstration of how MSF drives advocacy at such conferences. Regular advocacy and discussion of field activities and focus of programmes in different countries. Finally, MSF Frontline is a monthly podcast enabling individuals to catch up with MSF operations. programmes, facts, figures and personal testaments. MSF Voice and MSF Frontline are seamlessly integrated into the web site for ease of access.

CAChristian Aid after using podcasts for internal reporting opened their podcasts up to the public, as reported by humanitarian.info and Full Circle. Some examples include fascinating mini series on different campaigns, such as the Beat goes on a march against the policies of IMF, WB and the North in controlling the South and a demand for friendly and inclusive policies. Daily podcasts for a field visit to Haiti truly set a standard for everyone to match! It reflects the naevity of foreigners, gives a detailed awareness of challenges faced in the country and yet the character of people and their cultural legacy comes through. Finally like MSF, Christian Aid uses this medium to present interviews, debate and discussion on critical issues.

In a former piece I argued that podcasts should be taken into the office, Christian Aid and MSF have illustrated that staff with basic training can use podcasting instead of paper reports, perfect for disseminating information in an accessible form to staff, they also provide the perfect advocacy platform. Advocacy organisations take note!

Internal communication, information sharing and advocacy are critical elements of management in all humanitarian and development work. MSF and Christian Aid provide different exceptional examples of how podcasts can be applied in both settings… the race is on!

03/12/06 Editors note:

Apologies to UNICEF who have been operating podcasts since February 2006 with a mixture of UNICEF news and programme reports now in video and audio!

The UN also started a twice daily news podcast in November (sorry can’t find any show link), and but worry yee not this phenomena is catching on, UNESCO has put out bids for video podcast proposals!

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Nomadic bloggers need each other… & bloggers in the communities they serve.

I suspect this is a ritual undertaken by most blog novices… a very early stab at blogging about blogging, which inevitably falls far short of the mark! Fortunately humanitarian and development workers are fascinating people that makes such a compilation a true pleasure.

Forgetting the numerous blogs that appear to be acting more as portals to information on a specific place or organisation there are an ever increasing number of single issue or single interest blogs clearly designed to change attitudes and help drive advocacy. Anita Roddick has an interesting advocacy blog at HIV is everyones problem, then there are the informative NGO blogs for example Aids Orphans Rising. What concerns me more is that since we are purportedly focused on supporting self reliance, local response, sustainability in development, humanitarian and development bloggers need to find a way to proactively support local advocacy initiatives, lets at least conciously seek out and promote the best!

Of course it is a pleasure to surf the numerous personal blogs from those starting out in their careers Erika in Lanka, to professionals on the ground Dili-Dallying, and mozamblog from a US physician. Then there are nuggets tucked away like delightful child stories by Sahelsteve at Voice in the Desert and the entertaining Lucky White Girl. Sadly these can be temporal affairs, Sleepless in Sudan shutdown in February 2006 on the authors departure, this just demonstrates one way in which the blogging humanitarian community can gain by keeping close and in touch. We need each other like any nomadic population.

Sadly, or rather fortunately we also work, dedicated blogs will become ever more valuable sources of networking and information, and encourage non-tech familiar workers to set up support sites. Tsunami is a good example, others seem to be more organisation focused, but they are not the worse for it, te comprehensive ODI site is now complimented by a blog. Although I note it is questionable whether an edited organisational blog is just that.

Of course the true stalwarts of blogging must be those individuals who singlehandedly mix work and prose craft through dogedly registering essential documents, updating us on exiting developments and keeping us informed of trends. Humanitarian.info by Paul Currion gets my award for now… but I am only just out of Afghanistan so it may get knocked off my top spot in the next few months!

I have no doubt that participatory media in its many forms from blogs and wiki’s to podcasts (and thats just for now!) will transform the way the humanitarian and development communities communicate, share and manage information and advocate on critical issues. We are really just at the start of this shift, ever the optimist, I am confident it it will also ensure a better understanding and closer relationships between nomadic humanitarian and development workers and the communities they seek to serve.