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SFCG Newsletter - Spring 2010

Search for Common Ground

Understand the Differences, Act on the Commonalities

Spring 2010

Dear Friend,

We at Search for Common Ground apply tools for conflict transformation across whole societies. Our vision is to move the world away from adversarial ways of resolving conflict, toward collaborative solutions. Clearly, to be successful, we need to reach huge numbers of people. To this end, we have become major media producers, and about half our current work involves TV, radio, internet, and print production. And now, we have created a multi-media tool that has hugely increased our global reach. This is The Team, a dramatic, TV and radio series,which we are producing in 15 different countries. A recent PBS documentary described the series as "soap opera for social change." (To view the 25-minute PBS program, please click on www.pbs.org/now/shows/601/index.html.)

Team Kenya Photo-co-ed entry into stadium

The Team in Kenya

THE TEAM. The goal of the series is to use popular culture to prevent violence and promote understanding. And what could be more part of popular culture than soccer, the most widely played sport in the world? In each place where we produce the series, local scriptwriters create an original plot, which focuses on a fictional soccer team whose players reflect the ethnic, religious, and/or social diversity of their country. Team series are currently on the air in Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire, Morocco, Nepal, and Ethiopia. Additional series are in production in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Palestinian Territories, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. In the year ahead, we will be starting in Angola, Burundi, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, and Pakistan (where The Team will play cricket). In Kenya, the 26-episode series is rated in the top-ten of all TV programs and is part of a larger campaign to help move the country beyond tribalism. The Côte d'Ivoire version won first prize for dramatic TV programming at the Verona (Italy) African Film Festival. International broadcast rights to the series have so far been taken by satellite networks, including CFI, Link-TV, and M-Net.

Mburugu Gikunda

Mburugu Gikunda, Kenyan Director, Media Focus on Africa, and Series Executive Producer

NEW MEDIA. In addition to the series' highly popular presence on TV and radio, the Kenyan version has also found what Afrinnovator, a pan-African technology website, calls the "golden mean" between old and new media.

"[The Team] is an awesome example of leveraging different media channels to propagate social change."
- http://afrinnovator.com



Kevin Madegwa

Web Guru Kevin Madegwa

New Mediating. Our Kenyan production partner, Media Focus on Africa, employs a 23 year-old webmaster, Kevin Madegwa, who comes from a poor family in one of Nairobi's biggest slums. Kevin fits the profile of young Kenyans whom the series targets. Sitting at his computer with cell phones in constant use, Kevin sweeps from one application to the next. He texts, blogs, streams, and uses social media to promote The Team. He mostly communicates in Sheng, the slang language that transcends tribe and is spoken by Kenya's urbanized youth. Please check out the series website at www.theteamkenya.com. From there, you can click on our two Facebook pages (with 5,000 members), Twitter, YouTube for video-sharing, and Google's Picassa for photo-sharing. The idea - in Kenya and everywhere - is to find innovative ways to transform attitudes and behaviors.

22038_105406086153054_100000509892257_142031_3018045_n by the Gnawee.

Bloggers from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia attend a three-day workshop in Rabat

Mahgreb Blogging. In February, we held a three-day workshop in Rabat for bloggers from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Present were eight women and seven men who learned about common ground journalism, examined the relationship between media and conflict, and looked at journalistic ethics in the context of multi-media blogging. At the end of the first day, one participant volunteered that he now recognized his previous blogging had reflected "hate media" and that he was henceforth going to apply the common ground approach. Another participant, who writes for a popular Islamic website, said that she had realized she could be true to her religion while remaining inclusive. Here are other comments that, naturally, were blogged:

"When I first came I thought this would be like other workshops I attended before: an awful lot of theory, blah-blah-blah, and chitchat, but I discovered ideas I could not have imagined." (Please see http://news.meedan.net.)

"The most important aspect was through blogging and training. We made mutual respect and dialogue a reality as we worked on commonalities that are vectors for peace and development." (Please see http://kamelmansari.maktoobblog.com)

CONGO. The DRC is a huge country where, in recent years, several million people have died violently. It is also the site of our largest single program, and we have six offices there. Our goal is to build a culture of non-violence so that differences are peacefully resolved. Under the expert leadership of our Country Director, Lena Slachmuijlder, we carry out a broad array of projects including: training Congolese army battalions in non-abusive behavior, sponsoring a country-wide initiative to curb violence against women, producing radio programs that promote non-violent solutions to the many problems the country faces, and reintegrating former child soldiers.

"One glimmer of hope is the extraordinary effort to rehabilitate child soldiers. Check out our website (www.amanpour.com) , where we take a special look at these efforts and the group, Search for Common Ground." - Christiane Amanpour, CNN

Reality. We are currently producing the DRC's first-ever reality TV series. Called Tosale'lango (Let's Do It), it reaches nearly two million people in Kinshasa. A Congolese market research firm has polled 1,000 households in the capital city and found that 98% of viewers feel the series leads to positive change. The format calls for young contestants to identify a problem in their community and then to solve it constructively. For example, a recent episode showed challengers successfully lobbying the water company to have pipelines repaired in one of Kinshasa's poorest neighborhoods.

SNAPSHOT. As an organization, we try to avoid mind-numbing data. Here, however, are six statistics that provide a picture of our activities during 2009:

  • We worked in partnership with 1,275 organizations around the world.
  • We provided training to 19,051 people in methodologies arising from the common ground approach (as opposed to 15,068 in 2008).
  • We produced or co-produced multi-episode TV series in eight countries and reached tens of millions of viewers.
  • Every month, our producers turned out a total of 203 hours of original radio programming in 12 different countries (as opposed to 126 hours in 2008).
  • Newspapers and websites across the globe reprinted 5,778 distinct Common Ground News Service articles (www.commongroundnews.org).
  • 2,358,180 people had a direct experience of us, as trainees, participatory theater audience members, mobile cinema attendees, comic book readers, mediation participants, etc.
Mobile Cinema Photo2

Regional Participatory Theater Festival in Rwanda

Mobile Cinema Audience in Congo

WRITINGS. We encourage our staff to write about their experiences and the lessons they learn. Two of our Country Directors, Liberia's Oscar Bloh and Sierra Leone's Ambrose James, have recently co-authored an article on Accountability Now: Battling corruption in search of peace: The Common Ground Approach. The article explores the important role that community radio can play in increasing transparency; in mainstreaming the concerns of ordinary people; and in creating a more dynamic and representative public sphere. (See http://www.sfcg.org/programmes/sierra/pdf/NexusPeaceCorruption.pdf)

Ambrose James Photo Oscar Bloh at Mittal meeting

Ambrose James

Oscar Bloh

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE. We believe that our work makes a profound difference and we are clear that we would not be able to do what we do without generous support of people like you. We ask you to support us at a level that makes a difference to you, either by clicking on https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=3923 or by mailing us a contribution.

With best wishes,

John Marks

Abidjan, Abuja, Beirut, Brussels, Bujumbura, Bukavu, Conakry, Freetown, Jakarta, Jerusalem,
Kathmandu, Kiev, Kigali, Kinshasa, Luanda, Monrovia, Rabat, Skopje, Washington

email: search@sfcg.org

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