Sunday, December 4, 2011

Interview with Playmyjamz

Playmyjamz is a web application to strategically promote less privileged artists and their songs for free in the everhanging and sometimes ruthless music industry. It encourages the upcoming artist to be focused and stay away from crime, drugs and violence. For more information, there is an introduction post of Playmyjamz in this blog.

I had a great chance to ask some questions from the team behind Playmyjamz:

Where did the idea to create Playmyjamz came from? What got you inspired?

I was inspired by the challenge of my little family freind that wants to get the world to play his song but does not have the luxuries of paying radio DJs and promoting his songs.

Is your service based only in Nigeria (most of the artists I found on are from Nigeria) or is it also available in other parts of the world?

The service is for Artistes from every part of the world. You found more Artiste from Nigeria on it because we have been able to get across to many radio DJs/presenter in Nigeria and more local newspapers. However, we are working on spreading the news to other countries.

How are you promoting this service, how artists can find you?

The service in itself is viral because Artistes bring people to nominate their songs. Therefore, we direct our major campaign to Artistes. Artiste can find us through the URL or send any enquiry to Presently, the team is working on a massive campaign or advert drive to propagate our service to the world.

How long did it take you to build up this service?

It took two months to develop the core features but development is still on going. :-)

I was impressed with the work they have done and really wish it will only grow bigger and achieve their goals and even more. I wish all the best and all the luck to Playmyjamz in the future!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Interview with Amira Salah from Kherna

I interviewed Amira Salah, co-founder of Kherna, which is a social networking platform for organizations devoted to good causes. In a nutshell, Kherna provides an online platform, where civil society organizations can post their updates for online users to see their activities and services in real-time. Kherna is winner in WSYA 2011 category "Fight Poverty, Hunger and Disease".

How did you get the idea behind Kherna?
The idea was sparked during the holy month of Ramadan when NGOs in the MENA region normally start using traditional marketing to raise the awareness of their activities. We have come to realize that the traditional marketing is so expensive for most of the NGOs and also not that effective especially after the rise of social media. We tried to think of other ways to get those NGOs the marketing they need with some affordable channels. Back then, we were working in social media and new technologies that we thought can be the answer to the traditional marketing alternative dilemma.

How long have you been working with Kherna, and how did the project start?
We have started planning for the idea in June 2010 when we found a business plan competition held by Yahoo and Nahdet Elmahrousa that is a famous NGO here in Egypt. We started to work on Kherna business plan to apply in the competition and we won among others in the competition later in 2010. Then we resigned from our jobs in Jan 15, ten days before the Egyptian revolution to work on Kherna. We started the technical work a day after Mubarak stepped down and got a beta version live at Feb 22.

Currently how many people are there actively working with the project?
We are three co-founders "Ahmed Yahia - Mohamed Salem - Amira Salah" and we have another three team members who have joined the team weeks ago.

How do you advertise Kherna?
We mainly use the social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Lately also we were covered in many national magazines and TV shows.

Do you get support from any organizations/companies?
We had fund from the competition we won back in 2010 that helped us start the project and we are currently working on many partnerships to support the growth and sustainability of Kherna.

What is the most memorable experience you've got from working with Kherna?
Being among the winners in the WSYA international competition was a memorable experience for us. We applied early in 2011 and found that we are among some amazing pool of winners later in 2011. We traveled to Austria for the reward ceremony and we can truly say that this 4 days trip has been so fruitful for us. Through the event we were exposed to global media, mentors from different areas of the world and daily networking with world wide winners.

What are your future plans? Are you going to spread the project to other countries?
Yes, we are aiming at expanding in other markets for sure ad I think we will work on that by the the end of this year. We are also working on a mobile version that will have lots of valuable features such finding the charitable activities happening near your place and the ability to check-in and participate.

Thank you Amira for your time, and I wish you and Kherna the best of luck in the future!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Girls Only Radio – Interview with Amani Eltunsi

I sat down with the Amani Eltunsi in World Summit Youth Award. She is the founder of WSYA winning project Banat wi Bass (Girls Only). We talked more about her motivation and goals.

Girls Only is an Internet radio run by women for women. Their programs consist mostly of discussions and talking programs but they also play local oriental music.

Girls Only radio station has gained huge publicity and success gaining 5 million subscribers which has totally surprised Eltunsi. But she says that success has never been her goal but to improve her country.
- The lesson I learned from my mother was that everybody has a message in life to deliver and this is mine, Eltunsi says.
When she was working as a designer making advertisements and magazines she didn’t feel doing important things that has meaning like now with her radio station. She was shaken by violence she saw a man doing to his wife. Eltunsi tried to help and talk to the woman but she was too scared to speak up. So Eltunsi felt that she wanted to give women of Egypt a voice and output channel to their opinions.

The feedback has been mainly positive, but Eltunsi has had her fair share of negativity also.
- Some tell us to go home to cook and that women should not be doing things like this.
But these attitudes are what Eltunsi is trying to change in Egyptian society and she says that she rather focuses on the positive comments. She says that Egypt is far behind compared to Tunis for example as far women’s rights are concerned.
-The social political atmosphere was better during the 18 days revolution in Egypt last spring and couple months afterwards but things have slid back to their old ways, Eltunsi explains.

Funding the radio station has been the biggest problem from the beginning. Eltunsi started by taking a loan because she couldn’t find supporters for the station in 2008. Later on she got money from advertising agency but when economic crisis hit the agency cut their finance to radio. Eltunsi took matters into her own hands once again and started writing book about the rights of women and homosexuals.
-People asked me how I dare to write about those matters.
But selling the book kept her station going. After the revolution book sales have plummeted though since people are struggling to get money even for food.

The Egyptian revolution brought also other problems. The Internet was down during that time and Eltunsi was on forced vacation. She used the time to film events on Tahiri square. The military regime is also trying to bring up the controversies between Copti-christians and Muslims, keep people busy and silence the discussion about the rights of women.

Eltunsi hopes to have regular funding and permanent working place for her station in the future.
-I would like to run it professionally and pay regular salaries to the staff, she says.
Though she likes her work and feel it’s important it isn’t always fun.
-It’s hard work and it is sometimes difficult to face the hurting of people.
Eltunsi says that she would also be interested in working with Harassmap – another Egyptian WSYA winner – in the future to improve the status of Egyptian women in their society.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Viewspaper - Interview

I met Shiv Bhaskar Dravid, founder of The Viewspaper, at WSYA and also had a chance to interview him. Shiv told me he has been making the most of his time at event and sees it as a good opportunity to find out, what other people are doing, and to get new ideas.

Here are the questions and answers:

How do you want to change India with The Viewspaper?
I want to change India by creating a powerful voice for young people that is heard and can make a difference. I also want to change the perception that youth are not serious and cannot talk sense.

How many persons do you have in the staff running the service?
We are currently a staff of 6 people.

What concrete changes to the world have you made with the site?
I think what we have done is created a voice for young people which is taken seriously. For the first time we have created a media company which carries young peoples opinions on anything and everything.

What is the most memorable feedback you have got about The Viewspaper?
The most memorable feedback that i have got about The Viewspaper is that it changed a persons life by giving the person the opportunity to say what he felt like. The confidence it gave him resulted in him becoming journalist.

You describe the goal behind The Viewspaper: “In our hearts we believe that we are part of a revolution that is growing. A revolution that is taking the world by storm.” What kind of revolution are you seeing ahead?
The revolution that we are talking about is that of change. Change caused by creating conversations and getting young people to express what they think.

Thanks for the interview, Shiv, and good luck for the future plans of The Viewspaper – maybe we’ll see it also in Finland some day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Interview of Make A Difference

I had the pleasure to interview Jithin Krishnan from Make A Difference! MAD does an amazing job helping disadvantaged children to get access to a better education and therefore a better future. You can go to MAD's website by clicking here.

Tell us a bit how you got the idea for this project!

In 2006, a few college students visited a center by the name of YMCA Boys Home in Cochin, India to just spend some time with the under-privileged children there. When asked what the children wanted next time such a visit happened, the college students were in for quite the surprise. The children there said they wanted books. At that age, what we wanted was SO superficial. Yet, here were these children, who wanted a window to a better world, knew what the window was, but had no access to it, and no hope of gaining access either.

These children study in vernacular medium schools, and when they pass out by age 15, the education that they've gone through is absolutely no use to them. Why? Because to progress in life, academically or professionally, they need English. One of the things that you don't gain out of a Government school education in India. Back on the streets, with nothing to fall back on, their dreams and ambitions go for a toss. They just wasted 10 years of their lives going to a school and subscribing to an education that did not do them any good.

Anyway, these college students decided that something had to be done about it. So they went back next week and started a library at YMCA Boys Home. That was the starting of MAD. (These college students were my seniors in college. I got involved later in the year.)

Soon, we realized that just a library would not solve the issue. We had to bridge the gap between them and a private school education. So we set about designing a syllabus. After three attempts, we finally settled on the Cambridge English curriculum, and that is how our English project operates currently. Our children go through The Cambridge English curriculum and write the First Certificate in English Test at the end of five years.

Coming back to what it was back then, after a year, we realized that there were more gaps to be filled. Along came the Placements project which provides children exposure to professions by field visits and talks by professionals. Then came the life-skills project wherein we do camps to build on creativity, confidence etc. There is also a full-fledged library project that was kicked off last year, and an Infraspire project that provides infrastructure to children in our centers.

As I said at the WSYA presentation, the journey is not yet complete. We keep coming up with projects to impact our children more and give them a better chance of pursuing their dreams, whatever those maybe!

Were there obstacles on your way to make this project possible? If yes, what kind?

Obstacles? There were several! Yes. The first obstacle that we initially used to face was that we were young people. (As unbelievable as that is!) People used to tell us that since young people are never serious about anything, that we wouldn't succeed or that we'd fold in a few months. Credibility, hence, was a major issue the first three years. Especially when we were smaller as an organization.

An associated issue of course was that we had trouble fund-raising. Although we get the Cambridge curriculum at a subsidized rate, it still has to be paid for. The cost of putting one child through the English project per month is around Rs. 176 (About 3 Euros). And we work with 3500 children. Things though, are slowly, but steadily, turning around. We've been around for five years now. And people do understand that we mean business when we tell them about what we do.

Hopefully that will keep improving.

Do you get support from other organizations / institutions?

Make A Difference, for the most part, is an independent organization. Zoho, the office supplies provider, is our major sponsor. Other corporate houses such as Google also pitch in with contributions that have kept us going through the years. MAD also recently was awarded the YouthActioNet Starbucks grant for young people who have social projects. But as MAD grows, we're moving more towards autonomy and micro-donations and retail to support ourselves.

What is your best moment / memory you have from this project?

The best memory? That's a real tough one. Have lots. But, if I had to tell you about one, I'd tell you about one of my first students in MAD. Rajesh.

He was a very quiet kid, never used to talk much, never used to participate in anything, and never used to open up to anybody. Took quite a lot of prodding and pushing on our part to get him to open up to us. And one day, he sat down and told me all about his father who couldn't support his children, and who had sent him away to the Home because he couldn't support a family anymore. He talked to me about how he knew that he'd end up like him one day. At 15, Rajesh had already gave up on life a bit. He was pretty sure he'd flunk out of school at the final board exam and that'd be the end of that. But. He did want to study.

So we started giving him and another kid from YMCA (I used to teach at the same place as MAD started for one and a half years, before I moved to Chennai) tution on other subjects also. In the run-up to the exams Rajesh kept telling me that he was sure that he'd fail, and I kept telling him that he'd do just fine.

On the day that the results of the Board exam came out, Rajesh somehow got to a pay-phone (I don't even know where he got the money to make the call!) and called me and yelled into the phone "I got through!" One of the most proud moments that I've had. Let me assure you, there is no such thing as the satisfaction a teacher gets when a student gets well.

Rajesh, eventually got into a school near his actual home, and today, lives with his father and is continuing his education.

How do you get new members/volunteers?

We have volunteers. We have an online portal where people who'd like to volunteer with MAD register. ( Every year, at the start of the academic cycle, the HR head of a city calls up all the people who registered from that city, and invites them to the recruitment drive. We also do viral campaigns to attract more volunteers if there aren't enough registrations from a city.

Once at the recruitment drive, the attendees are put through three rounds. Those who make it through end up as MAD volunteers. Now. If that sounds very rigorous, well, it sort of is. Why? Because we take volunteering VERY seriously. If somebody is going to class and teaching our children, we need to be absolutely sure that they're capable, committed and believe in the work they're about to do. Can't make compromises there! Hence, only about 10% of people who register with our website end up as volunteers. Currently, we have about 1000 volunteers.

Who are usually the active members of your organization? (Students, workers, young /older people...?)

MAD is a youth volunteer network. Our volunteers are mostly college students and young working professionals. Last time we did a head-count, the average age of a MAD volunteer was just around 20.

But, let me clarify, there is no such thing as an 'age limit' in MAD. MAD is for people who are young at heart. They can be whatever age they want to be. But, they need to bring that extra MADness to the table! :D

Do you have any plans on how to spread your actions in the future?

We HAD plans to expand. Now, we have a process to expand. But, MAD doesn't expand to towns/cities where it wants to. We wait till we have enough registrations from a particular city to set up that city's first core team *. Then somebody from MAD's expansion team (A team of experienced MAD volunteers) visits the city, interviews the core team, briefs them on what they need to do, and how, and basically incubates that chapter.

Currently, MAD is functional in 19 cities. This January, 2 cities will be added to the list. The academic cycle ends in March. So March-July, we'll do a further expansion drive. There are another 18 or so chapters waiting to be incubated.

* Core teams: Every chapter has a team of part-time MAD employees who are called MAD Fellows (From MAD Fellowship). They handle different departments of the chapter's functioning such as Human Resources, Public Relations, Operations or Corporate Relations. MAD Fellowship is for those volunteers who want to do more, and play an active role in shaping the progress and growth of the organization.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bell Bajao! Ring The Bell Interview

Interviewers: Bulbul Mukherjee and Katie McDonough.

How did the project start?

Well, the need to do something was obvious. Statistic numbers were talking for themselves.*
The biggest challenge was not only to help protecting women, but also to tell people that domestic
violence is not OK, it's not a privet business of every family. It is wild. We definitely needed to take some actions about it.

What action are you taking to help women?

First of all, our project is oriented mostly on men and boys. We want to educate them, because they are
an integral and very significant part of violent situations happening at home. We want men to be involved in this to prevent violence not to create it.
We also create supporting trainings for women.

What is the biggest challenge to achieve your goals?

Cultural stereotypes, no doubt. Many people truly believe that being abused is a normal part of everyday life.

What kind of trainings? Can victims of domestic violence find any help there?

Yes, sure. During our training we teach men and women about human rights. The rights of freedom and the right on health. The importance of every single human personality and there is always a way to solve any problem without physical violence.
We also educate men what to do when they hear something bad is going on behind neighbor's doors. Our concept is extremely simple - just ring the bell. Ask for something usual, simple, maybe even obviously ridiculous! Just make them see that people hear and don't like what's going on.
Victims of domestic violence help to spread information as well. They start feeling much better helping other women.

How do you promote your movement? Of course, the internet is very powerful nowadays, but a lot of people in India may not have it. How to make them hear?

Yes, you are right. Internet is not available for everyone in India as, for example, in European countries.
That is why we split our budget in four equal part: one to supply TV commercials, second part for billboards on the streets, third - for maintaining trainings, and the last part - for the Internet.

What are your plans for the near future?

We are working really hard on getting police involved. We are organizing special trainings for police officers.
We want to educate them as well that it is not a private business of a family. Women deserve to be free from violence, they just need someone to help them on this way. And police is meant to be protecting people.

*Around 35 percent of Indian women suffer from physical violence at the hands of their partners while nearly 40 percent men and women think that it is sometimes or always ‘justifiable’ for a man to beat his wife (UN Women report on Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice, 2011-2012)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview with Ignacio Cordero from AVENTONES

pic of Aventones team from (Ignacio Cordero front right)

During the WYSA I met very interesting and ambitious people, with great knowledge and amazing future plans. One of those people was Ignacio Cordero from Aventones, Mexico. I got interested in their project and highly believe, that it has great future opportunities in problematic cities concerning the traffic, like Mexico. Read and learn more about Aventones and its creators, why the participated in the World Youth Summit Award and what their future plans are.

What was your motivation for participating at the WSYA?
Our main motivation was having the chance to meet and exchange ideas with people from all over the world who have an authentic desire to influence society in a positive way, and also receive feedback on our project from web experts and learn new ways to collaborate.
How did you get the ideas for this project?
Living in a very problematic city in terms of traffic, pollution and consumption of resources, it made a lot of sense to think in new ways to help dealing with this issues. With that perspective. Aventones emerged as an idea that could put on commuter's hands, the power to solve this problems.
How long till now have a been working on the Aventones project?
It has been one year and two months since we started working on Aventones
What differs your project from others, similar ones, already on the market?
Our main competitive advantages are the following:
  • Culture creation: In a society where car sharing is not a common practice, it is critical to motivate and encourage users.
  • Security: Because our customers demand reliability, our service meets the highest requirements of security in Internet
  • applications.
  • Know-how: Experience has allowed us to implement and operate our services in a very agile manner
  • Positioning: As the first service of this nature in the Mexican market, we are positioning the company as a benchmark of Good Practices

Which impressions and memories did you collect during the WSYA?
Being in the WSYA allowed me to meet young and extraordinary people and learn about projects that are already having significant impact in improving the main social problems of the planet. From the workshops, I learned new ways to develop our project, reach new markets and offer a better service. Last but not least, I made great new friends from all over the world!!!
What are your future plans with Aventones? Are you going to develop and expand your platform further? (till now, Mexico and Chile?)
Our plan is to keep reaching new organizations in Mexico and yes, start to offer our services in Chile on January 2012. We also plan to expand our platform to the main cities in Latin America also in 2012, and hopefully be global after that!! Our final goal is to evolve our project and make it available to any individual.

Thanks a lot for giving us more insight into your project Aventones. All the best with it!