wiki:international_outreach_and_training

Funding Application for

Free Software Technology Community Development

prepared by May First/People Link (mayfirst.org)
Liaison: Mallory Knodel, mallory@…

Funding Request: $78,000.00

Description of Applying Group

May First/People Link is a membership organization based in the United States. It is one of the oldest progressive providers of Internet to non-profits in the world. Our membership consists of over 500 members, most of which are organizations, others are individuals. By joining as a member and paying yearly dues, an organization receives free website and email hosting. Our vision is to build a network that values a free and open Internet by committing to the use of Free and Open Source Software and making principled decisions on laws and practices that affect the way communication is done online.

The technologists that support May First/People Link offer trainings to member organizations in building technology solutions that fulfill some basic principles:

  • Organizations and individuals have the right to access and control of their data.
  • Technology and practices that support an open Internet is a benefit to all, especially popular movements.
  • That the administration of Internet technology is hegemonic by race, class, and geography is a significant weakness of its potential to catalyze social change.
  • Global networks must be built for collaboration towards the solutions for humanity's crises.

We believe that the technology choices of organizations impacts their individual missions. Likewise, we believe that the socio-economic background of the technologists behind the Internet has an impact on the success of the Internet, too. Therefore, it is a manifestation of our mission and principles that we widen the network of technologists from the Global South and communities of color through trainings in the high-level administration of Internet technology such as websites.

Our scope of work includes deep involvement in movements, particularly at least one dozen World Social Forums and other thematic and regional fora, the Climate Justice mobilization for three COP meetings, support of the Latin American initiative on climate justice, and online activism supporting Wikileaks, most recently Tunisians and Egyptians, and several, targeted online campaigns.

Project Vision

Social media, people's production of community media, and online communications are transforming the political climate around the world. Particularly in Africa and the Middle East, people's movements leveraging social media have completely altered the political landscape. May First/People Link seeks to use its strong connections to community-based, grassroots, social movements to build intentionality, strategy, and capacity around social media such as blogging and web campaigning.

Rather than merely training organizations in blogging, this project seeks to create administrator-level technologists for ongoing, in-house maintenance and further development of content management systems. This perspective will empower organizations to adapt their websites to meet their political missions, unlike an outsourced content management system, which may fail due to rigidity and stagnation of the theme, layout, or functionality.

Three times per year, 3 - 5 organizations in a specified region will meet to receive training in the development of a Drupal website for blogging. These organizations will be located in the Global South and/or communities of color. Technologists representing the chosen organizations will attend the trainings. The trainings will be conducted by a technologist from May First/People Link on the in-depth, administrative use of modern content management systems as well as independent media production. The project will bring together the organizations for 40 hours per week for 4 weeks on how to install, configure, theme, and write content for their own website. Rather than encouraging outsourcing of technology work, we believe that creating in-house experts will increase the production and quality of website content for these four organizations.

Each series of technology trainings seek to increase the network of progressive technologists in the Global South and communities of color. Rather than only teach content production, our project seeks to empower organizations by giving them greater control of their website technology. One organization told us that they had three websites. When asked if they still used all three, they said that they didn't use any because the volunteers that had created them took all of their knowledge with them when their volunteership was over. This project will mitigate this hegemonic practice by tech-savvy volunteers from Western countries by training the organizations to fully create their own websites from installation to blogging content.

Background

May First/People Link has offered training and support in System Administration and open source Website tools for many years. Approximately bi-monthly, a group of professional technologists that volunteer to support May First/People Link infrastructure meet to discuss curriculum and the growth of the administrative support group. Through this process, a curriculum for trainings has been established as well as a political vision for how to spread knowledge throughout international networks of progressive organizations.

One such training curriculum was administered to dozens of members of the Local 1180 Communications Workers of America (AFL-CIO) union. For a semester, participants were given a vast training in the development of Drupal-based websites. The training was seen as highly successful to the participants, who received certificates upon completion of the program. The curriculum used can be adapted for this project in addition to the training necessary for the high-level administration of networked servers.

We plan for the first project location to be the West Bank in Palestine. Organizing work and partnerships have already been established. The World Education Forum in 2010, of which MF/PL was deeply involved in as international adviser and organizer, allowed for the creation of alliances with four key organizations based in the West Bank of Palestine. The shared goals of Stop the Wall, Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), Union of Palestinian Women Committees (UPWC), and the Alternative Information Center (AIC) are to join as members and create blogging websites that reach a global audience. The success of our work in Palestine has spurred an interest to conduct the program in many other regions throughout the world. The list below denotes a familiarity with organizations in the following locations in which we expect our program to be carried out:

  • Palestine
  • India
  • Morocco
  • Bolivia
  • Nigeria
  • Sovereign Indigenous Nations

Project Plan

The overall project is a series of location-specific trainings in various areas around the world. We've used the West Bank project as an example of our Project Plan overall, with our model adapted slightly for each location with consideration to our partners and their specific needs.

The West Bank project has begun by organizing with multiple Palestinian organizations in the Fall of 2010. The next phase of the project is to expand upon a training curriculum for the installation, configuration, and administration of Drupal blogging websites.

The main phase of the project is to send two trainers from May First/People Link to the West Bank to conduct a comprehensive, four-week training program. The relationship building between these organizations and May First/People Link will solidify during the training phase as well. Blogging and multi-media content production will be an integral part of the training available to all members of the participating organizations. At the conclusion of the training program, each organization will have a trained, long-term, IT staff person, a fully-functional Drupal website, MF/PL membership for one year, and a deep knowledge of how to modify and maintain their website infrastructure.

MF/PL plans to continue relationships with the technologists and their organizations by providing technical support as well as amplifying the voices of media that is produced through the sites by publishing a monthly newsletter that will highlight their articles. This requires training in use of Internet infrastructure such as networked servers, security practices, and protocols for regular and emergency communication.

The development of this media and technology curriculum will be used again for future projects of exactly this kind. Over time, it is expected that trainers from previous project will have the means to administer trainings, grow and modify the curriculum, and generally contribute to the growth of the general vision of our program.

(One possible consideration for adapting our model is to use travel of either the hosting organization to the United States or our trainers to locations abroad for the project. For example, if only one organization is interested in a partnership, resources would be saved by hosting that organization in the United States. In the case of Palestine, 4 or more organizations have expressed interest such that resources would be saved by sending our trainers abroad.)

Evaluation

Outlining a precise method for evaluation is a fundamental part of creating and implementing any kind of curriculum. Pedagogically, it increases value for our project and the potential of a model for others to implement. We have identified five ways in which we plan to evaluate our work along with possible solutions and actions that can mitigate any gaps in our results:

  • Track number of "trivial" support requests from trainees for 6 months following the training period. 'Possible solutions: Develop curriculum further, revise documentation, implement distance-learning sessions'
  • Itemize all expenses and identify incidentals. 'Possible solution: Seek alternative sources of funding, seek in-kind donations, reduce rate of projects/organizational partners per year'
  • Keep record of number of applications for partnering organizations to be evaluated against capacity. 'Possible solutions: Adjust requirements for partnership applications, seek additional funding and trainers to support more organizations per region'
  • Track rate of publishing and statistics of users on each website. 'Possible solutions: Prolong training period to ensure commitment by organizational staff to producing content, create more regional and global partnerships to increase visibility, organize an event or campaign to increase production and visibility.'
  • Compare increase in rate of new memberships (and renewals) to MF/PL by region over time. 'Possible solutions: Host community-based events in project locations, increase participation in movement-building convergences, evaluate outreach needs versus capacity'

Timeline

Since September of 2010, MF/PL has worked with four organizations in the West Bank to establish a political bond based in solidarity. Additionally, connections and goals are strongly defined for future work with organizations in at least 4 other locations.

With two trainers, each location-specific project will last about 2 months requiring one month of administrative preparation before and after for a total of 4 months. The total time given to each organization will be one week, approximately 40 hours in total. With four organizations, the project will last four weeks. These four weeks can be completed at any time, given at least two months for coordination and administration.

At the end of the project's training period, an ongoing relationship will continue between the organizations and MF/PL through the creation of a monthly newsletter which highlights blogs produced on the new websites, the first issue of which can be expected approximately one month from the end date.

Regular communication will exist due to the general needs of the organizations as members of May First/People Link. Relationships between the technologists will continue in a collaborative, ongoing way for support in website development and media production.

Budget Summary

The following is an example of one location-based project. Depending on capacity, other locations will be funded every four months, for a total of 3 projects per year. This application is for 2 years of support, for a total of six times the amount itemized below, or $78,000.00:

EXPENSES

Travel$4,500.00
Airfare for trainers
Translation$1,000.00
$50.00 per day stipend
Training hours$4,800.00
40 hours for 4 weeks at $15.00 per hour for each trainer
Website hosting$800.00
$200/year for 4 organizations
Equipment$1,600.00
$400 for laptops and A/V equipment for each of 4 organizations
TOTAL$12,700.00
Last modified 8 years ago Last modified on Aug 14, 2011, 11:25:17 AM