Final Report for the Community Project “My Voice”

Free speech is central to any healthy democracy and a major concern in communities around the world. One of the major ways to combatant this problem is to educate journalist and active citizens. The Small Project Assistance Program funded project, “My Voice,” made a tremendous impact within the Ukrainian community of Kovel. Throughout 4 months, a group of 16 participants were provided the opportunity to increase their skills and ability in the fields of Journalistic genres, ethics, standards, equality, and processes.

23376622_1494100340687027_8811835949946543612_nIn the words of a participant and local journalist, Tania Berega, “The project really changed me as a journalist. I thought I came to My Voice with a good journalist experience, but I sometimes caught myself on the fact that I do not know even the elementary!” Or, this from another journalist, “I worked as a journalist for 2 years…. between training sessions I use knowledge from these trainings at work. In 2 years, I forgot the articles of laws, but this project reminded me.”

Also, this from participant, Valeria Sharko, “Since childhood, I have sought to become a journalist. My dream was unattainable, because I did not have the opportunity to develop myself in this direction. Thanks to the project, I realized that everyone has a 23473229_1494100267353701_5096597519107161724_nchance to find himself in any genre of journalism. We must use all the opportunities that we provide, and not seek retaliation…. The project really changed people, developed, and supported them.”

One of the most impactful trainings was conducted by Bogdan Stelmakh on professional and ethical standards of journalism. She has been working in the public and media field since 2004. From her own experience, the coach said: “Journalists can’t demand from others to be transparent, if they do not themselves meet their professional standards.”

However, participants also had the chance to work with an editor as they developed one article which would later be voted on by the community as the best project. This was said by the participant who was voted best article, Kristina Gorseva,”I really liked working with the editor. Firstly, it is a pleasant, open and very professional relationship. Secondly, the editor supported the personality of the author and did not try to express her views. My thoughts were left alone, but we improved the article by adding more structured… I was lost!” And, this stated by long time journalist, Svetlana Longchuk, “Thanks for the chance to working with the editor… Working her helped to reassure myself. Working with her and on the training was very pleasant and instructive.”

23376529_1494104697353258_3600165218528942467_nThis said by our editor, Tetiana Wilczynski, “It was interesting and easy to work with each participant of the “My voice” project. I tried to save as much as possible a unique author’s style. Also, do not interfere with all the author’s thoughts that the participants of “My voice” expressed in their works. For the reader, they may seem controversial, some frankly nonconformist, but they have fulfilled their main function – they have caused a public discussion, thus, an interest. After all, any journalist or blogger knows that the most important thing in his work is freedom of thought.”

23472818_1494099480687113_7175098361929441320_nIn 4 months, according to google analytics, the Center of Community Growth’s webpage received over 30,000 visitors. That is an average of just over 7,000 per month. This is a sharp spike from the previous average of 500 visitors per month. Also, the 16 articles enticed 3,200 likes and reached over 300,000 on Facebook. Most importantly, CCG’s Facebook page followers went from 600 to over 1,600 followers. All of these indicators exceeded the project’s initial expectations and extraordinarily increased the visibility of the organization’s future projects.

The complexities of this project’s goals have been obvious since the design phase. However, the team at CCG was able to accomplish the core project expectations. An added bonus was the excellent progress made by the team at CCG and the participants. This project would never be possible without the help of the Small Project Assistance fund and its committee. The support from this collective is in direct reflection of the success of the project. Gratitude to this fact was expressed by all whose voice was heard throughout this project.

Goals Achieved

21078412_1423546134409115_6064938638326748371_nThe initial first goal of the project was to increase 18 citizens’ capability to report the news. Over the last 4 months, 16 participants took part in trainings concentrated on genres of written text,  standards of writing, equality, photography, public relations, and ethical standards in Ukraine. Also, each participant developed a news story using community sources. Each participant also spent at least 2 hours with an editor while constructing their articles. After which, each article will be published on CCG’s website and presented in a gallery at the community’s cultural center.

The second goal of this project was to increase the capacity of the Center of Community Growth (CCG). Our initial aim was to create an increasing of CCG’s online traffic by 50 percent throughout the life of the project. Over the life of the project the average monthly visitors to the organization’s website went from 500 visitors each month to 7,000 each month. The total amount of people who visited the website over 4 months was 30,000 people. CCG also held an informal strategic planning meeting to develop a sustainability and monitoring plan to development participants and attract new active citizens. In this meeting a new project was developed called “Humans of Volyn.” This projects aim is to highlight the culture of the Volyn oblast through interviews with individuals from the community. For more information on this project visit facebook.com/humansofvolyn.

Capacity and Skills Built 

The Small Project Assistance Program funded project, “My Voice,” made a tremendous impact within the Ukrainian community of Kovel. Throughout 4 months, a group of 16 participants were provided the opportunity to increase their skills and ability in the fields of Journalistic genres, ethics, standards, equality, and processes.   Here is a quote from one of our youngest but most spirited participants, “This project has improved my knowledge of journalism. Showing all the pros and cons of this profession, which helped me to determine if I want to be a future journalist or not (I’m 11th grade). All trainings were very interesting and from each of them I received a lot of information and experience. Another plus was that journalism was interwoven with a lot of different topics.”

23472219_1494098090687252_147115643973068183_nAnother example of capacity building, as related to working with an editor, comes from an active citizen and director of the new “Humans of Volyn” project, “It was very interesting and useful for me to get an opportunity to work with the editor and get acquainted with the process of cooperation between the journalist and the editor. I became convinced that journalists need to be original in writing styles, freely express their opinions.”

In 4 months, according to google analytics, the Center of Community Growth’s webpage received over 30,000 visitors. That is an average of just over 7,000 per month. This is a sharp spike from the previous average of 500 visitors per month. Also, the 16 articles enticed 3,200 likes and reached over 300,000 on Facebook. Most importantly, CCG’s Facebook page followers went from 600 to over 1,600 followers. All of these indicators exceeded the project’s initial expectations and extraordinarily increased the visibility of the organization’s future projects.

Sustainability 

The primary sustainable aspect of this project can be found in the skills which were transferred to the participants. This includes the professional trainings and editing coordinated throughout the project. The combination of these two elements inspired young professionals to strive to have their voice heard and also refined the skills of professional journalists. These participants were also opened to a network of professionals who have years of experience in their respective fields. This network will play a key role in their professional development. We plan to track the amount of participants write articles in the future or interview people from the Volyn oblast and contribute to the Humans of Volyn project.

23472073_1494104100686651_8024775506684757530_nAdditionally, one trainer, who is also the editor for a rayon news outlet, has begun to work with the Center of Community Growth to develop a project which will provide an source for journalist to build their skills in the Kovel Oblast. The development of the new partnership between CCG and this news outlet will also provide an “opinion section” to the Kovel.Rayon news outlet’s website. This section of the website will be devoted in providing an outlet for each participant from the My Voice project, and future projects, an outlet to let their opinion be heard.

Lastly, the background of this project’s grant application provides information about the desire to increase the flow of the Center of Community Growth’s new website.  Throughout this project over 30,000 people have visited the organization’s website. CCG’s team will also track future digital traffic in order to gauge the lasting impact this project had on its viewership. CCG’s Facebook page also saw a massive increase in followers. It increased from 600 to 1600 over the lifetime of the project. This has allowed for all the organization’s future project to have more visibility leading to increased legitimacy and popularity within the Volyn Oblast.

 

*These are the thoughts of Richard J. Roman and are not those of the Peace Corps or its affiliates. 

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