Julius Geofrey Okongo (Uganda): Currently Ambassador at World Literacy Foundation, Project Manager at National Association of Parents of Deaf Children (NAPADEC) serving parents of Deaf Children and young people in Central and Eastern Uganda
Deepa Palaniappan (India): I work as a mainstreaming disability consultant for poverty alleviation programme, and my background is in SHGs, livelihood/skill development and community-based interventions with specific experience and interest in rural poverty and disability/health contexts. Also a trained special educator for children with multiple disabilities and neurological disorders.
This is a collaborative and community-driven, crowd-sourced content platform for grassroots disability initiatives., We are requesting practitioners directly involved at community level, to join as authors on this collaborative platform and write or upload other format preferable to them, even video and audio content.
As part of an attempt to create exposure for community-based interventions and activities in disability sector, especially the work of implementing teams, activists, community leaders involved in rural poor contexts, and directly working with hitherto excluded rural poor persons with disabilities in Global South countries.
This is an appeal to all those tuning in here- Please, if your work fits the above description, join us on this collaborative platform as an author and regularly write your activities, experiences and stories. Its totally crowd sourced and collaborative! NOT an NGO funded project.
Julius: Is there author’s guiding documents that anyone can use to follow when joining or wish to be part of an activist?
Deepa: Before I start answering each question, let me welcome you to join not only as an author, but a collaborator too for your geographical zone, even outside Uganda. I welcome any opportunity to create networking in-roads that could help us reach to disability rights activists, DPOs, parent groups and on-field practitioners like ourselves.
Q: Is there author’s guiding documents that anyone can use to follow when joining or wish to be part of an activist?
Deepa: As of now, No.
Since the target was to reach out to and bring to light grassroots practitioners and give them freedom to write their own stories without editorial interference and pending approval etc, I had kept it open so far. But if you feel it will be useful we can create a guideline such as what not to post, what are we collaborating on, why is this needed in the current mega-discourse coming from international contexts and most success stories and practices stay within each funding agency or NGO. We don’t get to learn from each other directly, cutting across funding agencies and NGO projects. I don’t see even most DPOs being connected globally, only few are. Within a country, yes lot of opportunities for DPOs to stay connected, there are even WhatsApp groups nationally in which information is shared. I originally wanted to bring to light the discussions meaningful insights that get circulated only within WhatsApp groups. If you see my earlier posts in this, it’s just mostly sharing WhatsApp group posts.
As I said, and keep insisting to others too, everything about this is now totally crowdsourced content and collaborative. I have no personal vested interest to hold it close to me and control the gates. In fact all of us currently engaged in this, want nothing more than to see more people writing and engaging, taking leadership roles and taking control for their countries. That way the content we generate will soon be part of larger discourse (hopefully)
Julius: Thank you for this response, I have noted it. However, in Uganda my home country, In case you write a wrong article which can be considered as fake or threatened message that can misleads public readers may end up facing court of law under Uganda communication act and computer misuse act 2011. Therefore, it will sound great if we can protect our rights as authors.
Deepa: Exactly. That’s why I asked you to take collaborative role since you are strong in knowledge content. And invite as many DPO leaders, activists, practitioners as collaborators/writers on board from your geographical zone!
Julius: Is there some facilitation to carry out these initiative objectives to achieve it intended outcomes?
Deepa: Again, we are on our way towards that. This is just the very early stage. we are not even covering Global South yet.
Facilitation will be needed for two main things as I see it.
1. To contribute content in a manner that is accessible for visually impaired readers, and adding appropriate information and caption for pictures uploaded etc. This will need technical support and I am sure I’ll easily pull in someone to give us all webinar training on this when things get to that level, when we have more contributors.
2. Another thing is about skills – video, podcasts, community radio and stuff , basically all other alternate media content that development practitioners from Global South countries will benefit from. This too is long way in pipeline because we need to have enough numbers to claim such training from organisations.
Other facilitation topics include general uploading logistics and about creating profile etc- these things as of now I am explaining personally. If we have a person for each zone we could divide this for our own zones geographically. The most important thing, there is no editorial control over content. Once a user is approved or invited as author, he/she can post according to their freedom of thought. It has so far not come to a space, where we have to interfere with posts. And the way things are shaping up, I feel that it’s going to continue that way in future too.
Julius: Who are the readers that authors are targeting and how are these readers linked with authors to address issue highlighted in the articles?
This is an interesting question. And very important too.
The readers we are targeting is surprisingly not international funding agencies or ‘big players’ of disability sector. Rather it is the community which is the target for becoming authors, is the same community that is target for readers.
That’s the beauty of collaborative venture I feel. We are writing for ourselves, everyone learning about each other’s field interventions and practices and issues. Nothing is too micro for us, too small for us to share. The things that we would with our local disability rights WhatsApp communities.
Julius: Good this is noted. Happy to read your response and hopefully we can change the world through our collaborative efforts.
In my opinion at first place, I was thinking if we know who the readers are then we can know what to write for them so that we can attract many to join the reading and access information. Also this can help either a reader or author to generate enough information for writing their fundable project proposals to address issues highlighted in articles shared.
I also hope that whatever authors write and share remain in records to help us serve as lesson learnt for any future changes. I can add that once someone writing his or her article must remember to add references/links.
Deepa: To add a bit about readers: Basically, think of this as telling our stories to larger community of disability, development, and health practitioners across the world. We never know when people start tuning in to read our stories. As of now, it’s just all of us writing for ourselves and reading each other’s updates and initiatives. Also this is not professional magazine or journal. Just a collaborative space for sharing our work,. It will soon include options for all alternative media content such as podcast and other medium.
This platform might get few mentors who are willing to guide technically. I had reached out to Kevin Waldie at Purple Field Productions with request for support regarding podcast, videos, radio and alternate content possibilities- and to seek mentoring on the overall technical aspects.
Hope more mentors join in and collaborate or guide us through this journey!