Arnold and Alex, Commando Tanzanian style

February 11, 2011 at 10:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It kind of hits you over the head at the end with the message, but I love watching Alex recount the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando.  And its amazing to see Arnolds abs again!  It was produced for MamaHope‘s ‘Stop the Pity, Unlock the Potential’ campaign.  I like the sound of that message.


Where women stand in the world. In 6 minutes.

February 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I want to be an aid worker

February 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As someone who now recruits aid workers with Mission Talent, I have learned the hard way that no one is very interested in a degree.  If you want to be an aid worker you need field experience and language skills– the ability to manager millions of USAID money helps too.  It is not easy to find these people, and the pay is not great, but I am inspired every day when I do interview aid workers by their dedication.

Peace, Art, Faith and the inspiring Mary Button

September 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sometimes you do something and it inspires someone else to do something great.  Usually we do not get so lucky, but that is because there is only one Mary Button.

I posted in the blog before about the youth peace summit I organized in Kenya last year in response to the post election violence in 2008, and what a powerful experience it was.   Well artist Mary Button (and theology student) was an important part of that summit, and she created art about the experience.  An interview was published about it today in Religion Dispatches.  I am posting a big chunk of the interview cause I love it.  You can see the entire series  from Kenya here and read about the peace summit in a previous post I wrote here.

JS: How did your faith or the faith of other people play a role in this series?

MB: During The Peace Summit, interfaith dialog was a real priority and so the youth participants were not only from a number of different countries—Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Kenya—they also came from a wide variety of faith backgrounds.

One of the things that I became very quickly aware of was how unsure and self-conscious I was about talking about my own faith. I was totally blown away by the openness and ease with which so many of these young people talked about what their faith meant to them. Bear in mind, now, that I am a thoroughly churched woman. Daughter of a Lutheran minister. Sunday School teacher. And about to enter my first year of seminary. And suddenly I felt like I had never really considered what my faith meant to me.

The Hymnbook Project focused on cultures [in the Southern US] with which you are intimately familiar. What challenges did working in Kenya bring?

It was a real challenge. My friend Maria Murewa, who’s an artist from Rwanda, and I volunteered to lead the workshop where we made banners and signs with the youth for the peace march planned for the last day of the summit. We ended up camping out with a revolving group of youth, and we all made really beautiful signs. We cut out doves and painted them really bright colors. We had some neon green cardboard and made signs in the shape of Africa. And we ran through hundreds of pieces of pastel poster board. There was such a feeling of urgency, and it was so tied up in their faith.

Earlier in the summit, the youth drew these really amazing life maps where they drew out these circuitous paths dotted with people and churches and told these amazing stories about how they came to be at the peace summit. And when we sat down to write out messages for our peace march, the messages they wrote overwhelming were about God’s love. Continue Reading Peace, Art, Faith and the inspiring Mary Button…

German youth fear Facebook

September 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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So in July I went to Dresden to facilitate a ‘media team’ of young people participating in the youth pre-assembly of the Lutheran World Federation General Assembly, which happens every ten years or so.   We had about 11 members to our team ages 18-30, from Hungary, Kenya, Rwanda, Madagascar, Nigeria, India, Papua New Guinea, the US and one German.   They worked hard to produce content for and I loved them all.  To do a training like this is to see the hunger of young people across the world to create meaningful content and use technology no matter how much money or schooling they have had.

A few lessons I took away:

  • While blogging at a conference is fun, its good to produce a daily newsletter for the people who are not online.  Our main target audience was the conference participants, who had a full day of meetings and no time to get online.  So — the old fashioned paper hand out was still a good idea to create buzz, enhance reputation and drive traffic to the blog.
  • There was a huge interest in video, which is not my area, and it was very hard to manage as an amateur youth media team.  A professional is definitely needed to lead that and do only that if that is an important end goal.
  • Create ahead of time your strategy of how you will distribute the online media you are producing — e.g., write all your blogging friends and press offices and work out a home page highlight at least a week BEFORE the event starts.

Mid way through the conference when our blog traffic was not going up enough I changed tactic.  Instead of urging participants to go to, I told them to go to our Facebook page. They were already going to Facebook, so it was easy enough to get them to go to our lwfyouth page there… and then they would hopefully post an update, tag or comment and then jump over to the blog.  Asking them to visit the blog directly was too big a step of behaviour change in an environment where there was not a lot of time to go online.

So to do that I made a passionate plea to the plenary asking  people to tag themselves in the pictures we posted on FB (everyone loves pictures!).   This was a trick to drive traffic to FB and then the blog.  The photo tagging continues months later…   But the bigger result was getting the German youth attending the conference all riled up.  They came to me and said that they had discussed it as a group and asked that we moderate a forum on if Lutherans of the world should use FB at all?  At this point I was dead tired and generally not enthused about the German culture which seems to shun any form of PR.   I could not think of anything better to say than, Facebook is here, get over it, my job is marketing, I know what I am doing, we have quality control here. Luckily a friend of mine interpretting gave a standard more diplomatic speech in defense of Facebook.   I asked the girl who was giving me an earful if she had a Facebook account?  Yes she says, but she uses a fake name and only uses it to talk to her friends in Latin America.  Her main concern was that a future employer would see photos of her online.

But the incident still bothers me to this day, so I was interested to read German blogger Peter Bihr’s account of giving a workshop on social media to German youth, he writes:

On a side note, I have to say I really enjoyed particularly the discussions with these students. We talked a lot about privacy on social networks and the implications of using these online services. I was surprised on more than one occasion: Not a lot of the participants use smartphones, which may be a budget thing given they’re all still studying. The crowd was much more critical of online social networking than I expected. (There was a strong split in the group, with those seeing chances rather than risks on one side and those highly critical of social networks on the other.)

Two things became very clear, though: (1) Just like German society overall this group had a significant part of online critics (with varying degrees of informed argumentation). (2) All of them are acutely – almost painfully – aware of the role of privacy and how it’s being affected by voluntary participation in online sharing behavior (social networking, Twitter etc), involuntary sharing (government involvement) and commercialization (all major actors are international corporations).

While I wished the overall discourse (on a societal level) about the complex issues of privacy/ownership/control of data online was based on a more informed basis, it’s very clear that we’ll be having this discussion for awhile to come. And that’s good: Keep thinking, discussing, debating. Just please make sure to stay away from panic and fear driven rhetoric as well as hyperbole. And if you happen to encounter such arguments, feel free to drop in some facts and see the fear go away.

My pursuit to understand social media in Europe continues, but  you can see we have some work to do.

living in Europe: my social media withdrawal

September 10, 2010 at 11:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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When I first moved to Germany there was one thing that surprised me — posters. Tacked up on lamposts, pasted to buildings, these advertisements for tradefairs and concerts are on every main corner. Of course, staid Germany would never allow for rampant posters, but the point is that the communication was like being thrown back in time.

Since I got here I have been wondering, where are the websites? Where are the social media?  The websites I do find are built as photo images, or if they are halfway decent they are probably owned but the government, like Stadt Bonn. There is no where to interact, just a growing list of websites I should awkwardly check if I want to know if anything is going on. But complaining about social media in Germany is too easy — I should not let myself get caught up in sloppy thinking. There must be some good social media being used in Germany and Europe. Its time to be better informed.

First, what are Germans doing online?

View the full slide show here from Trend Stream.

According to this study, motivations in Germany to use social media are first, to research purchases, and second stay up to date on news and events. (Which is similar to the US- the same categories are important to Americans, but they do them at greater levels). But as a culture, Germans do not shop — you can’t use a credit card here if your life depended on it — and this must ultimately limit web purchasing.  And, traditional news via the printed newspaper, radio and TV had not seen many of the changes the have hit the American media. News comes on the hour on public-private stations in a even-keeled voice, and there are few pundits or opinions.

But maybe, living in Bonn, a small city, I am just in a social media withdrawal that would occur if I had moved to the middle of Indiana…. but I doubt it, because I would still watch TV that would drive me online (to share a pissed off opinion to Fox news… or look something up I saw on TV). It’s probably more like the same withdrawal I would get to moving to any small town in a country where I do not speak the language. I think it is more an urban-rural barrier. Apparently London is the social media capital of the world according to top number of users of Digg, Twitter and FB. And Russians are the giant social media users of all of Europe (see the Trendstream slide show.)

The differences in social media use in Europe and the US is a subject for a book — one that would immediately go out of date. But, my new plan is to SEEK out this information and make a more informed analysis, instead of just grumble about what I miss from NYC. First order of business, find some hot social media Euro bloggers to read regularly.

links for 2010-09-05

September 6, 2010 at 1:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can’t get enough Waka Waka

June 27, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The good thing about currently living in Europe is all the World Cup games are at normal time of day and there are TV screens everywhere.  So my Saturday night was spent in a public square watching the US get defeated by Ghana while a bunch of Germans cheered.  That was a bit painful, my national loyalties had been stirred.

But I have a new strategy for moments when I am feeling down, and I hope I remember it in the depths of winter a year from now.   Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka’ never ceases to cheer me up.

While its been criticized for not being sung by an African, I think that is a cheap shot.  No one is a bigger GLOBAL icon than Shakira, and Africa and the World Cup deserves the very best.  Anyhow the song was first made popular in Cameroon in 1986

Cameroonians are glad to do their part, according to the New York Times:

Cameroonians are actually very proud of the remake. In cybercafes you see both versions of the song playing on repeat. Young people don’t know the original as it came out in 1986. […] But the older generations know the clip off by heart, especially the bit with the presidential guards’ parade. The song was released just after television arrived in the country so we remember it well.

I only hope the original songwriters get some royalties, their remuneration plan sounds a bit vague. And true to social media spirit, the song is being used for a good cause (universal education) and has inspired a global dance party — even dolphins are in on it

Now, a day after the sad defeat of cute Donovan, Dempsey and BocaNegra, all I can say is Go Black Stars! And call me if you want to do the Waka Waka.

Virtual Street Corners : using technology to bridge social divides

May 28, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I originally wrote this blog post for my new favorite wesbsite,

Boston area neighborhoods Brookline and Roxbury are two miles apart, but they might as well exist in different countries. Brookline is a majority white and Jewish suburb, while Roxbury is a low-income neighborhood in Boston proper known as “the heart of Black culture.” A city bus links the districts, but racial, cultural and class boundaries prevent all but a few from making the trip. In June 2010, however, a new initiative, Virtual Street Corners, will begin working to overcome this divide via video conferencing. They’ll be placing large video screens with built-in cameras above shop windows to create a forum where people in the two locales can interact publicly in real time.

Project founder, John Ewing, drew his inspiration for Virtual Street Corners while conversing with locals as he painted murals around Boston.  He found that most people knew little about the city beyond their own neighborhoods. “I wanted to bridge that gap and recreate that street corner conversation,” he said. “We need citywide dialogue on many issues.” As example, he cites the issue of the CORI laws, which require mandatory criminal background checks for employees, adding that “the people in Roxbury would see that differently than the people in Brookline.”

When he tested the project in 2008, Ewing found that most people were excited to try out the screen, but quickly ran out of things to say.  But when a political or religious leader started talking, a crowd would gather and soon take over the conversation. Preparing for the June launch, Ewing is soliciting participation from civic leaders. He’s also asking residents in both neighborhoods to submit one-minute videos that will identify key issues to kick off the discourse.

The project is part of the Idea Lab, a Knight Foundation-backed initiative dedicated to using digital technology to reshape community news. The process will be documented and archived online so that anyone can use it as a model.  If it succeeds, Ewing hopes to recreate it elsewhere in Boston and in other cities.

If you are a Boston resident, keep a watch and let us know how interactive street conversations affect the feel of your city.

links for 2010-05-22

May 23, 2010 at 1:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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