Blog Post

Mobile Movement: Creating Intimacy and Opportunity with Digital Media

Jessica Fraser is part of Mobile Movement, one of 17 HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media & Learning winners, and she posted a wonderful update over at the Digital Media & Learning Winners' Hub that we felt really captured the essence of what Mobile Movement is doing with digital media. Read on! And feel free to comment or ask questions.


"We are learning to make more connections, and to use them in service of a greater vision."
-Leba Haber Rubinoff, artist

Alright everyone,

Here is what you?ve all been waiting for?the second update to our blog.And for those of you who scrutinized our first posting with wonder andexcitement?please note that there have been some changes to the processand schedule based on our work in Nairobi and discoveries we?ve madeupon testing the concept with the youth groups, the administering NGO,thinkers at UN Habitat and our own insights. Rest assured, the conceptis still the same:

1) We are going to change the way people support grassroots youth projects with direct telecommunications, and

2) We are energizing our generation with a new culture of philanthropy: one that is accessible, cool, fun and full of passion.

However, we are not telling the story of five out of fifteen youthgroups (this would create imbalance among and between the groups whoare equally impressive, spirited and seeking to uplift themselves andtheir communities against tremendous odds.) Instead, we are using ?one?video as a positioning piece about how inspiring these young people areand positing the question to North American audiences, ?if yourcommunity was filled with garbage, rife with disease, had skyrocketingunemployment and no education for the poor?what would you do?? The a-habeing that with the advent of globalization ? and technology collapsingdistance ? we all do live in this ?community?. In addition to thispositioning piece, there will be several portraits ? a walk around aslum; garbage collection as a means of cleaning up neighborhoods and inturn reducing fatal diseases and generating income; youth-led merry-goround microfinancing; jewelry and clothing production; and how youngpeople are schooling orphans and children too poor to pay nominalpublic school fees.

As a consequence, our test user site will not profile two youth groupsbut ALL the youth groups?and we will not be asking for ourphilanthropists to donate to one group in particular but to an urbanentrepreneurship fund that will administer tools, equipment andtraining to the fifteen youth groups and their members. In effect, wehave learned about merry-go-round financing from the youth (whereeveryone pools their resources and then they start financing theirmembers) and will similarly be pooling donors? resources to pay foritems necessary for the youth?s businesses to flourish. This decisionwas also influenced by the experience and expertise of EnvironmentalYouth Alliance: the cost of administering individual micro-loans willprove too expensive and take away from the efficacy of the program.

We have just returned from Nairobi, all the shooting has been done, weare editing up a storm, all meetings have been had, not to mention manybottles of wine drunk?

Who are we? Leba Haber Rubinoff, artist, our creative leader,interactive designer and filmmaker who with Karun Koernig, head of theinternational wing of Environmental Youth Alliance, conceived of theidea of Mobile Movement. Melanda Schmid, fearless corporate refugee whodecided to take her rising star status in Hotel HR and apply it todevelopment. We?re talking ?fearless? folks. This woman, who had neverlearned to drive in Canada, got her license in Nairobi and hasproceeded to drive around facing accident fatalities at every corner.Scott Smith, celebrated feature filmmaker and television director, andJess Fraser (writer of the second installment of the blog and thereforedeeply uncomfortable with any description beyond extraordinaryproducer/filmmaker with limitless talent.)

What we have discovered has been very powerful?and some of ourquestions have already been answered. What is clear is that these youngpeople are incubators of change. Products of a lost generation that wasunable to provide leadership, the young people we are working with inthe slums are taking things into their own hands, determined to becomerole-models for their peers, the community, and the children comingafter them (more than 60% of the population of Kenya is under the ageof 30).

Upon our arrival we gave each youth group a mobile phone, and thendelivered a crash course (I believe it?s described as media training inour outline) on how to transmit media (emails, photos and short videoclips). By giving them the mobile phones, the idea is that the youthgroups can continue to tell their own stories?allowing story to unfold,the narrative to continue. Beyond the immediate advantage this givestheir organizations (conducting business, dealing with clients,networking) ? the youth recognized it as a communication tool thatcould help them engage with their North American counterparts.

On a personal note, I was very conscious of driving into the slums inthe proverbial 4x4 range rover-esque vehicle. Tumbling out withsunglasses affixed to ours heads and camera equipment carried in ourhands or slung over our shoulders. The time spent with the groups wasreal?intimate in a way. And yet we always left, after a few hours, orat the end of the day, heading home to our starkly opposite existences? not only in Nairobi but also in the States and Canada respectively. Ihave been struggling with this contradiction?aware that I want more forMobile Movement?that the story, the technology, will truly build someform of relationship?that it won?t simply be a to means for people toclick pay-pal and for that to be the end. Rather, I am hoping thatMobile Movement will stimulate a beginning. That we can create intimacyand teamwork between people who have never met each other; that thiswill this lead to great connections and partnerships between thedeveloped and developing world.

A friend recently sent me a speech by Adam Kahane*that has helped medeepen my approach to this question? this journey that we are on.Kahane writes, ?If we want to be able to address our toughest socialchallenges, then we have to become bilingual. We have to learn to speakfluently two languages that are not translatable one into the other. Wehave to learn to speak both the language of power and the language oflove." He uses two particular and unusual definitions of love andpower, from theologian Paul Tillich. Tillich said power is "the driveof everything living to realize itself, with increasing intensity andextensity." So power in this sense is the drive to achieve one'spurpose, to get one's job done, to grow. And he said love is "the drivetowards the unity of the separated."

It seems to me this is exactly what we are trying to achieve ? and whatwe have learned from the young people in the slums of Nairobi: thepotential to realize one?s life despite the incredible hardship andthat we are all interdependent?that we have an opportunity to join oneanother, that we are one.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a student of Tillich. In one of his lastspeeches, King spoke about the imperative of reconciling power andlove. "Power without love," he said, "is reckless and abusive, and lovewithout power is sentimental and anemic. This collision of immoralpower with powerless morality constitutes the major crisis of our time."

So how do we ensure that we are all using our power and our capacity tolove? that we don?t trip into accepting immoral power or immerseourselves in powerless morality?

Time will tell.


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