And now, `digital activism’ to amplify voices of migrants

Migrant digital activists are using blogs, videos, photos to build up narrative
19th October 2010: An organisation for the rights of migrants is using `digital activism’ to amplify the voices and experiences of migrants around the UK; and to encourage a progressive debate on migration.
The `migrant digital activists’ are already gathering experiences of migration in the UK and are using blogs, videos and photos to build up a narrative.

According to the Migrants Rights Network, digital activism, the use of digital technology for political and social change, has become a key part of advocacy or campaigning in the third sector.

MRN’s new project aims to use new and social media tools to strengthen the migrant narrative.

MRN’s Network Coordinator Maryam Pasha in the write up `Is Digital Activism the way forward?’ says: `As a part of MRN new communications strategies project, we aim to use new and social media tools to amplify the voices and experiences of migrants around the UK.

`Our goals are to encourage a progressive debate on migration grounded in the real experiences of migrants and to promote networking regionally and nationally to amplify migrants’ voices in media and policy debates.

`For us, new media was best suited for this type of project. We have spent the last six months working with migrant activists in Scotland, London, the South West and North-West, getting them familiar with new and social media tools and asking them to collect experiences, stories and observations of migration in the UK. Have we been successful in getting these migrant activists to become digital activists?

`The most truthful answer is that we are on our way, but our experiences and observations so far provide interesting insight. Initially, most of our volunteers greeted the possibility of using new media tools with a mixture of reluctance, apprehension and skepticism.

`This did not mean they were not eager or excited to try, but their reactions did provide plenty for us to think about. How could we use these new tools without getting distracted from the aims of the project? After all, new media is a tool and like any tool it has to be used effectively and appropriately or your message can get lost.

`I find it helpful to categorise new and social media into two parts. The first being primarily about presenting the content, such as blogs, video and photo slideshows and second being mechanisms to publicise the content, such as Facebook, Twitter and email.

`Regardless of which you’re dealing with, the most important lessons I have learned so far when introducing these tools to new users are: spend some time demystifying  the concept – it can be intimidating, relating it to what people know makes it easier to engage with.
`Keep it simple – there is so much out there, picking specific tools and then spend some time familiarizing yourself with best practice and methodology
`Make it relevant – make sure that you’re using the right tools for the story, the platform and the audience – don’t just use new and social media for the sake of it.

`Six months on, our migrant digital activists have started to gather experiences of migration in the UK and are using blogs, videos and photos to build up a narrative. There is still some hesitation, but as with most technology related skills, the more the activists use the tools the more comfortable they become.

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