Oxfam @ 25 Ebook: "Celebrate Change" (and my own article in it "What's on your mind: Forays into Social Media"
Oxfam celebrated 25 years of change in the Philippines last year and we came up with an ebook documenting stories of all those years. Check it out here!
(I also wrote an article on page 243 on social media!)
"What's on your mind?: Forays into Social Media"
My entry to Oxfam in 2009 was my first venture in the humanitarian field. Working in disasters was a huge wake-up call, and I needed to learn an entire language, culture and movement to be able to understand and respond to disasters. Eventually, I could connect the dots from different pieces of disasters to changes in the history of disaster management and disaster risk reduction. Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, for example, became the impetus to pass the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law, which stagnated in Congress for the last two decades. As a new humanitarian practitioner, what amazed me the most was that every disaster, whether inside or outside the country, made little but smarter changes as to how we understand disasters. Responding to an emergency has gone beyond the provision of search-and-rescue assistance and food aid, to a complex set of interventions that respond to water, sanitation and hygiene needs; emergency food security and livelihoods; nutrition; humanitarian protection; advocacy; and shelter, on top of gender and many other considerations. A deeper understanding of disasters, on the other hand, strengthens the relationship between disaster risk management and development work as the focus zooms into forming resilient communities, rather than simply just responding to an emergency.
It's strangely been a trend in the last couple of weeks that I've been getting into a lot of conversations about social media and why it's not as important/useful/relevant when a very large portion of our population don't have access to technology. What would a rural farmer care about Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all those social media platforms, particularly if you live in an area of rolling blackouts and limited services? So I'll take it as sign and write down my take on it.
The Philippines as a developing country has an imbalance in a lot of ways. We're known around the world as a social media capital, often driving our hashtag and trends into the world's online stage, when only a certain portion of our population is actually online. Social media is generally focused on those with capacity to own or access technology. And I do feel that how well you manipulate social media beyond updating your status message and saying hello to your friends is also dependent on how much capacity and access you have to information on manipulating social news and networks. So yes, there is a divide and it's obvious that social media is not the answer to solving deep-seated issues in our country.
My apologies for not blogging more! Been really busy organizing a big event for work and it's only just wrapping up (one last day and then done!). Work has been really tough lately.
Anyway, one good thing that came out from organizing my event is an opportunity to meet with Rappler, "a social news network where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change." It's a fairly new network but one that I've gotten fond of fairly quickly for their ability to get real-time information but in an engaging, innovative setting. Rappler, though new and of course, not perfect, feels like it challenges traditional media by making it accessible -- meaning normal everyday people have the ability to choose and feel what kind of news they want to know about (mood meters, et. al) and at the same time be able to be part of the news as well. Of course, it's still anchored on journalism and reporting, etc. (I don't know what the terms are called!) but it's a fresh new take on news.
Rappler met with us and discussed a number of topics, such as Project Agos (which I will tackle in a different post, because I'm half in love with it already) but on the anniversary of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana to the international world) -- and as a sidenote, coincidentally, probably the anniversary of the birth of my humanitarian career -- Rappler invited me to take part in a Google hang-out entitled "Learning from the Rains." The hangout invited some of the well-known social media people of the Philippines (plus me, but I'm not one of them!) and talked about the evolvement of social media in disaster response since then.
It was my first Google hangout (ever. So that's how these things work!) but it was very interesting. One of the things I truly love about social media is its ability to improve humanitarian work but it was very different being in a panel with people who were primarily social media experts in their own way, rather than coming from a humanitarian view. One thing I can definitely say I come away with from that hour-long panel is that both social media + humanitarian worlds have a lot to learn and innovate from each other. And ye gods, it's going to be exciting if and when they do!
Here's basically what the Rappler hangout was about and the video of the hangout:
We're currently experiencing some of the worst monsoon rains, about 3 days of nonstop crappy weather complete with floods, flashfloods, power interruptions, evacuations, dam releases, terrible visibility, river-like streets and just all-around 'no-this-is-not-more-fun-in-the-Philippines weather.' Thankfully, Filipinos have gotten much better at getting information out and alerting themselves and other people (social media, this is why I love you) and there's a lot of information out there in cyberspace. So much so, that it can be quite hard to figure out what information is important to look at.
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.