“When you talk about public audiences, it’s about reaching people on their own terms. You come to them.”
In the past, the public sphere – also referred to as civic space – was limited to a specific meeting place: a coffee house, a park, or a public square. But with the development of media and communication technology, this dialogue has moved online and anywhere where people connect to that ever-growing global network. Creating civic space is especially important now as repressive governments push to close those open spaces.
Kara Andrade has built a career across continents focused on the sharing of information. Now a Senior Innovation Specialist for Innovation for Change (I4C), Kara helps connect civil society activists around the world to digital civic spaces where they can make their voices heard and debate the issues that are important to them.
“Debate is vital to creating the marketplace of ideas,” explains Kara. As she and her I4C colleagues considered these challenges, a question arose: “how do we lean into creative ways of creating civic spaces and places where people can debate ideas of common concern?”
The idea for I4C’s new Civic Stage radio and podcast crystallized at the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Fiji in December 2017. I4C led an innovation lab at the conference that included a ‘fishbowl discussion’ on the sharing and collaborative economy. It was rare for such a diverse group of civil society activists to be together in person discussing this topic, so Kara grabbed her recording equipment and captured interviews with the panelists. Ultimately these conversations, in both English and Spanish, became the first episodes of Civic Stage, co-hosted by Adi Mistry Frost of CIVICUS.
Another opportunity for a live show for Civic Stage presented itself during the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held at the United Nations in New York in March. It was a strong follow-on show because of the timing of the event and the global #MeToo movement.
“One of the major misses [of global development] is we tend to focus on those people that we can reach,” said Ellie Stephens, a CIVICUS event coordinator who is also part of the core organizing team at I4C. Stephens helped to bring four women activists from rural areas from different parts of the world to New York City to speak at the Commission in front of hundreds of other women. The four women joined Andrade and Mistry Frost for a live recording of the Civic Stage podcast after CSW.
Podcasts make it possible for people from a developing world context to speak to people in wealthier countries. “It was very interesting sharing information on the challenges and experiences on working in rural communities with other people from different countries,” said Thozama Dyantyi, a women’s rights activist from the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and a guest on the CSW episode of Civic Stage.
Andrade is a fan of the use of audio formats, especially for interviewing civil society activists, many of whom face privacy and security challenges in their countries. People are more likely to speak candidly when only their voice is recorded, as opposed to being on video and running the risk of their faces being recognized. For the podcast hosts, there’s a lot to experiment with, including the arts, music of protest, hip-hop shows, and the vision to turn this podcast over to the six I4C hubs around the world to create their own episodes inside Civic Stage.
The I4C team has exciting plans for future Civic Stage episodes, including their coverage of this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW), the conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of interactive media, film, and music, and a show focusing on alternative forms of digital funding for nonprofits, including cryptocurrencies. They also plan to record a live episode from RightsCon in Toronto on May 16-18.
Listen to the full podcasts, and follow Civic Stage for future updates, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/civicstage
Innovation for Change (I4C) is curated by Counterpart International and CIVICUS.
featured image photo credit: avdyachenko via iStock