As was witnessed recently with the Iranian Twitter Revolution and the protesters making their voices heard on Twitter and Facebook this past June, the Arab World is embracing social media in an impacting way. Now more important than ever, the Middle East is involved in open dialogue, no matter what risks may be incurred as a result.
Anyone today who has access to the Internet can be a content provider, a potential opinion builder and a change agent. Today there is a program under way to determine how to harness these tools for the good, for men and women in the Middle East.
The Young Leaders Visitors Program 2009 took place in Sweden from May 25 through June 12, 2009. The second phase will be held at the Swedish Institute in Paris, France, November 16-18, 2009.
The program is conducted by the Swedish Institute (SI), a public agency that promotes interest in Sweden abroad. SI seeks to establish cooperation and lasting relations with other countries through active communication and cultural, educational and scientific exchanges.
Thirty-three candidates from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, West Bank-Gaza and Sweden were selected as participants in the program. According to the Web site, "drive, motivation and commitment to social change have been decisive factors in the selection procedure."
The conference and workshops consist of six modules covering themes such as team building, personal development, leadership training, gender, human rights and a thorough introduction to the latest tools in social media.
The program methodology of YLVP is based on creating learning experiences that make a difference for the participants as individuals. Rather than conducting a traditional monologue-based “teacher to student” approach, YLVP has chosen a dialogue-focused participatory teaching method.
As part of the curriculum, all participants are divided into smaller teams assigned to a project task. The assignment for each project team is to develop an idea and a concept for an innovative information solution through the use of social media.
The projects task strives to further strengthen the participants in understanding the possibilities of digital and social media and encourage them to explore and create opinion building for social change through digital and social media solutions. The project assignment will also function as a way for the participants to explore group dynamics and leadership to provide personal development and an intercultural perspective.
This video will provide you with some highlights from last year's November conference in Sweden.
YLVP using music for social changeWithin the Swedish Institute's Young Leaders Visitors Program 2008, the participants attended a workshop on music as a tool for social change. The collaboration at the end of the video produced some very uplifting lyrics.
Olle Wästberg, the Director-General of the Swedish Institute states: 'the SI’s collaboration with Olle Wastbergdeveloping countries is an important part of our work. Through increased contacts and new networks, knowledge and innovative ideas can be shared, cross-pollinated and used on a reciprocal basis. Sweden is an active member of the international cooperation arena, and the Swedish Institute represents an important part of this effort."
This program focusing on how cutting-edge social media can revolutionize public opinion and how the exchange of ideas and knowledge leads to positive change is a worthwhile endeavor for any part of the world. Now the youth throughout the Arab World is also actively participating. This type of program could only benefit us all as we struggle to understand each other's motivations,and hopefully prevent future conflicts as we reach out for peace through social media. Bravo to the YLVP initiative!