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Non-traditional media and volunteer activism
24 June 2008

Glasgow, Scotland: Non-traditional media and its role in volunteer activism deserves attention.  During the CIVICUS World Assembly from 18-21 June 2008 in Glasgow, Scotland a number of discussions were held on the partnership between various forms of media and civil society.  The focus was not only on the mainstream media, but also on alternative or non-traditional forms of media.  

As discussed in one of the plenary sessions, a big challenge for civil society is access to the mainstream media.  In another session it was pointed out that both mainstream media and non-traditional media are important and play a role in circulating information.  Non-traditional media, however, is often more accessible.

A workshop on video advocacy focused on incorporating video into human rights campaigns for accountability, participation and change.  Effective tactics for using video for advocacy were suggested.  Video can effectively be used to target international and domestic audiences.  Along with its ability to put a face on human rights advocacy and mobilize people across geographical boundaries, video also poses challenges including difficulties in gaining access to places and people.

A workshop on mobile phones focused on the effective use of mobile phones for campaigns and advocacy by civil society organizations.  Mobile phones are a new and cost effective outlet of voice and can mobilize large numbers of people all across the world.  They can be used for a diverse range of purposes including public health education, human rights monitoring and social marketing.

Mobile phones have also been used by volunteers in several elections around the world.  Volunteer election monitors have systematically used text messaging to report on any irregularities. This independent monitoring of elections via mobile phone, with the help of NGOs, is growing throughout the world. For example, in Sierra Leone's elections last year 500 volunteer election observers throughout the country reported on the elections using SMS, capturing both quantitative and qualitative data.  This type of independent election monitoring requires extensive volunteer training and preparation.

For more information about the Assembly go to or