United Nations, Al Jazeera, and $200,000!

Jun 27, 2011
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Jon Vidar speaks at the US Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland

So much amazing news to report! In the last three weeks, I have wrapped up more than 23,000 miles between Switzerland, Qatar, and Boston!

The United Nations

The League of Nations. (Photo: Jon Vidar)First off, I was invited to speak in Geneva, Switzerland by the US Mission to the United Nations on the topic of "supporting local voices." The talk was part of the Internet Freedom Forum on the occasion of the 17th session of the Human Rights Council. The event itself was pretty incredible, with seven "freedom fellows" flown in from places like Egpyt, Tunisia, and China. These fellows are the actual citizens who are using the Internet to inspire revolutions in their countries. Needless to say, an amazing group of individuals with extremely interesting stories and insights.

My favorite quote comes from Henda Hendoud of Tunisia, who said, "The world is in the midst of a revolution, it's not just Egypt and Tunisia. ... There is a whole group of youth who only know this new world and it is a world without borders.  And that is the revolution."

She later went on to tell me, however, that in the upcoming elections we will see the older generation of Tunisians once again assume control of the country. I asked why, after a revolution inspired by the youth, that a young leader could not emerge. The response -- from a person who just participated in overthrowing a dictator -- was, "it is impossible." Wow.

Anyway, my time in Geneva was short, only two days, but during my stay I participated in a lively dinner with the US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council at her residence, received a private tour of the UN, and got to present on The Tiziano Project and why we do what we do. Amazing trip.

Al Jazaera

The Al Jazeera newsroom in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Jon Vidar)Straight from Geneva it was off to Al Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar to discuss The Tiziano Project and how we could help with their community journalism initiative.

Doha is an interesting place. At 85% expat, it becomes a very Disney-like version of a middle east city (mixed with a San Fransisco-esque skyline). It is hard to believe that there was basically nothing there 20 years ago before the oil boom hit. Now, just being a Qatari citizen entitles you to $50,000 a year from the government as soon as you turn 18 -- $80,000 if you get a college degree.

Not sure if anything will pan out from this, but will keep you posted as the relationship develops.

Knight News Challenge - $200,000 Winner!

But really, I have saved the best for last. Last week it was announced that The Tiziano Project will be the recipient of a $200,000 grant from the Knight Foundation as part of the Knight News Challenge!

Of more than 1600 applications, we are one of only 16 winners!

This is a technology-only grant to support the development of our 360 platform that we developed in Iraq this past summer: http://360.tizianoproject.org

We plan to do three primary things with the grant funding:

The Tiziano Project | 360 Kurdistan1) Develop the 360 as a tool that other organizations completing community journalism organizations around the world can implement for their own projects

2) Create an interactive map for curating those 360s and allowing audiences to explore the world through local perspectives

3) Integrate a communication layer on top of the system that will allow for direct two-way communication between community members and outside audiences.

The overall goals of the project are to help elevate the quality of community journalism through collaboration, while empowering local community members with a tool that will enable them to shift the common perceptions of the regions in which they live.

But, we need your help!

img06a.jpgIn true Steve Jobs fashion, there is one more thing -- But for this one, we need your help.


The Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington DC has offered to host a photography and multimedia exhibit on the 360 Kurdistan. The exhibit we have planned will be truly an incredible capstone for our students in Erbil. We will feature work from each student and plan to purchase 15 digital video frames to show off each of their video pieces as well. Technology permitting, we will videoconference in many of our students to speak at the opening and to be available throughout the night for questions.

The catch... We need to raise the funds for this event ourselves. The budget is coming in at just more than $3,000 for printing, equipment, etc relating to the exhibit. I know that I recently called on everyone's support for the Summit Series (and what an amazing event it was and thank you all again for your help!), but I need help once more in order to pull this exhibit off in time. If you are up for supporting and giving our students in Iraq a voice in DC, please help us raise the funds needed here:


The exhibit is currently scheduled to open with a reception on August 4th at 6:30 if you find yourself in DC!

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