SMEX began in 2008 as a simple series of workshops and events designed to introduce Lebanese civil society to the potential of digital tools to support their advocacy. It wasn’t long before participants encouraged us to expand our offerings, and in 2009 we hosted our first training of trainers.
We soon began to experiment with a wide variety of activities—including delivering online courses, producing key social media guides, planning websites such as a2ilebanon.org, and hosting social media–enabled events. We also started to work in neighboring countries.
Despite their diversity, all our initiatives—whether for activists, journalists, media trainers, and other engaged citizens—aim to help answer one question:
Below we’ve highlighted some of our responses to date and others that are still to come.
- Shou Osstik?
- Arab Techies Women
- Social Media Guides
Initiated by social technology nonprofit Meedan, CheckDesk
is both a project and a tool that helps Arab newsrooms incorporate the ever-increasing number of citizen voices reporting news in social media by empowering them to question and verify reports via crowdsourcing. The expectation is that improved accuracy and credibility of news will not only enhance the media’s ability to speak to the public interest but will also improve civic participation in newsmaking. SMEX, in collaboration with the newspaper An Nahar
, have partnered with Meedan to develop an instance of CheckDesk—and the citizen reporters needed to populate it—in Lebanon. SMEX will recruit and train more than 200 citizen journalists from communities across the country on how to capture news with social media and submit verifiable reports.
was a new media pilot training program for women from the north, south, Bekaa, and Beirut regions in Lebanon. The program aimed to amplify the voices of Lebanese women, especially those who live outside Beirut. During the program, participants met once every three weeks at a local computer center to learn digital storytelling and basic social media skills from SMEX trainers (all graduates of the MADskills program). Between workshops, participants kept in touch via a secret Facebook group and completed assignments that encouraged practice of their online skills. The program culminated in a screening of 21 participants’ digital stories at the women’s NGO Nasawiya, many of which can be viewed in the Shou Osstik? playlist
on YouTube. This program was coordinated with the assistance of Lebanese NGO Hayya Bina.
MADskills—MAD stands for media for advocacy and development—was our response to a demand from Lebanese civil society leaders and new young activists for training on how to use social media strategically to achieve their goals. The seven-month program consisted of eight offline/online training modules, in English and Arabic, that covered basic Internet skills, social media tools and strategy, and an introduction to advocacy. Participants also had ample opportunity to practice their new skills at live social media–enabled events, including a tweetup to raise awareness about sexual harassment, the first TEDxBeirut, and the Share the MADness barcamp, which drew more than 200 attendees from all over Lebanon. Thirty-one of 42 participants graduated from the program
, receiving certification as social media trainers. Program alumni have since led their own campaigns and started their own social media strategy firms or incorporated their new skills into their positions with local NGOs and government offices. Several graduates have also become trainers, project partners, and volunteers with SMEX.
In May 2010, Arab Techies and SMEX partnered to convene a 4-day workshop
for 34 female technologists and activists from 10 Arab countries. During the gathering, the women networked with each other, shared expertise and presented about ongoing projects, and discussed the role of gender in professional and community development. Participants included programmers, web developers, artists, teachers, professors, PhD students, bloggers, social media experts, activists, NGO coordinators. Proceedings of the workshop were covered in Arabic by two local journalists and uploaded to the Arab Techies
wiki. On the last day, the women digitally demonstrated their solidarity
with the Tunisian campaign against Internet censorship.
As part of our mission to localize media empowerment, SMEX regularly creates and publishes social media workshop materials and guides in Arabic. In March 2012, we published our most comprehensive guide to date, the 72-page Creating Facebook Pages for Impact: A Guide for Arab Civil Society Organizations
. We followed up in December with the English version
, which was also updated to reflect recent changes in Facebook’s platform. We also work with aligned organizations, such as Tactical Technology Collective, Movements.org, and Electronic Frontier Foundation to make their guides accessible in Arabic. In addition, our new sister site resources.smex.org
lets trainers and learners browse key digital and social media learning resources by category and language.