[Update 28 May 2008: This post began as an announcement of my Project TOTO trip to Tanzania. But a comment by Archie Law triggered a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion about whether topless garden gnome Gnaomi is a harmless presence in my videos or degrading to women. I responded on 27 May in Look, about that damn topless gnome… Do feel free to continue the conversation.]
Late this afternoon I received my first briefing note, and it’s reproduced in full over the jump. However in summary, it appears that I’m going to Tanzania on behalf of ActionAid Australia (from 1 June, that’s the new name of Austcare) to report on what I see, and to establish a blog outpost in the local community.
Amongst other things, I’ll be posting daily video diaries. Here’s the first.
(If the video doesn’t work, try directly at Viddler.)
As you see, I’m only just starting to get my head around this. I’ve never been to Africa, and certainly not to the kinds of places that ActionAid operates. That’s challenging enough — except that I also have to set up a training program for people I’ve never met from a culture I’ve never encountered.
And deliver “media product” from locations where… well, where Internet bandwidth might not be as plentiful as I’m used to.
My head is exploding.
OK, here’s the briefing I received…and there’s more comment from me at the end.
19 May 2009
My Dear Stilgherrian,
As you are aware, over the last few weeks you have been drawn into #SECRETMISSION.
To recap, you have already agreed:
- To be sent to an undisclosed African country;
- To report on what you find there;
- To undertake a technology challenge in that country.
Through the use of technology and social networks, you will enable a voice to be heard from this remote destination on an ongoing basis.
I can now confirm this mission is ACTIVE and provide you with further details of your task.
#SECRETMISSION active name is “The Overseas Training Operation” #TOTO.
Client: ActionAid Australia.
Mission: Use every available channel open to you in the fight to end poverty and injustice.
Location: United Republic of Tanzania.
Details: To meet this challenge, you must:
- Conduct comprehensive physical and psychological preparation.
- Undertake full briefings to gain a deep understanding of the political, economic and social realities of the target country.
- Travel to the target country and build rapport with the locals.
- Report freely on what you find utilising technology in remote terrain. Be warned you may have to face many psychological challenges, be affronted by injustice, social deprivation and cultural diversity you have never experienced in your life.
- Establish a blog outpost in the local community, complete with all required technology.
- Train the local community in best-practice blogging to ensure that long after you leave, their voices will continue to be heard loud and clear.
Your mentor for this mission will be Archie Law, CEO, ActionAid Australia. Keep him close to you, you will need his help.
Further details of this mission will be made available to you as we progress.
Good Luck my friend, I will be back in touch with further instructions soon.
There will be daily posts as we plan the mission, and I’ll be providing plenty of material from the field — words, pictures, videos.
This all takes place very, very soon. Although the specific dates haven’t been set yet, Austcare becomes ActionAid Australia on 1 June, and obviously this project is part of the “new” organisation’s launch — even though Austcare has been around since 1967.
There’s lots of ways you can follow my journey…
… although calling it my “journey” inspired a dear friend to pronounce that sending me on this mission is “Australian Idol meets South Park.” Well screw you, Mark!
I see what you mean.
- Follow me on Twitter. I’ll tag everything related to this project with the hashtag #toto.
- Follow this blog. There’s a specific RSS feed for category “Project TOTO”. [Update Wednesday 20 May, 8.05am: If you subscribed to this RSS feed before now, you'll actually have subscribed to the "Arts" category. That'll teach me to test things at night. I'm a morning person! It's working now.]
- And more methods will come soon… like Flickr.
We’re also looking for sponsors who can help us out with equipment or services, and later up I’ll probably pass the hat for donations to ActionAid Australia and ask how you can help build community support. But all in good time. For now, um, whaddyathink?
(Oh, yes, the whole TOTO thing was inspire by this song. Obvious and lame, I know. And in the context of what I’ll probably encounter, wildly inappropriate. But you can’t pin that one on me.)