update on the social media campaign from Honduras

It’s been just over a week with our location work in El Progreso, Honduras, and we’ve learned a great deal. Immediacy and personal stories get the most response on our blog entries. We try to put posts up within hours, sometimes within minutes of their creation, and we tell real stories about OYE scholars whose lives have been changed by access to education.

On location at the home of Rosa Yorleni Sevilla, El Progreso, Honduras

Segments that require video editing are treated like a news story…that is, we rush back to the office to do a quick edit and post it as soon as possible. We’re using a Canon XL1 video camera, and a 17″ MacBook Pro with Adobe Creative Suite for all of the post production. We’re also using an iPhone with a WordPress app for blog entry uploads. This mobile device method has proven more difficult than we thought because of the lack of a fast cellular data connection in some of the out-lying rural areas.

Looking at the analytics

In the last week we’re finding that Facebook has been our most effective platform to drive hits to the site, with about 60% of our visits coming from that source. Most of these are coming from shares outside the WordPress CMS (i.e., NOT than the share button on the post). Linked In is still very effective in bringing attention to our project (about 30%), but requires a great deal of time spent on personal and forum networking. With Facebook, you just put it up and it has it’s own viral spread. Nonetheless, Linked In has been our best outlet for an engaged audience, and produces the most “follows” and comments by far.

The big surprise has been the amount of re-tweets on Twitter, producing over a half-million total impressions! However, the bad news is that Twitter posts produce the least amount of actual hits (about 5%). Unless you’re Ashton Kutcher, I’m not convinced that anyone is paying much attention to what you’re tweeting. I see Twitter as the social media equivalent of direct mail…massive distribution to produce a small return. Hey…we’ll take it. We sincerely appreciate all the re-tweets from individual and organizational Twitter accounts. Many Latino news sites and organizations have found us and are spreading the word. ¡Muchas gracias por su ayuda graciosa! The other 5% of hits come from a combination of personal e.mails, search engines, and other social media platforms; Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Google+, re-blogs (2 ping backs), etc.

Our original goal was global visibility for the project, and we’ve certainly had a lot of success in that respect, with hits coming from over 70 countries. About half are from the US, with big numbers coming from (in order of number of hits): Honduras, Guatemala, The UK, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Pakistan, Brazil, The Netherlands, and Nicaragua. So there’s been a great deal of North American and European interest, as well as local visibility in Central America.

While we’ve had a lot of success in the past few weeks since this project started, there are two areas where we’ve been disappointed with the results. First, as I mentioned earlier, most of the comments are being posted outside the blog on Facebook shares or Linked In forums. We love this, of course, but it would be great if there were more on the blog itself in order to share your thoughts with the audience of this initiative.

Secondly (and this is the big one), we are hoping to engage social media experts all over the world and have them contribute their expertise and advice publicly on this forum. So far, this has not been happening. If there a organizations with social media departments out there, please consider contributing to this project as a CSR effort. We’ll acknowledge your work on our site and put up your logo if you wish. We’d love to get advice from eminent social media authorities everywhere. Here’s your chance to change the world from a mobile device on your way home on the commuter train, car pool, or airport lounge.

-Richard Lakin/co-founder, 18 rabbits digital media

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grad student volunteers

Grad students from Columbia University signed on for an alternative Spring Break in Honduras to do volunteer work for OYE .

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voices of Honduran youth

From earlier today:

“I arrived to OYE last year. I’m in the art program, where I’ve learned how to draw. I’ve learned to work better with others, to fight for everything – for me and for the organization so the organization can grow. I’m always pushing forward.”

“I define myself as a person who fights for what she wants, who tries to better herself as a person, and who supports others. My family relationships are good. OYE has helped me economically. I might not be in high school now if it weren’t for OYE. We are a family of three sisters, and what we receive in OYE helps us to go to school. Practically, OYE’s the reason why I’m in school, because the money from OYE helps my sisters and me to go to school and buy our books. This is my last year, and there are more expenses. We go to school in the morning every day, and you have to spend money on food and all sorts of things. So OYE has helped us with that. We also receive capacity building, which motivates us and helps build our self-esteem.”

Claudia Pavon

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An OYE profile: Jarly Yanes

“Welcome to Radio Ritmo Online. Our motto is ‘My voice is power.’ This is where it all begins.”

Jarly is the oldest daughter of three children who have been raised for the past six years by their mother while their father has gone to the United States to find work. He sends money back to the family, but it’s been a long six years without him, and quite a hardship on Jarly’s younger siblings.

Through OYE, Jarly is able to learn the importance of leadership skills, and continue her university education in San Pedro Sula. She also serves as the coordinator of OYE’s radio program OYE EL RITMO, and has become a mother figure for many of the becados, or OYE scholars.

Jarly has come a long way from the girl who worked on a banana plantation years ago.  Her dreams lie in technology and computers, and she is on her way to success thanks to the values and opportunities she has acquired at OYE, which she calls her second home. She has friends and she has a purpose. Her thesis on the political affairs of Honduras was chosen to become a capacity building class for other becados. While her situation is difficult and money is tight, Jarly has learned to make the best of what she has, not only for herself, but for others who depend on her as well. It is easy to see that she is strong-willed, reliable, and part of the glue that holds her family together, both at home and at OYE.

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Hondurans Speak Out: A Nation’s Reality

The following are answers from a panel discussion in El Progreso, Yoro on March 12, 2012. Please note that these opinions are individual and are not a reflection of the Organization for Youth Empowerment.

What is the biggest problem facing the youth of Honduras?

“Abandonment. So many youth are simply abandoned by their families, with some parents taking off for the United States and leaving them behind. Others are abandoned by their own families here in Honduras. How can you expect a child to grow up normally if they don’t know what family is?” –Maria, Volunteer Teacher

“Drug-trafficking. Honduras has become a state ruled by drug lords, whether it acknowledges it or not. The government can’t do anything about it because it’s funded by drug lords. Journalists can’t write about it or else they’ll get killed. And youth are drawn to it because they feel like there is no other alternative. It’s the reason why Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.” –Saul, Secondary School Teacher

“I have worked to help teenagers recover from drug use. Many unemployed youth are using drugs, and they have to find the money to support their addictions in some way. They join youth gangs not only to defend their territory but also to distribute. They steal, kill people, fight, and do everything they have to do to get the money to buy drugs.” –Christian, psychologist

What is the Honduran government doing to invest in educational reform?

“How can we possibly think about educational reform when we’re barely just getting by? In many Honduran schools, we still have teachers who are giving classes without a roof, without desks, or under a tree. Many teach at locations that are too far away from the children’s homes. And dropout rates are through the roof.” –Christian, psychologist

“We have to look at the root causes, one of which was the signing of 1990 Washington Consensus that transformed Honduras into a neoliberal, market-based economy. The policies that strengthened the market reduced the chances for country to offer services like education, health, etc. Instead, we invested in things to favor the market, like street infrastructure. And where are we now? It is difficult to find employment. Public services aren’t available. Access to hospitals is limited. Schools don’t have enough teachers. All of this is caused by policies that have been around for 20 years.” –Luis, sociologist

What are the conditions like in your school?

“Imagine teaching 73 kindergarteners. Now imagine teaching 73 kindergarteners underneath a tree in the blazing sun. That’s what I do every day, and the government only pays me $100 per year.” -Maria, volunteer teacher

At what age is education compulsory?

“The law…HA! The law says that all children must go to school up to 6th grade. But in Honduras, what the law says is one thing. What actually happens is another. Here the law is just paper…meaningless.” -Maria, volunteer teacher

“We live in country that doesn’t respect human rights, including the right to education. Even more violations, particularly to the right to life, happen as the result of drug trafficking. In Honduras, trafficking and consumption of drugs have increased to tremendous levels, and the population that is most affected are teenagers.” –Saul, Secondary School Teacher

Is there an association of teachers that tries to reach out to youth in remote areas?

“There is no association of teachers that tries to reach out to youth in Honduras’s more remote locations. The work is only done informally by volunteers like Maria who see a need in the community. There are not enough volunteers who give time to these causes since they don’t receive just compensation for all of the work that goes into educating a child.” –Saul, Secondary School Teacher

Does the freedom of expression exist in Honduras?

“Last year 17 journalists were murdered, and in December 2011 a well-known journalist, Alfredo Landaverde, was killed for his coverage of drug trafficking in the country. People don’t have the liberty to express themselves about these issues or say things about the government. The police here aren’t the CSI or FBI you see on TV – they’re just as corrupt as the drug traffickers and are involved in organized crime. They’re the ones who killed Landaverde.” –Christian, psychologist

How does the Honduran government respond to the problems confronting its youth?

“The Government doesn’t have the funds to help these teenagers. There are no resources. Honduras depends on the help of other countries and non-government organizations to do what the State can’t.” –Christian, psychologist

“The government can’t speak out against the drug lords because they are financed by drug money! The government has to pay the political favor or else they get killed. Middlemen get paid a lot when they sell drugs like cocaine, but when one drug seller gets killed, there is a line of young kids who are waiting to take his place. It’s a vicious cycle.” –Luis, sociologist

“It hurts me so much because this is our country. What is most important to me are the kids. I am proud that my students who graduated in 2006 from 6th grade are now in their careers. I have to keep doing this. Everything I do, I do with my heart.” –Maria, volunteer teacher

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meet the interns

DeAngela and Amy are 2 students from Mary Baldwin College who are working as interns at OYE for a few months.

This video was shot on an iPhone and uploaded on a WordPress mobile app just a few minutes ago. Blog entries from mobile devices can bring a sense of immediacy to your social media campaign.

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making the documentary

Work on the OYE documentary began in earnest today with a shoot at the COPPROME orphanage, just outside of El Progreso. A short film-style video will be a multimedia component of the social media campaign. Pictured here, Graciela, who lives at the orphanage, lines up a shot.

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first night in Honduras

dinner with the Yanes family 

Just a little while ago we were treated to a home-cooked meal by the Yanes family in El Progreso. Prepared by mom Maria, and the two sisters, Meredith and Yarly, we had baleadas (a thick flour tortilla prepared on wood-fired grill, filled with cheese and re-fried beans), tamales, and a pineapple-filed pastry for dessert.

nnnn

(left to right) Maria Yanes with daughters Meredith and Yarly

 

 

There’s a group of graduate students from Columbia University here doing volunteer work with OYE as an alternative spring break, and Señora Yanes taught them all how to make tortillas from scratch.

Tortilla-making lessons

 

 

 

 

Teaching seems to come naturally to Maria.  She has taken it upon herself to provide education for the local children. There is no school in this neighborhood, so Maria, on her own, teaches children basic academic skills in the shade of a big tree. Terms like curriculum or skills development seem abstract when you have to concentrate on such fundamental things as having no actual physical structure to teach in.

Maria’s daughter, Yarly, is extremely active in OYE’s programs to provide education for children in and around El Progreso. More about Yarly next week.

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A message from Marisol Fuentes, Director of OYE

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Marisol Fuentes, OYE Director

Dear Richard and all of the supporters of the 18 Rabbits Project:

I am writing to extend our thanks from Honduras as we prepare to work with 18 Rabbits on this fascinating experiment in social media. As a small NGO with a very large mission, OYE can use all of the support it can to create positive social change from within Honduras’s booming youth generation. At this juncture in OYE’s history, we could not have come across a more innovative, creative, and inspiring opportunity, and we are forever grateful.

I am also writing to provide a local view of the current issues that Honduran youth face here every day. As many of you may know, Honduras remains the second poorest country in Central America. In 2007, 60% percent of households were living below the poverty line, with 35% in extreme poverty. Low economic resources affect students’ capacity to continue with their educations. In 2007, fewer than 30% of Honduran youth were registered at an educational center, with over 615,000 youth who neither worked nor studied. An estimated 97,000 youth drop out of high school each year to work to support their families.

“An estimated 97,000 youth drop out of high school each year to work to support their families.”

The question remains – what are those youth doing who are not working the formal market or studying? Unfortunately, we know the answer. Many are drawn to a negative life path, which includes drugs, violence, and criminal involvement. Youth commit the largest percentage of violent aggressions in Honduras, which places them at great risk of violent death. According to Casa Alianza, 2 youth die in Honduras every day as a result of violent death. Because of organized crime, Honduras ranks as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, who cannot express themselves freely without serious risk to their lives. More recently, CNN ranked San Pedro Sula as the world’s most dangerous city given it has the highest homicide rate per capita.

“Because of organized crime, Honduras ranks as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, who cannot express themselves freely without serious risk to their lives.”

The difficulties don’t stop there. Honduras places first in the region with the largest number of gang members who form part of approximately 112 different gangs. Youth participate in these gangs for a variety of reasons: disintegrated families, lack of employment, illiteracy, lack of self-esteem, the search for identity, the lack of recreation and sports, marginalization, economic inequality, alcohol consumption/drug use, frustrations with the educational system, being victims of abuse, and proceeding from families with a history of violence, among other factors. They seek stability in unstable places since they believe that is their only option.

This is where OYE comes in. Because the Honduran State’s response has not been sufficient enough to counter these devastating trends in violence, educational dropout, and unemployment, NGOs like OYE serve as ways to address and correct for issues that the state has not effectively controlled. OYE’s mission as a community-based, youth-led organization is to develop the leadership and capacity of at-risk Honduran youth who might otherwise be drawn to the negative life path. OYE’s integrated development approach combines formal education, youth capacity building, and community engagement through the arts, journalism, sports, and communications to inspire and equip young people with the awareness and skills they need to take control of their lives. Ultimately, OYE promotes the free expression of socially conscious youth who will emerge as the agents of positive change that our country so desperately needs.

“Ultimately, OYE promotes the free expression of socially conscious youth who will emerge as the agents of positive change that our country so desperately needs.”

We operate in El Progreso, Honduras’s third largest city, which sits in the shadow of the world’s most violent city. We carry on with our work because we know we have to. Otherwise our youth would just be more numbers in statistics that we as Hondurans are not proud to own. We, along with the youth we work with, believe that we can change the trends, one educated student and one impacted community at a time.

I hope that some of you have found this information useful, and we look forward to working with Richard and 18 Rabbits in a few days. Many thanks from everyone at OYE.

Sincerely,

Marisol Fuentes

Director of OYE

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CSRwire Talkback editorial

Today we had an article published ( 325-going-global-on-a-shoestring-and-a-smartphone) about the OYE social media project on CSRwire, the leading source of corporate social responsibility and sustainability news, reports, events, and information. Submission of editorial content to news sites that relate to your project can increase your distribution metrics in a very significant way.

CSRwire is an excellent site for news relating to CSR, non-profit, and sustainability,  and a prime venue  for NGO news distribution…either from their widely-distributed news release services, or as an editorial piece. Here’s their distribution: http://www.csrwire.com/distribution Their twitter feed alone has over 13,000 followers.

I’ve dealt with about eight different people there for the past six years, and all of them have been just REALLY nice people who are sincerely committed to the promotion of corporate citizenship and sustainability conversation. Thanks for running our piece!

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a good first week

our first look at the analytics

There was a lot of activity on our blog since we first started to network the link last Sunday. There have been more than 200 people and organizations that started to follow us, including people at the London School of Economics and a university Foreign Affairs group. A major corporate social responsibility news site is running a blog entry about our project in the next few days, and a reporter from a Univision affiliate contacted us to do a story about the project during the videotaping in Honduras later this week.

Linked In forums were by far the most effective posts in bringing people to the site, accounting for about 63% of the traffic…more than Facebook and Twitter combined. However, Facebook produced about 75% of the “share” activity, with Twitter producing around 13%. The convenient “share” buttons on the WordPress platform produced hits on just about every social media venue there is: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, and Digg. Although, most of the shares occurred outside of the WordPress platform, i.e., they were shared from someone’s Facebook or Twitter posts, for example. Two different people pinned it on Pinterest; one was a lady in Taiwan whose pin received 10 “likes.” Not significant in numbers, but interesting. I wouldn’t have seen this as our forum. Pinterest seems to be still evolving as far as what users do with it. Becoming adept at creating a presence in Pinterest is quickly becoming a very valuable skill for social media people. It’s almost assuredly “the next big thing.”

We also got about a dozen hits from Google and Bing. Inclusion on these search engines is a function of the WordPress account. We’re strengthening our tags to increase visibility on these search engines. Any SEO experts out there have any thoughts on this?

Linked In is extremely effective

Linked In discussion forums definitely proved to be the place to engage in actual social networking…that is, Linked In provided more one-on-one discourse, more finely profiled contacts, an opportunity to connect with the top influencers in that particular community, and more hits to the site.  It was invaluable in getting the link out there initially, and started producing follows and hits within minutes of posting. This is a critical lesson in audience engagement, and is a component where many organizational social media strategies come up short; you need to connect to an extensive community of personal contacts. This is the most time-consuming element in your strategy, but has the biggest payoff in relevant distribution. To use Linked In effectively, you need to determine who you want as an audience, find the groups that reflect that audience, and then become a contributor to that group’s conversation. As a group member, you have access to the profiles of the other members. Scan this list and start connecting with people that you think would have interest in your message.

We posted in about 20 Linked In forums last Sunday night and Monday morning, and got hundreds of hits immediately. One thing to note: Linked In postings typically generated hits or comments for only about a day and half after posting, whereas Facebook could generate them for up to three days…at least for us. On Monday we were the top influencing discussion on the USAID forum, and have been the top influencing discussion on The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women forum since it’s posted. Here’s a few comments:

“Good luck! I will be following the project with excitement! I think social media is a great tool in raising awareness.”

“I think this is a great project and should merit attention by the more traditional academic spheres.”

“Great work. We look forward to connecting our youth, from the isolated communities of the U.S., to the youth of Honduras as they both create a place in the world for themselves and for their communities.”

Another thing to consider about Linked In…this is a “professional” connection platform where less personal information is available. Frankly, I’d rather conduct a dialog where people have posted their CV, rather than pictures of family or party photos.

So…the first week? Not bad. Particularly as all of this activity was generated by one initial post describing what we’re going to be doing. Live media from Honduras will start later this week. Thanks to all who have followed our site! We hope that you’ll follow our activity in El Progreso, and invite your colleagues to benefit from the insight of this transparent process.

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a global conversation

In the next few weeks, this site will begin to chronicle and analyze a social media project intended to raise the visibility of a small NGO in Honduras; The Organization for Youth Empowerment. Children in that country will participate in the campaign through their own Facebook accounts and other social media venues. The goal of this project is to examine how social media can be used by small grass-roots NGOs to gain global visibility and increase support. It will be an open-source social media strategy for non-profits with limited budgets.

We saw the role of social media in the Arab Spring. We will now employ this medium to promote socio-economic change with live social media from Central America. This WordPress blog will serve as a content management system with multimedia, project updates, and links to the children’s social media activity. We hope that you will subscribe to our blog and follow the progress of this project.

If you are involved in social media, online branding, or other digital strategies, we think that you’ll find this process insightful. Please share it if you find it engaging. We welcome your comments and suggestions. Feel free to contribute your expert advice as well, and we’ll acknowledge your contributions on our blog. We want to make this a global community of contributors, creating a strategy that can be used by NGOs worldwide.

To receive the updates, subscribe now by clicking the “follow” button in the right-hand column. Please use the share buttons below to help promote this committed humanitarian organization and to participate in this global social media experiment.
-Richard Lakin co-founder, 18 rabbits digital media

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