A note Tom Dawkins sent along to DoWire at my request. Tom will be on my panel at the Baltimore version of the International Symposium on e-Participation and Local Democracy. – Steven Clift
My name’s Tom Dawkins and I’m the founder and National Coordinator of a not-for-profit youth media and arts organisation in Australia called Vibewire Youth Services. We are dedicated to building media and arts-based platforms to allow younger people (15-30) to express themselves on the issues that matter to them, in their own voice and using the cultural form most appropriate to them. We run several major projects including the Vibewire.net youth media portal (www.vibewire.net), Reelife Short Film Festival and sQuareOne, a media and arts project incubation space we’re about to open in Sydney (www.s1.org.au) as well as having a print projects team and doing a range of work for other organisations to assist them to better engage and include young people.
Our work is based on the belief that media forms the marketplace of ideas in our society and that young people must have democratic access to the media and to having their voice heard in this marketplace of ideas.
I’m travelling around North America during August as part of a research trip to learn more about work being done around these issues, to bring back to Australia both ideas and possibilities for more international collaboriations. I’m keen to meet up with individuals and organisations doing interesting work around the same areas as Vibewire, namely any of: digital/indie/youth media; online community; youth spaces (as in physical spaces, not virtual – specifically those designed to engender creative expression and/or enterprise development); digital arts/creativity; youth and citizenship; e-democracy.
My itinery is:
August 3 – Baltimore for the Symposium on e-Democracy
August 4-9 – Washington DC
August 9-16 – New York
August 16-19 – Toronto
August 19-22 – Boston
August 22-26 – San Francisco
I’m also prepared, time allowing, to make day trips to places within reach of these cities.
I’d love to hear from anyone interesting to meeting up and any suggestions you have.
A brief background to Vibewire Youth Services is below.
Vibewire Youth Services
Vibewire Youth Services was incorporated in September 2000 by then university student Tom Dawkins. It was originally conceived of as a vehicle simply to create Vibewire.net, a youth culture and expression portal. Since that time however it has grown into a multi-faceted youth media and arts organisation with five key project areas: Vibewire.net; Online Events; Reelife Short Film Festival; Print Projects and; SquareOne.
Vibewire Youth Services is run entirely by young people (16-30). All staff, volunteers and board members (National Steering Committee) are aged 30 or under. In fact, the vast majority of Vibewire management, staff and volunteers are aged 25 or under.
Vibewire is built around the vision of an Australian society with significantly greater levels of youth community engagement and media-literacy and, ultimately, a more informed and participatory public debate about the issues and challenges that confront us all. One of the key inspirations for the development of Vibewire.net was the recommendation of The UNESCO 31ST General Conference Youth Forum (held in 2001) that:
‘Youth-created media should be strengthened locally and globally, to increase media-literacy and provide an outlet for youth creativity and opinions.’
Vibewireâ€™s goals are to:
â€¢ Empower young people by giving them leadership and expression opportunities;
â€¢ Enhance young peopleâ€™s self-esteem by giving them a sense of belonging in a community and ownership of their destiny via leadership opportunities and self-expression and education;
â€¢ Foster a sense of â€˜connectednessâ€™ for young people by creating significant, sustainable relationships with their peers and youth communities nation-wide (and world-wide);
â€¢ Break entrenched cycles by creating new participation pathways, especially for at-risk and isolated young people;
â€¢ Create new, positive opportunities and experiences for young people;
â€¢ Provide a unique and inspirational environment for peer mentorship, as more experienced organisation and community members pass on their knowledge and experience to newer members;
â€¢ Develop the skills, competencies and relationship networks of our team and the youth community;
â€¢ Continually improved the variety and quality of the opportunities on the site, creating an environment within which myriad new projects can be created and developed;
Vibewire is focused on re-engaging young people in the political decision-making processes which affect them, improving their media literacy and understanding of these processes, and providing opportunities for the creation of non-commercial arts and culture and the showcasing of the talents of young people in Australia.
Over the last three years a diverse range of projects have sprouted off the Vibewire.net platform, many in response to ideas from our community. We are particularly proud of the electionTracker project. This project created opportunities for many young people to express themselves on, and become better informed about, the last Federal election (October 2004) through the electionTracker website (www.electionTracker.net) and the eight radio stations, covering every major market, who carried our updates. Never before had young people had the opportunity to become news-makers in this way, traveling as part of the press corps with the leaders of both major parties during the crucial final two weeks of the campaign. The Trackers filed reports twice-daily, in both feature article and blog form while a team of about 50 writers nationally kept the news and commentary on the site ticking over.
Reelife Short Film Festival has grown into a three-state (and the ACT) tour each year and has sold out its Awards screening at Sydneyâ€™s Valhalla Cinema every year. After the closure of the Valhalla this year Reelife has been postponed to March/April 2006.
Over the last 12 months we have published three publications:
â€¢ Interface: An anthology of new youth perspectives on contemporary political, cultural and personal issues
â€¢ Sanctuary: A nationally-distributed mini-mag features the stories of young migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds
â€¢ Free Range: A publication for young digital film-makers
Vibewire.net currently has 4,800 registered members and receives almost 2,000 unique visitors each day. It has three key content areas: Pulse (politics and opinion); Life (arts, culture, lifestyle) and Create (creative writing and advice), as well as forums, blogs and many special projects.
We are supporting other organisations on a commercial basis to communicate better with young people. Examples include our work with Brisbane International Film Festival to develop and manage their Cine Sparks Childrenâ€™s Film Festival website (www.cine-sparks.com.au), our collaboration with TAFE NSW on the Engageme project (www.vibewire.net/engageme) and co-managing the worldâ€™s leading digital film festival RESfest (www.resfest.com) in Sydney with Dendy Cinemas. These contracts help fund and support our core business: Vibewire.net and related projects.
Last year Vibewire was awarded the World Summit Youth Award for the Community Engagement category, as well as being the highest point-scoring project overall. The WSYAâ€™s were for youth-led online projects designed to encourage the active particiation of young people in the emerging Information Society. They were awarded as part of the UNâ€™s World Summit on the Information Society, and National Coordinator Tom Dawkins was invited to present at the Summit, held in Tunis, Tunisia, in November last year. For more information on the awards, please see the WSYA website, www.youthaward.org and for more information on the World Summit on the Information Society, please see the WSIS website, www.itu.int/wsis/tunis/