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Citizen Justice Network trains community paralegals to be radio journalists and is all about disrupting the way news is collected and distributed. As a result we have been shortlisted for an #innovateafrica grant. With this money we will be able to make our 12 ambitions for 2017 a reality. Here they are…

Number one, we plan to start digitising, transcribing and translating our content. We want to see media from this sector searchable on the web in English and African languages and thus easy to distribute in audio and text form. This strategy will develop translation corpuses for African languages that can be used in an open source manner for a range of benefits. We have been in talks with translation tools Amara, Bridge and members of Google to develop this part of the project.

Number two, we are going to streamline our reporting processes – we have 16 paralegals-turned-journalists out in the field – and so make it easier to spot trends on important stories across the country. We will also increase the capacity for data sets and data journalism to enter community media. We will make sure these data stories are geographically relevant to the station’s listeners. We are going to offer, after broadcast, better information from our areas to advocacy groups and pro bono lawyers so they can continue the impact of our work. We have been in talks with the International Centre For Journalists to develop this part of the project.

Number three, we are going to improve the accountability of government when it comes to community media. We are going to connect ward councillors with their local radio stations. We are also going to implement technologies to make sure it is recorded when government entities are asked for comment along with if and why they refused. We have been in talks with MIT Africa to further develop this part of the project.

We are going to streamline our advocacy practices in general — CJN is committed to a ‘solutions journalism’ approach to storytelling. We are in talks with the BBC around how best to report what is going ‘right’ in our areas without pandering or losing our critical eye. Along with improving government’s engagement with community media we are focused on connecting people with lawyers when necessary and allowing our journalism to help act as a starting point for activism media campaigns (like protests or leaflet drops) in our communities.

Number four, we are going to take everyone who has contact with the paralegals, advice offices and radio stations and make them members of our Local Citizen programme, encouraging them to be citizen journalists on an ongoing basis. This will enable a wide group of people to submit tip-offs, photos and comments from areas that are difficult for reporters to reach. And alongside this new initiative we are going to beef up our social media content, using platforms like WhatsApp, with informative and accessible mini-stories in local languages. We have been in talks with MIT Civic Media Lab to develop this part of the project.

Number five, how we engage with mainstream media and push stories from our communities to national level is going to change. We are going to package information from multiple sources and areas, but engage the national journalists to co-produce the stories with CJN. We are also starting our own series of in-house podcasts for an international market. We have been in talks with the Nieman Foundation at Harvard to develop this part of the project.

Number six, we will partner with PRX to develop a strategy for community radio stations to share their content. This will allow well-produced shows and stories to have a longer life and greater reach on several community radio stations across the country. CJN and the radio stations will build a library of stories and how-to informative features around social justice. All our stations will be able to syndicate the content and so prevent production being repeated.

Number seven, we are working with Source Fabric (and their product Air Time) to build a CJN online radio station of all our content. This will allow people to listen to full shows outside of the usual community radio system. We also have plans to offer online streaming for all our partner stations.

Number eight, we are partnering with Ground Source as a way to augment the ability for our stations to interact with their communities. We will congregate the social media and SMS interactions in our areas and give stations the chance to catalogue these interactions. CJN will follow up these interactions with direct research surveys on specific topics to further our understanding of our areas.

Number nine, we are committed to our stories going international and raising awareness for our issues on a global scale. The BBC and PRI have shown interest in stories told by our paralegal journalists which CJN will meticulously co-produce.

Number ten, we will connect our paralegals with community partners, like healthcare workers and members of the oversight body that works in correctional centres. This will expand the reach of our paralegals and expose them to as many stories as possible from a variety of areas.

Number eleven, we will create a culture of our paralegal journalists passing on media training far and wide. Each paralegal will be tasked with recording short videos featuring important media lessons which we can circulate around the CJN network. This will allow ongoing peer-to-peer training in a variety of African languages.

Number twelve, we will build an interactive map, an online visualisation of the community advice offices and radio stations across the country. We will be able to see the reach of each stakeholder and how strongly they are partnered. We will then overlay government entities and how they link to each station and office (from ward councillor to legal aid office). CJN wants to encourage these partnerships between station, advice office and local government to be as widespread and transparent as possible.

This is part of our plan to have some sort of involvement with every community radio station in the country. We will introduce a tiered system at CJN where we will have intensive editorial relationships with certain stations and a general check in with others. All this is in an effort to truly map and strengthen community media nationwide.