The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

The mission of BCMD is to nurture a culture of democracy by strengthening media, expanding public discourse, and providing essential training and education for key persons who will have a direct impact on Bhutan's democratic transition and the creation of democratic institutions.
Apr 10, 2013

Progress Report #3: We have finally launched!

The Minister of Education helps us open the Lab!
The Minister of Education helps us open the Lab!

Bhutanese youth seeking opportunities for engagement now have a reason to get excited – the Media Lab is now open for exploration! On Friday, March 29, we were joined by 85 of our friends in high schools, Civil Society Organizations, the media fraternity, and in government to officially launch the Media Lab, a space dedicated to giving young people a voice through digital media.

Youth members of our Media Lab Design Team began the event by sharing a few words about the origin and purpose of the space. “As of now in Bhutan, we are given the notion that creative pursuits like photography have no scope,” One remarked. “With the Lab, we hope to change that.” The vision of the Lab, after all, was a collective one born in collaboration with a number of inspiring youth like the members on our design team committed to bringing change to Bhutan.

Minister of Education Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel, our chief guest for the evening, also talked about democracy and the importance of youth voice and citizen participation in a democracy. “I would like to hope that this Media Lab grows as a powerful instrument in engaging young people to discover much more responsible forums that will enable them to articulate their voice,” Lyonpo remarked. Lyonpo also cautioned youth to refrain from the impulse to “make noise”.

We then opened the Lab for a public viewing, and showed our guests around the main areas of the space – the upstairs work bench/exhibit, the reception area, the reading and discussion lounge, and the computer workspace. With everyone standing in the main hall, we surprised young and budding photographer Jamyang Yeshi – someone deeply inspired during our workshops – with a DSLR camera contributed to us by PHOTOKidz Singapore.

For youth, we announced the call for membership. To keep the space intentional, we are requiring all youth interested in using the space to go through a process for becoming a member – filling out an application, taking an orientation, and, eventually, contributing a small monthly fee. By the end of the night, all 60 of our applications were gone!

The event concluded with an “Open Mic Night” event, an opportunity for anyone to just walk on the stage, share their experiences, read a poem or a story, sing a song or play an instrument – basically, an opportunity for free expression. After a nervy start, people eventually caught the drift of the idea and started opening up. Performances included:

  • Ganchu, an RJ and Entrepreneur at Radio Valley, broke the ice by reading a personal poem about an anonymous girl.
  • Thoepaga and Yeshey, young teachers, performed an acoustic version of their song, “Mawongpi Miser”
  • Supe, an RJ, gave an amusing reading of “McCavity”, one of the rare T.S. Elliot poems intended for children
  • Tashi Namgay, a social worker and director of the Bhutan Kidney Foundation, shared touching stories about his work with kidney patients
  • Local musician Zhaw, along with Yeshey and Neten, sang two songs, including the popular “Kencho Sum”
  • Lilly, a middle school student, read a poem
  • Dechen, an architect working with the Tourism Council, sang a few songs

We had such a blast! Truly, we are blessed to have such friends, like you, who helped make all of this possible. Thanks to you, the space is now open (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays) with programs underway. (Check out the website for more!)

However, our mission is not yet complete. As we are finding, it's much easier to start something than it is to continue and sustain it! While we are looking at ways of generating revenue through membership fees, creating a 'guild' of youth media consultants, and more, we still need your continued support. With your support, we can continue to build on the stock of equipment in the space, to cover the costs of bringing in high-profile local media-makers to run trainings, and, eventually, to even replicate these spaces throughout Bhutan. Consider giving once more to support youth voice in Bhutan's young, and maturing, democracy. 

The Media Lab Logo
The Media Lab Logo
A scene from Open Mic Night
A scene from Open Mic Night
Girls work on their photostories during a workshop
Girls work on their photostories during a workshop

Links:

Feb 4, 2013

Progress Report on the Lab's Development: #2

A session on innovation during the workshop
A session on innovation during the workshop
Dear Friends and Supporters, 

We continue to find support from pleasantly unexpected sources to motivate us to forge ahead. This past month, we received generous donations from the Raffles Institution in Singapore and the Druk Green Power Corporation in Bhutan. The donations amounted to over $1,000! We thank both of these institutions for their charitable contributions. 

Thanks to benefactors like yourself and various organizations, we have raised enough money to cover the start-up costs of the lab. We've almost completed the purchase of all the computers, cameras, and fun tools we hope to equip the lab with in the beginning. We even ran an 8-day digital storytelling workshop for 27 youth last month to test out the space. Hear from youth in this video tell you what they learned! 
To keep the space intentional and sustainable, we are in the final stages of designing a series of innovative learning programmes. These include:
  • a membership programme, for which youth will have to apply, take an orientation course on Media and Democracy Literacy, and pay a nominal fee;
  • the Media Guild, an advanced membership programme that youth members can opt into if they're seeking long-term creative development. Beyond simply learning how to use media, members of the guild learn about all aspects of media professionalism. Participation in the guild will include training in marketing, career-building (interviews, resumes, and networking), and understanding of civic engagement. Throughout the duration of their membership in the guild, members will build and develop their own portfolio. These portfolios will be used to help them procure commissioned jobs, which BCMD will facilitate through our personal contacts. 
  • Saturday Open Mic Nights + Screenings, for youth seeking to share their ideas, their views, their creative work, and for a fun time on Saturday evening!
We also recently finished editing our latest fundraiser video, "Dreaming of a Media Lab". The video was conceived of and co-directed by Letho Gyamtsho, Lilly Yangchen, Bhuwan Kafley, and Rajesh Gurung - all members of our Lab Design Team. Check it out!
Our mission, however, is not yet complete. We are now entering another round of fundraising to support the programming costs of the space. If we are to launch by the middle of March (the current plan), we need funding to compensate professionals we hope to rope in to lead trainings and mentorships; to support the training and employment of youth lab coordinators, who will help guide and lead youth; and to fully equip the space with all the state-of-the-art equipment that young people here lack chronic access to.
Please consider giving one more time to help us reach our final goal! 
With gratitude, 
The BCMD Team
Youth share their photography work at the space
Youth share their photography work at the space
A morning exercise in the Lab field
A morning exercise in the Lab field
The Big Dream - Setting up the Lab!
The Big Dream - Setting up the Lab!

Links:

Nov 16, 2012

Youth Voice Lab: Progress Report #1

Dear Friends and Supporters, 

Since earning our permanent spot on GlobalGiving, we've made a lot of progress towards establishing the Youth Voice Lab. On Sunday, October 28, we had our first meeting with our Design Team - a diverse cohort of youth who will help us research the needs and interests of Bhutanese youth, set up the space, and design programmes. Click here to read the minutes of the meeting. (User testimonies attached)

On Wednesday, October 31, we met with leaders at the Youth Development Fund (YDF) to confer about the idea of the lab. After discussing terms and conditions, they have kindly agreed to hand over a space (the former squash court!) to BCMD for the lab. We will seek out an auspicious date to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), after which we will take over and begin programmes. Design of the space is already underway!

We met with the Design Team to assess the space on Sunday, November 4. We are also continuing to fundraise, seek in-kind contributions, and working towards partnerships with media and private sector organizations. Our friends in Singapore at the Raffles Institution have already contributed 8 cameras and raised nearly Nu 20,000. Thanks, friends!

Look for more updates on our Facebook page!

Links:

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