On July 04, a team of six students -- Samin Yasar, Tousif Tanzim Ahmed, Sousan Suha, Zulkernain Tasin, Adib Reza Rongon and Saif Mostafiz from the University of Dhaka-- with their campaign 'Positive Bangladesh' won ‘Peer to Peer: Facebook Global Digital Challenge Spring 2019’.
The world has been experiencing the proliferation of hate speech, radicalisation and violent extremism for a long time now. To counter such rhetoric, EdVenture Partners, with Facebook, has organised 'Peer to Peer: Facebook Global Digital Challenge' (P2PFGDC) since 2015 to mobilise individuals to create and implement localised, community-based social media campaigns, especially empowering the youth in the process.
The competition is held twice a year and has engaged over 10,000 student participants at 500 universities, in over 68 countries- reaching over 55 million people altogether. Previously P2PFGDC final rounds were held in Washington DC with the support of the US Department of State; however, this time, they decided to go global, and EdVenture Partners in association with Facebook and MolenGeek hosted a week of events in Brussels, Belgium from June 30 to July 4, 2019 for the finals.
Students from the American University of Nigeria, CEU Universidad San Pablo and the University of Dhaka flew in to present their ideas to Facebook executives, policymakers and more.
"P2PFGDC is a campaign designing competition where you have to address issues such as extremism, violent extremism or hate speech that is happening in your local community. Creating a counter-narrative to those notions as a solution is the main agenda, which would positively affect society. The teams pinpoint on their agenda and plan of action and submit a basic campaign summary. Since Facebook funds it, the emphasis is put on social media presence; as that is the main platform where extremism spreads these days while simultaneously being the space where the counter-narrative is needed. A coordinator/contact person is appointed to each team who guides them through any query and technical issue. Teams update the coordinator about their progress in details starting from team meetings, budget analysis, and social media statistics to events initiated by the campaign. All these are done on a separate online workspace. The final submission is what it all comes down to. Following a set of questionnaire, the entire campaign conducted over months has to be compressed into six pages. Teams are given full creative power. With a comic artist and illustrator on the team, we made no compromises there," shares Samin Yasar.
Adib Reza Rongon says, "Representing Bangladesh in competition abroad was very stressful considering the reputation we had at stakes. All my team members sacrificed a lot, and until the moment we got the results, we were all stressed about all those months' work. However, as soon as we got to know we scored first place, it was probably one of the proudest moments of our lives. No matter how much the stress or hardship was, that one moment made up for it all."
Tousif Tanzim Ahmed reflects on the experience and shares the key takeaways. "I would say the best development we had here was that our team developed new and youthful social media contents and learnt how to run digital campaigns properly. We gained a lot of global networking and exposure. From the beginning of the competition, we were in touch with people from EdVenture Partners and Facebook, which culminated in the final round. There we became internally connected to Facebook's public policy and counter-speech team to expand our work and idea around the world. The judges who were present in the finals proposed to be connected with them to develop peace-building mechanisms and joined us to organisations similar to us. This has opened new boundaries for us to get investments, reach global media and work our way through to spread all over Bangladesh."
"All the ideas were great - each specifically addressing the issues and needs of their local community. For any competition, the judges look for sustainability and future implications. I believe our presentation promised that. The grounding of our endeavours addressing the issues was logical, factual and easy to grasp. We put in extra effort to dig deep into the issues identified, proving our rationale for the counter-narrative. It showed our seriousness to go that extra mile. In addition, the visuals got us the comment of 'Excellent Branding!' No question caught us off guard, and the judges seemed impressed. I believe that being elaborate and knowing our project throughout gave us the upper hand," informs Sousan Suha while talking about what set them apart from their competitors.
Zulkernain Tasin says this experience has been a turning point in his life. He adds, "Chemistry of the team is one of the major factors in the making of something big; our team was very harmonious in that way. We have had our fair share of difficulties, but the understanding between the six of us made it work. Proper division of workload is what helped balance it all out."
The team had also participated in the Digital Khichuri Challenge (DKC), a national level competition. Saif Mostafiz explains one of the significant differences between a national and international competition is the diversity of the teams and the way they tackle their problems. According to him, "During DKC, what I have noticed is most of the ideas were somewhat similar, but not the same. However, in the case of P2P, even though all the teams were more or less trying to tackle the same issues, the approach they had were different. Some were fun approaches; some were a bit more serious. In the case of teams, during DKC, I've noticed most of the teams lacked different perspectives because in that case, we only saw the problem from a specific group's eyes."
All of them unanimously agree that the advice they would give to future participants of P2PFGDC is to have faith and be patient. They should develop simple ideas addressing unique, contemporary issues that require immediate attention; plan social media activities strategically, with thorough research. Vibrant and youthful graphics are always a plus.
The writer is a fresh graduate of Brac University and is currently working in a local private bank. She can be reached at email@example.com
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