Over the summer, TASCHA and the UW Jackson School hosted 25 of Myanmar’s leaders from government, civil society, political parties, ethnic communities, libraries, and the media for a five-week workshop. During the five weeks, the fellows honed their leadership skills and developed information strategies that will broaden information literacy throughout the country, facilitate the peacebuilding process, and support fair elections in the next year.
The workshop schedule was evenly divided between a hands-on information project development curriculum and an expert lecture series that includes faculty and practitioners from the University of Washington and the rest of the country who have helped with similar projects in other parts of the world, including India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam, to name just a few.
Some of the most exciting, engaging and inspiring encounters were with the Seattle Public Libraries and their branch librarians at Rainier Beach where the fellows saw first-hand how libraries provide such an important role in local communities in supporting free speech, intellectual freedom, and community development.
Early on in the five weeks, the fellows participated in a panel discussion and presented their plan to create a Myanmar Information Lab to address emerging information-related issues in their country. At the end of the five weeks, the fellows presented the information strategies they created, which will strengthen peacebuilding, fair elections, and information literacy in Myanmar and will be further developed and implemented in the next year.
The workshop held at UW is just one activity that is part of a larger program, Information Strategies for Societies in Transition. The Information Strategies for Societies in Transition program builds capacity across sectors in Myanmar through a leadership development program, a Myanmar Information Lab in Yangon, information literacy outreach through public libraries, and projects to support the 2015 elections and the peacebuilding process.
The program is comprised of three major components: (1) creating a professional network of mid-career professionals from civil society, political parties, the media, government ministries, and think tanks; (2) establishing the Myanmar Information Laboratory (MIL) in Yangon to facilitate the expansion of the professional network and general informational capacity building; and (3) serving as a focal point for projects focused on tackling digital and information challenges in Myanmar.
The program is supported by USAID, Microsoft, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program is housed in the University of Washington’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and is run in collaboration with the Technology & Social Change Group in the University of Washington’s Information School, Myanmar Egress Capacity Development Centre, and the Myanmar Minerva Educational Centre.