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Are We Mentors More Than We Are Editors?

Categories: Community, GV 2017, GV Summit, Newsroom

GV editors and staff at the Global Voices Staff Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on November 28, 2017. Photo by Jer Clarke. CC-BY-NC.

This post is part of series of reports on newsroom activities at the Global Voices Community Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Nov 28-Dec 1, 2017.

A day before the meetings with the full group of 130 community members started in Colombo, Global Voices newsroom editors and staff members got together for a day of reflections and brainstorming on our future.

In the previous post, we gave an overview of some of the identity and mission-related brainstorms [1] the newsroom led at the staff meeting.

In this post, we’ll talk about some of the support and community-related exercises we led. Many of the conversations dug into how Global Voices has evolved organically over the years into a “learning organization”, and the role of mentoring in such an environment.

To recap: in June 2017, we asked our newsroom editors to share what they wanted to achieve at an in-person newsroom editors meeting. Here’s what they said about community, support and team building:

GV Community members form a conga line at the Global Voices Community Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka by Raphael Tsavkko Garcia. CC-BY-NC.

How are we different online versus IRL?

Although the line between online and in real life is becoming ever blurrier, it is clear that there are still significant differences between how we present ourselves or how we are perceived online, compared with in real life. Different aspects of ourselves are given different levels of emphasis depending on the space.

One of the first conversations we had among newsroom editors and other section leaders in Colombo was comparing how we would describe our real-life selves in three words to the online persona we have in three words. Some editors had no overlaps! Key aspects of their real life were kept private for privacy or safety reasons. And for others, there were aspects of their online activism that friends and family in their real life did not know about.

The point of this exercise was to get to know each other and have conversations about the various complex identities and realities we bring to the table as editors. We touched upon self-care as well, a topic into which we’ll dive deeper in a post about a workshop the newsroom led at the community meeting.

“Editing is necessary, but so is mentoring.”

We also had some community-related conversations in the opinion spectrometer exercise [2] that we mentioned in the previous post. Here are some of the conclusions we drew:

In community building, there is no one-size-fits-all solution

Later on, we teamed up with our Translation Managers and discussed some common challenges we face in building and nurturing community at a Global Voices. Here are detailed notes on that session [3].

The main takeaways were that recruiting and retaining volunteers is something all sections struggle with. We agreed that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so trying out many different strategies to build community is best; many editors thought the ideal would be to pay contributors. Group discussions yielded the following possible solutions:


GV Community members at the Global Voices Community Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka by Jer Clarke, CC-BY-NC.

In conclusion, we decided that we need to be more intentional with our efforts to recruit and retain and be effective guides for new contributors who are just entering into the community. We should give them examples of ways can they participate beyond the activity that drew them to GV (writing or translating or researching), orient them towards the appropriate communication channels, and perhaps set up a peer-to-peer mentoring system to help guide new contributors.

We also decided we need to communicate much more clearly with the community and with external audiences about the benefits of contributing to GV: that your work will be published, could be translated, your resume could get a boost, the possibility of letters of recommendations and certificates, and membership in a unique like-minded community with a global network of connections.

Here are the previous two posts in this series: