Subhashish Panigrahi is from Odisha in eastern India. He's a documentary filmmaker and currently a Fellow at Yoti researching the impact of India's digital identity program on marginalized communities. Most of his previous work has been as a community manager for nonprofits working for an open Internet, such as Wikimedia, Centre for Internet and Society, Mozilla and Internet Society. He had also worked on several films related to the documentation of endangered languages. He joined GV in June 2014 and contributes to Lingua, Rising Voices and as a member of the South Asia newsroom team.
All candidates in the 2020 board elections have been asked to answer the set of questions listed below. Feel free to ask Subha additional questions in the comments area below this post!
What appeals to you most about the prospect of serving on the GV board?
As a citizen media and a community-led organization, GV is uniquely positioned to contribute in an unbiased manner to the world of news that is often otherwise shaken with partisan coverage and fake news. Moreover, the extremely diverse and widespread GV community brings together a range of expertise which results in extremely nuanced news coverage with an emphasis on citizen voices while still covering the breaking news. If I can compare GV to the earth, the board is the set of earthworms that move across the layers and contribute to the common goal of nurturing the vulnerable plantlet of democracy. In a decentralized but well-structured community like GV, the board acts as an interface between the core team, the community council, the larger community of authors, editors, sub-editors and translators, and the outside world including GV’s readers. When boards across nonprofits and otherwise are designed to provide advisory assistance, the GV board has been contributing a lot in keeping up with the changes around the world and the collective goal of making GV relevant to those readers who have relatively low access to unbiased news.
What talents, skills, connections, and expertise can you offer Global Voices in your role as board representative?
I have a background in engineering with a career in catalyzing communities in several global and Indian nonprofits that work towards changing the course of the internet for the public good. I have spent a large part of my life in volunteering for movements — like Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and Mozilla — that ensure an open and non-discriminatory dissemination of knowledge while empowering the larger citizenry. Being a part of the GV community for a long time and having been involved in many of the community initiatives, it would be an honor to serve the community with a new hat as board representative. The role would give me an additional pair of ears to listen to all the stakeholders of the citizen media movement, and contribute back to the growth of GV as a leader in that movement. I personally see two of GV’s initiatives as its two strong pillars — Advox which delves deeper into some of the key digital rights issues and RV which empowers marginalized communities to use their own languages and cultures as a tool to establish social equilibrium. I would love to bring my experience and expertise to the table to strengthen these two initiatives along with Lingua, and widen GV’s reach to geographical regions and to communities that are yet to be explored in the GV landscape.
As you look ahead to the next three years, what, in your opinion, should be GV’s overarching priorities as an organization?
When the media was traditionally designed as a tool to ensure openness and transparency in society so that there is equity in governance, it has grown in many tangents thanks to easy access to technology. In a way, the media is fighting within to remain valid for the larger public. When GV has an advantage of being a community-driven organization from the very beginning, it has to also fight some of the most burning and intertwined societal issues — circulation of fake news and misinformation, surveillance and other threats to digital rights, emerging technology that is often cited as a double-edged sword, and lack of access that could jeopardize the balance in democracy. As the economic structures around the world are beginning to fail because of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus, GV's design as a citizen media begins to make more sense than ever before. But it also has to address the swift shift of audience from conventional media platforms to social media with a higher degree of hunger for multilingual and multimedia content. GV has an immediate challenge of being heard and watched in people’s own languages rather than just being read, especially on platforms that people with low access often access. Similarly, sustaining the financial backbone of GV remains a practical challenge as the support to nonprofits continues to shrink globally.
What aspect of GV’s work interests you the most?
RV and Advox are two milestones to me in the spectrum of GV’s wider work — where the former is striving to bridge the issues with access, representation, and participation of marginalized communities and the latter educating people about their digital rights. Being both a reader and author of GV is a natural extension of my personal interest in topics related to documentation of endangered languages and cultures, multilingual citizen media development, several digital rights issues, and internet governance. With a representation from every corner in the world within the GV community, I also feel extremely fortunate to learn from my peers. I believe that being a part of the GV community helps a constant flow of knowledge and humanity that gradually permeates to each member’s work and life. This also results in GV’s community being a steward for openness, equity and social justice, and rights-based approach.
What would you like to get out of this board service experience, both professionally and personally?
GV is already an integral part of my personal life, and my learning here has contributed to my professional career as well. I have not just developed friendships with many in the GV community that will last a lifetime, I have also received mentorship and advice for my work. This position will take all of that to a whole different level by expanding more opportunities to communicate and engage with everyone within GV and beyond. The philosophical construct and the decentralized structure that GV has to offer is something that many organizations currently lack. I aspire to establish a win-win situation by transforming my future workplaces by bringing in more openness, transparency and participation in an equitable way and in a rights-based approach.
How will you fit board service into your personal and other professional work commitments?
As someone who has been working remotely with coworkers that are widely spread across the world, I have adapted to an agile working environment. I am already committed to a few other advisory roles and some volunteering efforts. Though there have been natural ups and downs in personal and professional spheres, I have been privileged to be surrounded with supporting individuals. I believe that l will fully commit to the service that this position will demand while continuing my other work and life expectations, and ensure that I place all the commitments as a complimenting jigsaw piece in a large puzzle.
What methods would you use to engage and listen to the community in order to represent them effectively at board level?
From a methodology standpoint, I plan to engage with the GV community in two major ways — through the existing structures of GV Community Council, and regional and functional sub-communities, and 1:1 with some of the community leaders/representatives. Similarly, I will continue to have ongoing engagement with the larger community to fill any gaps and avoid any potential bias. As GV moves forward with a new strategy, I will also help identify potential areas of conflicts/challenges and improvement, and will offer my support to address the same. I will strive to document the learning and new opportunities to broadcast to my fellow board members and the core team to explore possible action in a timely and need-based manner. The GV community being a very compassionate and humane community, it also brings unique challenges and opportunities. I will explore these nuances more by listening to my fellow community members and reflect in a manner that can positively contribute towards the larger goal that GV has.