Soliya is an international non-profit organization that is using new media technologies to create and mobilize a global community of youth to promote intercultural understanding in diverse societies.
In October 2009, Soliya (www.soliya.net) merged with the Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund and became an implementing partner of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.
Soliya envisions a world in which deep international cross-cultural engagement – enabled by new media technologies – is a part of every young adult’s education. New media and communications technologies have the potential to foster cross-cultural respect and understanding on a scale never before possible. Soliya’s work aims to provide a diverse global community of young people with the skills and experience to effectively utilize these technologies to promote intercultural understanding within broader societies.
Soliya advances its mission through two main initiatives: The Connect Program and Terana.
The Connect Program
Using customized videoconferencing technologies, Soliya’s Connect Program engages young people in sustained cross-cultural dialogue through accredited university courses. Since 2003, Soliya has partnered with over 80 universities in more than 25 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States to deliver the Connect Program.
Over the course of a semester, Connect Program participants:
- Engage in weekly facilitated dialogue sessions with peers from universities around the world
- Discuss important social, cultural and political issues such as identity, stereotyping, immigration and foreign policy
- Follow a rigorous academic curriculum, which includes readings and group activities that supplement the materials used in accredited university courses into which the program is integrated
- Develop media literacy skills by creating, sharing and discussing their own news reports (produced from raw news footage provided Al Jazeera and the Associated Press)
The Connect Program has provided over 3,000 young people – in countries as diverse as Egypt, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Qatar, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United States – with opportunities for deep cross-cultural engagement using new media technologies through more than 80 prestigious institutions that include Al Azhar University, Yale University, The American University of Afghanistan, Dar El Hekma College (Saudi Arabia), Gadjah Mada University (Indonesia), Aarhus Unviersity (Denmark), Al Quds University (West Bank), University of Florence (Italy), and many more.
Soliya has ambitious plans to take the Connect Program to scale by developing partnerships with university networks, English Language training centers, and local NGOs.
Building on the success of the Connect Program, Soliya’s best and brightest alumni are now establishing Terana, a diverse online community of young people who are using new media to capture and share diverse perspectives and foster intercultural understanding in their communities. The founding members of Terana represent a broad spectrum of political, religious, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, but share a fundamental belief that differences between people, communities, and cultures should be addressed with respect for our common humanity.
Terana combines the best of online media, social networking and citizen journalism. Through this program, young adults:
- Gain access to media training, media tools and partnerships with broadcast outlets
- Create media content designed to share diverse perspectives with a global community of their peers
- Amplify diverse narratives by disseminating the media content they produce through traditional and new media networks
- Engage their societies in constructive conversations about divisive global issues through community outreach activities
In May 2010, a small group of outstanding members of the founding Terana community participated in the UN AOC Rio Forum. Prior to the Forum, they recorded short video interviews with people in their communities discussing key issues on the Forum agenda. At the event, they shared these videos as part of interactive presentations preceding panel discussions addressing the relevant topics. For these young people, the Rio Forum was only the beginning – through Terana they will continue to engage in outreach both online and on the ground in their communities.
In the coming years, Soliya aims to reach thousands of youth worldwide through Terana. Because the program is web-based and its activities will be largely directed and implemented by participants, this initiative has almost limitless potential for expansion. In order to amplify the reach of media created by this community, Soliya has already established a media partnership with Al Jazeera and is in the process of exploring similar partnerships with other media outlets such as CNN, BBC, and Facebook.
For more information about Soliya, please visit www.soliya.net.