Sweden Uses Social Media to Connect with MENA Countries

The Swedish Institute (SI) is a public agency that promotes interest in Sweden. One of the major goals for establishing the SI is to create mutual relationships with other countries around the world. In order to achieve that, awareness of and interest in Sweden must increase. The SI believe that contacts and strong networks increase sharing and application of knowledge and innovative ideas to all areas; whether they be trade, culture or even politics. That has set the ground for the birth of the Young Leaders Visitors Program (YLVP), a program that uses social media at its core in order to lay a foundation for dialogue, mutual understanding and knowledge-sharing among young opinion-makers from different Arab countries and Sweden.

The Danish Cartoons highlights Cultural Barriers

Young Leaders Visitors Program

Young Leaders Visitors Program

Being the northern neighbor of Denmark, Sweden felt the heat of the aftermath of the cartoon facade. Cultural barriers and common misconceptions aggravated the cartoon problem and left the Danish government with no clue of how to handle the rage of Muslims around the world while at the same time maintaining their own values of sacred freedom of speech. Denmark has most probably been very -let’s say- unlucky, but what are the chances that a similar problem would hit Sweden next time? There are obviously big cultural and moral differences between countries around the world, differences that may just spin out of hand and turn into a huge financial and economical loss.

Would stronger communication channels and networks help?

The huge risk of a similar problem necessitates better communication channels and stronger networks. That is exactly where the YLVP program excels. Started in 2008 – with yearly iteration in mind – the YLVP brings around 25-30 young entrepreneurs from different Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries and Sweden together in an attempt to build a stronger network. The selection criteria of the participants focus mainly on their level of engagement with their local societies through different media outlets  (newspapers, blogs, film making, …etc) and their passion towards human rights and human development related issues.

Are bloggers influencers, journalists or both? Does it matter?

Bloggers are gaining power all over the world; they have created their own communities and are excelling in different social media and networking media channels that in turn allow them to reach more and more people. This gain of status made bloggers a target for PR people to help promote different products/services/ideas.

Cartoon: If superman would blog. Thanks to @Boris.

Cartoon: If superman would blog. Thanks to @Boris.

A recent survey by PR agency Text 100  claimed that the majority of bloggers prefer to be treated as influencers rather than as journalists. While I don’t see the contradiction here – one doesn’t negate the other – I do understand why bloggers favor the influencing label. It implies power and spare them the hectic and liability that comes for being a journalist. But, I can also see why journalists as well aspire to becoming influencers. It is a privilege to be able to affect people in a way or another.

But who is really a blogger and who is a journalist? More journalists are having blogs of their own, and more bloggers – through their blogs – end up working as journalists for established newspapers/magazines. There are also people like Danny Sullivan, who is a self identified journalist who uses his blog as his publishing platform. Is it about publishing platforms? or about the way of writing and level of credibility?

We all know that journalism is a tough job. It is about trying to get it right every single time. There is a level of liability that defines being a journalist which is much higher than the one set for an average blogger. After all, a journalist usually represents, besides himself, an entire organization which has a unique image, policy and character to uphold!

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