When it comes to the social media strategy of Barefoot College, it believes in ‘Gift-and-Ask’ in the ratio of 70:30. While ‘ask’ is any post or update that asks the public to click, donate, share or do something; a ‘gift’ is a post which provides information, knowledge, inspiration and stories that will improve the lives of readers/audience in some way or the other. In fact, when a gift is appreciated, it initiates a relationship and a dialogue with the receivers. It also makes them eager to help on the next ‘ask’ occurrence, believe people at Barefoot college. While websites and social media have been an integral part of communications for a few years, even for Barefoot, the avenues of crowdfunding were opened for it in 2014. Today, the team uses social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instragram and Google+; video streaming and sharing tools like YouTube; and crowdfunding platforms like Ketto and Crowdrise to seek financial contributions from people spread across the globe. These platforms, and more importantly the access to the Internet, have made it extremely easy to share the stories from Barefoot College with the rest of the world. Today, the communication team along with the community members is always on the edge to share the most inspiring stories from the ground. Daily posts through their Facebook and Twitter handles reach thousands of people every day — 1,05,910 on Facebook and 3,051 on Twitter to be precise.
“Barefoot College has prided itself in being a selfmanaged village and as we are growing, we are training our local villagers to take over the tasks which have had to be handed over to other experts (curriculum developers, volunteer coordinators and digital communications, among other tasks). Digital literacy is a fairly new topic and resource for remote villages. Villagers are only beginning to understand the full capacity of social media now. For this reason, we are actively waiting and looking for the right individuals who have the capacity to manage the multiple digital communication platforms we have carefully created in the last three years. I am eager to see the day we have a new generation of villagers with efficient digital literacy skills that can share the stories from the ground with the world,” says Lawrence Miglialo, a storyteller who works with the digital communicationsb team at Barefoot College. Helping Lawrence and Barefoot College in this vision is Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) and it wireless Internet network.
At Barefoot College, DEF also runs two Community Information Resource Centres (CIRCs) where children and adults are trained in digital literacy by trainers appointed by DEF. Twenty iPads are used at Barefoot College for women enrolled for the national and international solar training programme and another 10 Mac systems are used at the institution for training school children in digital literacy. So now, whatever be the activity or event at Barefoot College, you’ll be able to see women recording videos or clicking photographs on their shining white iPads like pro and updating their web presence through iPads or iMacs. From the highlight of the day to stories about the men, women and children of Tilonia; from beekeepers on campus to community radio shows; from achievements of Solar Mamas in India and Latin America to announcements about Bunker Roy’s speeches across the globe; and of course all the latest updates about events and activities on campus — all you need to get updates is stay connected with the College’s social media pages. While engaging the audience or readers has never been a difficult task for Barefoot College, courtesy the enormous and impactful work they’ve been doing for decades in the region, the real challenge lies in internally communicating a dissemination strategy. “Considering the Barefoot community works in 75 countries in different continents, there can often be overlapping emergencies. We love our supporters and we would not want to spam their newsfeed with too many demands,” adds Lawrence. This makes sense because their channels are not solely for donation streams but are also to socialize with people who are making similar impacts in different parts of the world, to share the activities of Barefoot College, and to share ideas of making every village a smart village — not just in the digital sense but beyond, which includes breaking stereotypes, busting myths and becoming completely selfsustainable as a village community.
Through the testimonials of beneficiaries, before and after moments of projects, and stories of change people around the world can witness the changes that are happening in this remote village. And these are the changes that inspire people to donate for various causes and projects at Barefoot College.
Clubbed with crowdfunding tools, the results are smile encouraging. “Crowdfunding is a powerful tool,” Lawrence says, adding that, in the last couple of years, Barefoot College has received around $400,000 through online sources. This says a lot about the stories that are reaching the ends various parts of the world through the medium of the Internet.