Yesterday it came to my attention that the Utne Reader named me one of 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World. I have to first say that I am shocked, and secondly that I am honored. The whole thing is a bit strange and surprising. In fact, I found out when a friend mentioned it to me on my Facebook wall! It's a bit strange that Utne doesn't appear to have notified many, if any, of its 50 Visionaries. That said, I can't accept such an honor without making it clear that the work of Alive in Baghdad and other Small World News projects would not be possible without the efforts of our local collaborators, who put their lives on the line every day.
Without individuals like Ali Shafeya who gave his life trying to tell stories about the militias in Iraq, I am sure that I would never have been considered for such an award. Today, in order to honor the contributions of our local staff we are continuing to build on Small World News and seeking funding to construct a nation-wide network in Iraq and Afghanistan. Small World News is founded on the belief that locals have a fundamental role in telling stories of their lives.
In conflict areas it is a necessity to leverage the access and perspective of locals to increase understanding across ethnic lines, as well as internationally. In such a way Small World News hopes to improve the delivery of development dollars and increase the relevance of foreign policy decisions.
Regarding the Afghan conflict, there is wide acceptance that without a mechanism for qualitative assessment of the Afghan perspective, the United States cannot "win." Despite this agreement, there is no mechanism yet in place. We believe Small World News is well-situated to construct such a mechanism, improving Afghan life and security.