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D-Jil Hackathon: Youth-Oriented Online Media Projects Meet in Beirut
August 1, 2018
Author: Alice Barillet

From July 13 to 15 a hackathon took place at Beirut Digital District as part of a cooperation between CFI, the Samir Kassir Foundation, Leaders of Tomorrow, FMAS and IREX Europe, with the support of the European Union. The topic of this competition was youth and online media.
 
This event, which gathered participants from the Levant region – Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt –, was held within the framework oof the “D-Jil” project. A first D-Jil hackathon was held in Casablanca, from July 6 to 8, for the Maghreb countries. The objective was to select the ten best online media project supporting Arab youth, which will receive funding, among thirty pre-selected projects. Each of the twelve pre-selected projects in Beirut was represented by two participants.
 
The online media projects touched upon a wide range of topics: sports, health, fake news, young refugee girls… This diversity also applied to the medium used to interact and publish content for and by Arab youth. The project “Let’s play and learn together!” tries for example to align with young people’s habits by using a smartphone application, formatted as a game, to raise awareness and to inform about sexuality, which is still a taboo subject for many people. Its website has been visited by many people in the region, mostly located in Egypt. Another initiative trying to impact young Arabs is “Al-Hudood – Satirical Media.” This project aims to train young people of the region in the use of satire, which is a way to circumvent censorship according to Issam Uraiqat, the project’s editor-in-chief. Media education is indeed a central factor in combating misinformation and lowering young people’s distrust towards media.
 
D-Jil brings to the fore the great ability to innovate by nascent media organizations in the region to promote engagement and empower youth. Young citizens want to play a more active and important role in media landscape. The project presented by Shoruq, “Independent Media: Raising Youth Voices” is part of the ten selected project at the end of these two week-ends. It aims to work on empowering young refugee girls from Dheisheh refugee camp in Palestine. The project provides them with a platform of expression in order to raise awareness on difficulties they face on a daily basis. All the projects selected by D-Jil respond to an absolute need to give voice to Arab youth allowing them to express themselves regarding problems they encounter and aspirations that drive them.
 
During the three-day hackathon, the atmosphere was studious. “Learning, communications and skills” were the three words chosen by Suha and Nadim, from Shoruq Organization, to summarize these days in Beirut. Throughout the hackathon, participants exchanged views on their projects with mentors who were helping them improve their pitches. One of the mentors, Mariam Mohanna, “mostly focused on the pitch’s structure and flow to ensure that ideas clearly indicated the problems that participants wanted to address and outlined the relevance of their solutions.” Mentors were, in a way, allies of the participants. Their tips on both visual presentation and presentation space management helped the teams tremendously to think about questions and challenges they may not have considered.
 
The competition also opened the opportunity to exchange experiences among participants. On the first day, Dana Abou Assi, from the project “Sam3k/Ask Me,” mentioned that the hackathon allowed her to meet and discuss with people from different countries of the region. Participants “conducted research together and sought feedback from each other,” she added. “That supportive environment helped (them) advance the ideas” according to Mariam Mohanna and may lead to cooperation between their organizations working in media development in the future.
 
The hackathon concluded with the participants’ final pitch in front of the jury, gathering experts, representative of the project’s consortium, and a sample of young people from the project’s potential readers and users. It subsequently met on Monday, July16 to select the ten best projects. Six projects from the Casablanca hackathon and four from Beirut were selected, including “Al-Hudood” and “Independent Media: Raising Youth Voices”. “Being among the short-listed projects encourages us to further develop our focused media projects that bring the unheard voices to local, regional and international platforms. It also pushes us to continue advocating for the rights of our target groups,” argued Suha and Nadim a few days after the announcement of the results.