By Nwachukwu Egbunike
One aspect of scholarly work is to contribute to a global conversation on the topic of inquiry. Since a researcher is not an isolated voice who claims to possess a divine mandate of knowledge in a particular discipline, it is only logical that he/she subjects his thoughts to a global community for verification. Anthony Olorunnisola insists that:
The publication of an article in a journal of international standard translates into a scholar’s ability to participate in conversation about his/her field with peers in the global community.
However, global conversation cannot be limited to research alone. It may also be argued that any conversation beyond borders by people sharing same ideas can easily fall into this category. As such, the Global Voices (GV) Activista Mentorship, methinks, is much more than giving a voice to young people but also prodding them to engage in a global conversation with their peers about their future.
Over the coming six months, Global Voices – an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world – will partner with Activista, the youth network of international development organisation, ActionAid. The thrust of this collaboration is to help youths from eleven countries and five continents to tell stories that pertain to their environment. The platform obviously is the internet and specifically an advantageous use of the blogosphere – in this case – a Blogger Swarm.
Within the Communication Infrastructure Theory (CIT) framework, storytelling is seen as an act of constructing identity through narrative discourse. Nonetheless, stories – in the CIT definition – are not told in a void but within neighbourhoods. And these stories are not ignited for its sake alone but are a valid tool in civic engagement.
‘Storytelling’ in the CIT context has nothing to do with folklore, used in transmitting and preserving societal values, norms or history. Kim et al  affirms that the apparent similarity is only superficial because:
Folk tale possesses a certain narrative structure while storytelling in the CIT framework can take any communicative mode while being limited only by its referent. That is, it can be oral or written, electronic or non-electronic, synchronous or asynchronous, positive or negative, or prearranged or emergent narrative; the storytelling, however, has to be about the local community.
While the conversation continues, the internet has been identified as a potent ‘communication infrastructure’ that enhances storytelling. Internet connectedness has fuelled civic participation and indirectly responsible for the bond existing in some residential communities.
As such the stage has shifted from real to virtual civic engagement. The oft-recycled phrase of empowering the youth can find no better manifestation than in granting them the tools. For one to better engage his community, then he/her has to be ennobled with the art of seeking a change.
These young activists wish to promote social change through blog-activism. I suppose they are not immune to the challenges this may involve. That the people around them may be buried in the ossified moulds of bitter gripe, that many are afraid of positive change and that many a times, the greatest change is personal.
To be plugged in to an online community of mutual minds is both exciting and demanding. However, there lies the responsibility of transmitting the gains of shared experiences to others. While a ‘formal’ distinction may exist between Mentor and Mentee – the truth is that knowledge is no sole property of anybody. As Nnamdi Azikiwe puts it:
Show the light and the people will find the way. The man who holds the light leads the way…for the light is not concentrated at the feet of the holder.
 Anthony Olorunnisola, “Publishing Internationally as Scholarly Conversation: The Value of Literature and Theory-Driven Research Questions.” Journal of Communication and Language Arts, Volume 2, 2007, p 114.
 Kim, Y.-C and Ball-Rokeach, S. J (2006) “Civic Engagement from A Communication Infrastructure Perspective” Communication Theory, 16, pp 173-197.
Update: January 31, 2012
I caught up with one of our mentors, Nwachukwu Egbunike in Nigeria who is working with a young Nigerian activist and blogger David Habba. According to Nwachukwu, mentoring is not just about setting a good example and sharing technical skills, it is also about ensuring that the next generation surpasses us in excellence online, and in taking personal inspiration from younger voices.
See podcast below for more details: