A New Direction

Agenda's New Direction

Agenda went through an in-depth review in 2008. The outcomes of Agenda’s review and scoping exercises have suggested a new approach for Agenda to implement its programme activities. These present partnerships as the main means of achieving the organisation’s mission and vision, and a different way of structuring the organisation’s work. This has led to the development of an integrated, synergistic set of programmes.

The main components of Agenda’s programmatic work are:

  • Agenda Journal and supporting interventions
  • Radio programmes
  • Online presence: website, new media and social networking

Agenda Journal

One of the main recommendations flowing out of the scoping process was that Agenda focus on securing the sustainability of the Journal. This was in recognition that the Journal is the flagship project of the organisation and that it was critically important to ensure the viability and sustainability of one the few (if not only) African feminist journals with international accreditation.

In order to enhance the sustainability of the Journal, the Agenda Board has taken the decision to enter into a publishing partnership with Taylor and Francis (part of the Routledge Group). Taylor and Francis will be the Publishing partner, responsible for marketing the journal, and UNISA Press will be the Co-Publishing partner, responsible for typesetting of the journal, as well as the production, dispatch, and subscription sales of sub-Saharan copies of the journal. The terms of the partnership mean that Agenda retains control over the identification of themes, selection of contributions, compilation and editing of the journal. Taylor and Francis will ensure the creation of an electronic version of the journal’s back issues, and shall mount them on the journal’s online website.

The Agenda Advisory Committee has identified the following themes for 2011, and is committed to ensuring their development for quarterly production, under the auspices of the Taylor and Francis partnership:

  • Gender, Sexuality and Commodity Culture
  • Teenage Desire and Fertility
  • Marriage: Risky or Safe Place?
  • Politics of Water and Sanitation

 

Suggested themes for 2012 include:

  • Female Sexuality and Pornography
  • Meeting the Challenges of the Millennium Development Goals
  • The Politics of Women’s Health in South Africa
  • Men and Violence

Suggested themes for 2013 include:

  • Gender, Ageing and Intergenerationality
  • Sex, Gender and Childhood
  • Gender & Human Rights: Biology and Bodies

Agenda’s Managing Editor liaises closely with Guest Editors identified as specialists within the theme field, to oversee content editing processes.

The production of journals is complemented in addition by the launching of each edition, which has made use of a successful dialogue and debate format. Launches have seen the bringing together of stakeholders within the sector addressed by a particular journal theme, for Guest Editors and a sample of contributing authors to speak to journal content and key issues raised in articles. These presentations are followed by rigorous debate on these issues, and serves to support activism in these sectors, as well as build the profile of Agenda and market the journal, bringing more potential contributors into the Agenda family.

Agenda is introducing the following supplementary interventions to strengthen the location and relevance of the journal, build on strategic partnerships and interface with new electronic media interventions:

  • To enable the journal to respond to emerging policy or feminist issues in the policy or societal domain, Agenda will be re-introducing a “un-themed” section to each themed edition of the journal, which is a practice that used to take place in the past. This will provide space for Agenda the institution to respond to topical feminist issues, or national policy issues or issues relating to the women’s movement. It will seek to provide space for feminist activism and critical voice. It will also provide a platform for interaction with Agenda readers and stakeholders, in the form of reports back on issues raised during radio programmes, website and blog fora and feminist activism.

 

  • To inform the identification of themes and revive the practice of feminist strategizing sessions and dialogues that Agenda used to convene, Agenda will initiate a bi-annual gathering of feminists and experts, specifically selected to come together and share on current issues, activism and work. This serves to strengthen Agenda’s networking with gender organizations, and build alliances necessary to deepen our own understanding of current and critical issues, and locate the journal within these. This feeds into the identification of themes for Agenda journals, solicits material for our “un-themed” commentary material, and also creates a platform for further activism on issues raised. Live “tweet-ups” will serve to link dialogues with Agenda’s new media interventions, to bring the discussions to a broader range of participants.

 

  • Further, Agenda has reintroduced the “legal eye” component to our journal that used to exist – an ongoing component to each themed edition of the journal showcasing current and relevant cases and legal developments relevant to the theme of the edition. This furthers the development of feminist adjudication and review of laws.

 

  • Agenda is also seeking to re-introduce our writing programme. The intention is to build a cadre of emerging feminist writers, developing interest and skills among emerging black female writers and academics, for feminist analysis and writing for the journal. This would address developing theory and argument, the structure of a paper and organizing material, and undertaking feminist analysis. Each person on the programme would be attached to a mentor to work with her and support her, and see her through to developing a piece for publication. At this stage, Agenda is in the process of approaching the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and recognized feminist academics to develop and run this programme in association with Agenda.

 

  • Agenda has taken forward new media developments emerging from our pilot partnership with Aperspective Media, to develop radio programmes, manage our website and blog forum, Twitter and Facebook components. These are drawn directly from Agenda journal content, and serve as creative new media platforms to engage a more diverse range of feminists to encourage and stimulate thinking and writing about feminist issues. Feedback and issues emerging from these fora will be captured and included under the journal’s “un-themed” section. This partnership is managed by Agenda’s Managing Editor, who works with our service provider and Editorial Collective members to identify issues for take up through community radio and new media sites, and identify stakeholders to participate in radio panel discussions around the radio features. We are also looking to offer our radio productions to established media houses.

 

  • Finally, Agenda’s Managing Editor will seek to identify and make contact with the various magazines and bulletins in other sectors, such as Labour Bulletin, Amandla, and Sikhulusonke (Women Farm workers), to identify opportunities for us to offer pieces for inclusion. These could be drawn from our feminist dialogues, where network members could be encouraged to write up a response to a topical issue for inclusion in this format, or pieces written by our writers programme participants.

Agenda’s Radio Programme

Radio, particularly community radio is widely recognised as an important vehicle for development and change in communities. Agenda recognised this potential when it initiated its Radio Programme, to expand the accessibility of journal content, and ensure its reach to a broader, more diverse audience.

The potential of this area of programming remains a very exciting way of expanding access and impact, and reaching out to grassroots women and activists, provided it is conceptualised properly. This should not comprise a mere translation, or news and alert service (although these are important components of the radio programme), but should really be about producing content around feminism and simplifying the content of the journal to make it more accessible and relevant to station audiences.

Using radio to spread development information, build consciousness around feminism and use peer-to-peer methods is critical. Getting the cooperation of community radio stations opens up a space to talk about setting up a regular gender slot in their programming schedules, challenging stations to think about gender issues on a regular basis, and not just in relation to Women’s Month or the 16 Days of Activism campaigns.

To test the impact of a reconceptualised radio programme, the Board approved a pilot radio programme that was undertaken between May and July 2010 and focused on two 2009 Journal themes:.

•Girlhood in Southern Africa (Issue 79);.

•Gender Violence in Education (Issue 80)

Aperspective Media was contracted to produce a radio documentary and a related e-book for the website, with the target audience being community radio listeners and Agenda subscribers. As a result of these exciting interventions, Agenda has resolved to develop and implement a fully-fledged radio programme, in partnership with Aperspective Media.

As a starting point, Agenda and Aperspective will engage with a sample group of community radio stations, to build personalised relationships with station managers and producers. This will also simplify the process of evaluating the success of this new approach. Community radio stations suggested for the first phase of the radio programme include: Ubuhlobeshowe CR (Eastern Cape);Inanda FM (KZN); Atlantis FM (Western Cape);Greater Lebowakgomo (Limpopo); Radio Teemaneng (Northern Cape); and Eldos FM (Gauteng).

The radio programme will entail the production of interesting, thought-provoking and relevant programmes on gender and feminism-related topics, to complement each journal, and will comprise the following components:

  • A total of six 10-minute radio documentaries exploring the themes of existing journals. These documentaries will also be loaded onto radio station and Agenda websites as podcasts aimed at encouraging dialogue and debate on issues raised, and linked to other forms of social media (see below).

 

  • The production of a resource pack that will assist radio stations to produce weekly radio shows for the remainder of the month to ensure that the momentum and interest in the issue addressed in the documentary is not lost. The resource pack will include information on NGOs, CBOs and other experts on the relevant topic that could be invited to the show to provide more information. This has the added advantage of facilitating networks and partnerships between participating stations and other civil society organisations in the area.

Website and Social Networking

284564_267091473307237_3453363_n

The mushrooming of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter in recent years has led to some innovative ways of using these to advocate for social change.

Some of such uses of social networking include mobilizing (getting people to an event, sign a petition); fundraising (donating money for a cause); and enabling organisations to target an active group committed to a particular issue. Twitter has been used during the G20 protests, election monitoring and more recently in South Africa, for extensive coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Social networking is hip, viral, and comprises vast communities of people sharing information with each other. As such, they represent an important means for Agenda to expand its audience, and Agenda has developed a programme area in response.

This area of programming will focus on enhancing the use of the website as a platform for dialogue, debate and a rich source of information through features like blogging, discussion groups and podcasting.

It will also include the set up of a Facebook Agenda Group, as an important vehicle to build a community and provide a base for conversations and dialogues; raise awareness on issues emanating from Agenda journals; drive traffic to the Agenda website; and provide another forum for women to publish, influence, share and debate on issues relating to feminism and gender equality.

Organisational Staffing

As an outcome of the organisational review process it has recently completed, the Agenda Board of Directors has approved the creation and retention of two staffing posts:

A Managing Editor (Ms Lou Haysom), responsible for all aspects of developing the journal, managing relationships with service providers for radio and website components of Agenda’s work, fundraising, and stakeholder and donor liaison.

A Finance Administrator (Ms Shireen Ragunan), responsible for managing Agenda finances and administration, contracts with service providers, and necessary support for programme operations. In addition, Agenda collaborates with guest editors with expertise in their fields for individual journals. The guest editors, as identified experts on specific journal themes, bring the necessary expertise and sector networks vital for the tailored production of relevant, topical and substantive journals. Agenda contracts in consultants as necessary for organisational development projects and programme services as required.