Dear Stronach Prize Committee,
With the start of the New Year, I am feeling in much better spirits, reenergized and ready to hit the ground running.
I am writing to you from the east coast, where I have been conducting interviews and connecting with individuals in both New York City and Washington D.C. During these past few weeks, I have been constantly thinking about the scope and breadth of this Project. One of the biggest obstacles I am facing is following up with community-based organizations in various cities. It is difficult to maintain the level of trust and communication needed especially when working with a highly stigmatized health condition. Furthermore, several organizations are suffering from severe budget cuts and are simply overwhelmed with inquiries and projects from the communities in which they are situated. The only way to overcome this obstacle is to maintain a consistent line of communication, to remain as transparent as possible and to avoid any overlap in terms of work, so as not to waste precious resources.
But in spite of these obstacles, I have been learning some very interesting lessons along the way. The Project was initially conceptualized to capitalize upon the recent explosion of social networking sites, but it requires a certain skill to utilize them both efficiently and effectively. I think it is important to match the right message with the right medium. Using sites such as Twitter and Facebook, for example, are important tools in terms of building and maintaining a presence with a broad audience. I am able to quickly disseminate news and announcements, which users are able to share with their respective network of friends. But sometimes it is difficult to gauge the level of user response and how and when they choose to interact with my postings. Craigslist too provided some challenges. In one particular instance, I posted an advertisement calling for individuals interested in being interviewed only to be “flagged” by the community, which means that other posters have deemed my ad “inappropriate.” But what is considered “inappropriate” is more or less subjective, and is largely guided by three principles:
- miscategorized – wrong category/site, discusses another ad, otherwise misplaced
- spam/overpost – posted too frequently, in multiple cities/categories, or is too commercial
In the meantime, I have been meeting and talking with various members of the Project’s Advisory Board. I have been meeting with several individuals during early January. I have met with Andrew Jolivette, an assistant professor in Native American studies at San Francisco State University. He deals extensively with HIV/AIDS within communities of color and I talked to him about a lot of his research and how his personal experiences informs his line of work and how he gives back to the community. I also met with my mentor Diana Wu who was visiting town, who shared her experiences organizing a trip to Copenhagen for the 2009 climate talks.
One good piece of news: I am proud to announce that Campus Progress, a Washington D.C.-based organization that encourages youth and young adults to pursue progressive projects, has awarded the United AIDS Project a grant. This grant will help with publicity, covering the costs of printing and disseminating the questionnaire nationwide and to jumpstart a t-shirt collaboration with Bok Choy Apparel.
As for future developments: (1) I am currently collaborating with San Francisco-based Banyan Tree Project on their conceptualizing their 2010 anti-stigma campaign; (2) I am currently looking into summer Congressional health policy fellowship; (3) I am continuing to conduct interviews.