Giovedì 7 febbraio, presso l’aula magna del Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche, aziendali, matematiche e statistiche dell’Università degli Studi di Trieste, a partire dalle ore 15, avrà luogo la conferenza stampa di AIESEC Trieste dedicata a professori e giornalisti per presentare il progetto EduCHANGE, che vede coinvolti alla sua terza edizione 19 ragazzi provenienti da 12 Paesi diversi. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Alla presenza degli stagisti stranieri, i referenti italiani dell’associazione Francesco Kette e Selma Halak parleranno delle novità del progetto, giunto ormai al terzo anno di vita in città. Quest’anno il progetto ha già coinvolto 15 scuole tra elementari, medie e superiori a partire da Novembre mentre a partire da Marzo ad esse si aggiungeranno anche l’Ist. Comp. Divisione Julia, l’Ist. Comp. G. Roli, l’Ist. Tecnico-Industriale Jozef Stefan, la scuola elementare Morpurgo dell’Ist. Comp. Campi Elisi, la scuola media C. Stuparich dell’Ist. Comp. Tiziana Weiss.
Un progetto che non coinvolge solo scuole e studenti ma l’intero tessuto sociale cittadino: AIESEC Trieste ha creato una rete di famiglie ospitanti che garantiscono un’esperienza di immersione totale nella nostra cultura per i ragazzi che vengono da Brasile, Cina, Georgia, Ungheria, Ucraina, Estonia, Lettonia, Taiwan, India, Germania, Guatemala e Tunisia. Molti di loro studiano scienze dell’educazione o Italiano e questa esperienza all’estero rappresenta per loro l’occasione di mettere in pratica le loro conoscenze in un ambiente multiculturale e stimolante.
AIESEC Trieste, in città dal 1958, si occupa di mobilità internazionale in entrata e in uscita per studenti universitari: sono oltre 60 i membri attivi dell’organizzazione che ogni giorno oltre all’Università si impegnano per gestire i progetti MOVE! Impact e MOVE! Future che offrono la possibilità agli universitari di trascorrere un periodo all’estero lavorando presso una scuola o una ONG straniera o un’azienda.
EduCHANGE nasce dalla volontà di portare l’internazionalità nelle scuole per far continuare la tradizione Mitteleuropa della quale Trieste è fiera, per dare la possibilità ai giovani di sperimentare nella loro quotidianità l’importanza di inserirsi in un contesto che superi i confini nazionali miscelando le diverse dimensioni culturali che circondano la nostra città di confine. Consiste in un periodo di sei settimane durane le quali gli stagisti stranieri lavorano a stretto contatto con i professori per creare lezioni personalizzate per il grado di scuola e le esigenze specifiche della classe in termini linguistici e culturali.
Durante la conferenza stampa ci saranno testimonianze dirette di famiglie che hanno ospitato, studenti delle scuole dove EduCHANGE si svolge e professori delle stesse.
A Nasa animation of the projected trajectory of the 2012 DA14 asteroid, which astronomers expect to come within 17,200 miles of Earth on 15 February
Research in the US suggests that allowing same-sex marriage improves the health of lesbian, gay and bisexual people
In the past few years, psychologists and doctors have discovered that policy changes for or against same-sex marriage can influence patterns of healthcare for lesbian and gay people. Although the research was conducted primarily on gay men in the US, the implications for other sexual minority groups in nations considering same-sex marriage legislation are far-reaching.
In the US, gay marriage has sparked a heated debate. Studying the health effects of policy changes is tricky, and never perfect, but some situations allow us to follow people's health as policy changes are enacted.
In the 2004 US elections, 14 states voted to limit the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman.
One study followed the mental health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals living in states who voted for constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage in 2004. They found that LGB individuals living in states that enacted the amendments showed higher rates of psychiatric disorders than LGB people living in states without such amendments.
The researchers also took "snapshots" of a sample of LGB individuals' mental health before and after the amendment to ban gay marriage. The magnitude of the effect was impressive: mood disorders increased by 38%, generalised anxiety disorder by a staggering 248% and alcohol use disorder by 42%.
The rates of psychiatric disorders didn't increase significantly among LGB individuals living in states without constitutional amendments, or among heterosexual people living in states with constitutional amendments.
The samples aren't perfect, but they are largely representative, so it is unlikely that random social differences between gay and lesbian people in pro-marriage states and those in anti-marriage states can explain these vast differences in mental health. What this research says to me is that living in a state with a discriminatory policy can have serious consequences for the mental health of gay and lesbian people.
But is the converse true? Could legislation enabling gay marriage have a protective effect on the mental health of gay and lesbian people?
A study in Arizona, a state which failed to pass an anti-gay marriage ballot, showed that lesbian, gay and bisexual people living there had fewer mood disorders than those living in states that passed anti-gay marriage ballots.
Now, such research is not without limitations – the effects of changes to legislation will take years to occur so stronger scientific tests of these so-called "state interventions" are needed. For example, we often don't have good comparison groups and we need to know what the patterns of health were like before the policy was implemented.
One groundbreaking study in Massachusetts published last year addressed this problem. The study looked at 1,211 gay and bisexual men attending a community health centre. They were followed up during the 12 months before and the 12 months after the 2003 ballot to legalise gay marriage, therefore allowing researchers to directly test for changes to healthcare and its costs before and after the change in law.
The scientists discovered that in the 12 months following the change in marriage law, medical visits about physical problems among gay and bisexual men decreased by 13% and healthcare costs decreased by 10% compared with the 12 months before the change in law. Medical visits about mental health issues among gay and bisexual men decreased by 13% and associated costs decreased by 14%. These patterns were independent of whether the men had partners or not.
The outcomes of these studies might not be generalisable to all LGB people and, at an individual level, there are many other factors that may influence gay people's mental health. However, as a body of evidence, it does suggest a negative effect of state-level discrimination on the mental health of the gay community. It is an important part of the debate.
Tuesday's Commons vote in favour of same-sex marriage in the UK is good news for gay rights, and as we may see in the coming years, good news for the mental health of the UK gay, lesbian and bisexual community.
Dr Qazi Rahman is an academic at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London. He studies the biology of sexual orientation and the implications for mental health
Three projects based on radio, mobile technology and social networking give an insight into what works best for farmers
For smallholders in developing countries, information on weather, markets and agricultural techniques is key to improving productivity. But what is the best way of delivering that information? Here, three projects based on radio, mobile technology and social networking give an insight into what can work.Radio
Radio has been used to provide agricultural extension services to smallholders in Africa for decades. Until recently, however, there was no substantial evidence of the actual impact of radio on improving agricultural practices, and how to maximise it.
The African Farm Radio Research Initiative (Afrri) started looking into this from 2007 in a 42-month research project, implemented by Farm Radio International (FRI) in partnership with World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Afrri specifically researched the effectiveness of a new type of radio campaign developed by FRI: the participatory radio campaign (PRC), where farmers were actively involved in selecting and developing topics ranging from disease-resistant varieties of cassava to methods of animal enclosure, composting, mulching, and intercropping.
The project worked with 25 radio stations in five countries to research, design, broadcast, monitor and evaluate 49 PRCs, reaching approximately 40 million smallholder farmers. What it found was that farmer involvement in creating radio broadcasts translated directly into greater adoption of the practices.
"From our research we know that the more farmer voices are featured on a given programme, the more likely farmers will listen and subsequently gain knowledge," says Kevin Perkins, executive director of Farm Radio International.
"This is even more so when radio programmes are designed with farmer input, and when broadcasters solicit feedback from farmers and use it to improve their programmes."
Data gathered by the project showed that in "active listening communities", where the radio audience included farmers who had taken part in the programming, an average of 39% of farmers adopted the practices discussed on the radio.
While radio itself may not be technologically new, Afrri's research suggests that its impact depends on how it is used. The participatory radio campaigns have shown that more modern technologies, such as mobile phones, can be used with radio to make it more effective.
Farmers can phone in, and interviews can be carried out in the field. Perkins calls this "Radio 2.0".
Another important finding was that even in "passive listening communities", where farmers were not directly involved in making the programmes, 21% went on to adopt the practices discussed too.
This may be less than the 39% in active listening communities, but as radio is relatively easy to scale up to a large audience, many thousands – even millions – of farmers could be encouraged to adopt better agricultural practices. All they need is to hear more people like themselves on the airwaves.Mobile technology
Mobile technology is increasingly seen as having huge potential in agricultural development, with SMS-based information services such as Nokia Life Tools and Reuters Market Light now available to millions of farmers.
These services have gained a high profile, but one recent study found limited evidence of their actual impact on prices received by farmers, or the likelihood of changing crop varieties and cultivation practices.
So how might mobile technology be used to make a tangible difference for farmers? The Grameen Foundation in Uganda has found a way, by training representatives from farming communities to act as mobile technology go-betweens in its Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) project.
Community knowledge workers are farmers themselves, so they are embedded in the agricultural community. Armed with smartphones featuring a purpose-built app, they talk to other farmers to provide agricultural tips, weather forecasts, prices, an input supplier directory, and a market platform linking buyers and sellers. They also collect data from them to create an information loop.
Launched in 2010, the CKW project has trained 1,139 farmer representatives who have served 147,302 farmers. They are paid $2 a day, about double of what they earn from farming.
"As poor farmers themselves, CKWs serve as 'feet in the field' visiting other poor farmers, helping them access specific information, facilitating adoption of farming technologies and encouraging ongoing use of agriculture advice," says Sean Paavo Krepp, Uganda country director for the Grameen Foundation.
In 2012, a impact study reported on what CKWs had achieved in terms of influencing farming practices and prices earned.
The study identified a direct impact on market awareness and prices. Farmers served by CKWs had a greater propensity to value market price data in their production and marketing decisions, and as a result they sold their maize for an average of 22% more than farmers not served by CKWs. Farmer knowledge of issues such as crop management, pests and diseases and animal husbandry had also increased by 17% compared to before the CKW intervention.
The CKW model appears to work because it is more than just a mobile data delivery channel. Having access to information is one thing; acting on it is another. CKWs encourage that action.
"CKWs are trusted intermediaries who are selected by their communities to serve them," says Paavo Krepp. "It means that agricultural advice can be contextualised to each individual farmer in their own language or dialect. Our aim now is to build a CKW network that is capable of serving over 200,000 smallholders while proving a replicable and portable model which can be scaled to other regions."Social networking
How do you create a social networking platform for people who aren't even online yet? This is an emerging area of work, and one example is Digital Green's Farmerbook project in India which still relies – for now – on paper print-outs of profiles.
Digital Green launched in 2006 as a Microsoft research project but now operates as an independent NGO. Its core work is the production of short videos on agricultural techniques, which are made by and for farmers themselves and are highly localised in their content and language or dialect. To date, it has produced more than 2,500 short films and reached around 150,000 farmers.
Last year, with funding from the Ford Foundation, it went a step further by launching Farmerbook, a social networking platform for farmers and the facilitators who show the videos in each village and lead discussions among small groups of 12-15 farmers. These facilitators were already gathering lots of data and feedback from the farmers about the videos they were watching and the techniques they were adopting. With Farmerbook, all that information is being turned into personal farmer profiles and plotted on a map, available to view on the Farmerbook web page.
Mediators print and share these profiles at the meetings, creating a local social networking system within the group and beyond, to include the whole village.
"There are usually six to eight groups per village," says Rikin Gandhi, chief executive of Digital Green. "So there might be 100 people in the village. That may seem small, but in reality they often operate at caste or familial levels, and might not have a relationship with others. Using Farmerbook, and printing off the village pages, facilitators can connect these individuals and groups so they can reflect on why some farmers do one thing or another."
Previous research had already found that the Digital Green model of disseminating agricultural knowledge through group video viewing was at least five times more likely to encourage farmers to adopt the new practices compared to existing extension systems. The organisation is now working on a controlled study specifically on the impact of Farmerbook, evaluating the change in practices brought about by the social networking platform compared to the existing video model.
For now, Farmerbook is still an online/offline hybrid form of social networking, with mainly just the facilitators themselves actually online. But as mobile technology continues to expand, Digital Green is anticipating the farmers themselves being online and taking the networking into their own hands.
"We're now working on making a mobile, accessible version of Farmerbook," says Gandhi. "Things are moving fast, and I think in 3-5 years even the most interior communities will have data connectivity and be able to use the platform ."