On Thursday 5th and Friday 6th of September 2019, the Grassroots Radio consortium celebrated the third general assembly of the project, hosted in the friendly building of 11.11.11. – the coalition of NGOs, unions, movements and various solidarity groups in Flanders (Dutch speaking Northern part of Belgium) – in Brussels. The meeting has seen participation of all the members of the consortium and been arranged by AMARC Europe.

11.11.11 headquarters

The first day updates concerning the activities in the different communities have been shared by local partners. John Walsh from Bere Island Project Club (BIPG) reported about the activities and efforts they put in place in order to foster community engagement with the radio. The community radio has started to broadcast the mass, supported by West Cork FM. The mass has been broadcasted in particular for those who cannot leave the house and for patients hosted in the community hospital. This was a very positive action benefiting Bere Island’s community.

As for the setup of the radio stations in Romania, local partners ActiveWatch and MedAlert have informed about the two radio stations broadcasting 24/7 in the two communities of – Sfantu Gheorghe and Vârvoru de Jos – with a commercial schedule and 25 volunteers involved. 3600 songs have been inputted to be broadcasted. The shows are different and are aimed at specific populations in the community. For example, in the community of Sfantu Gheorghe, there is a show in Ukrainian-Romanian language, with different languages spoken.

The radio community engagement in the Portuguese island of Madeira is also rather lively and in progress, with two communities involved: Curral das Freiras and Estreito. Radio shows have been started in the former, with live interviews from the community and first experimentations with the text-to-speech (TTS) technology set up.

After the updates from the local pilots in Romania, Ireland and Portugal, the meeting went on with some exercises for the consortium members to get familiar with the evaluation framework arranged by the Irish partner University College Cork. Then, updates from the technical partner RootIO have been shared in order to collectively check up and discuss the improvements achieved with the work performed by the RootIO team. After one year from the beginning of the project, Jude and Andreea (the RootIO guys) have constantly gone back and forth and bring the technology to a stable level that the consortium can build from. Some technical issues – e.g. weakness of connectivity in some areas – have been discussed in order to reduce as much as possible the gap between communities’ expectations from the project and the results that a research action such as Grassroots Radio can concretely achieve. Positive news has been shared by CEREPROC about the development of the speech synthesis voices in English, Romanian, and Portuguese. Scenarios about the implementation of TTS technologies have also been discussed in terms of accessibility, in case of audiences lacking connections or literacy.

The second day of the general assembly has been dedicated to discussions around governance, sustainability, and management of community radio. The group has also been involved in evaluation sessions with exercises providing a reflective guide to see whether we are meeting our goals, and also how we might capture our goals.

The last session has been focused on the preparation for the mid-term review the consortium is going to face the next week in Brussels. Given the updates and results shared during the assembly in Brussels, we are quite confident Grassroots Radio will give a positive impression to out evaluators. We will keep you posted! Bye for now, and fingers crossed!