The editorial team of the elParlante blog wants to start a series of interviews with the members of his team. Who better to start than Alfredo Cohen, the coordinator and co-founder of our association since 2009. Alfredo is a Social Communicator and Journalist, Master in Creative Documentary and PhD candidate in Communication and Education.

Let’s get into the matter: what is the Speaker?

First of all, everything is a collective project. Years ago the idea of setting up a project in which communication could be worked from various areas was haunted, trying to establish as horizontal relationships as possible with external and internal audiences. In fact, the first attempt, created in 2004, without having finished university, was called El Colectivo, when it was a little-used word…

Are there many groups now?

Collectives have always existed. The family, political parties, schools, churches, companies. These groups have always been agents of socialization that from the collective have tried to develop projects. The theme is in the modes of organization: traditionally pyramidal, based on hierarchies of power, on social classes. Lately, in Western societies, many of us are rethinking everything and organizing ourselves differently.

Why is the Parlante a different group?

It is a project under construction. Born a couple of years after Facebook and the first thing you did was create a profile on this network under the name Colectivo elParlante. Nobody understood the revolution that would be sold with Web 2.0, but for years now communication theorists talked about the power of ICTs to transform society. This topic interested me from before. How to change some things through video? This was always one of the premises, for example. Thinking about such a project implies adding collectively.

¿Cuándo y cómo nace elParlante?

In 2009 I started looking for a name together with Jéssica, my travel and life companion. She proposes theSpeaker. A speaker is a picó, so they call in the popular neighborhoods of the Colombian Caribbean to huge loudspeakers that neighbors loot on the street at the end of the week to brighten up life in El Barrio; elParlante would also be the speaker, the one who speaks, in Catalan. We keep trying to connect with the neighborhood, amplifying joys, speaking clearly.

Who else was with you?

Ray Buitrago was clave. As soon as we finished the Master in Creative Documentary that we take to Barcelona. He is also Colombian and tells the story of a group of immigrant football referees who met in the internet café where he worked. He saw a movie before me. But we both believed it, nobody understood it very well, but it was the first project.

Who else was?

Eduardo Arias, another Colombian. Yo del Caribe, Ray de Santander and Edu de Boyacá. Three places in Colombia that could be part of three different countries. The three sit in a fourth country – or fifty – Catalonia. The issue of identity was always an issue.

When did a non-profit cultural association evolve?

All three of us were students legally, although none of the three of us were already studying. That’s the life of immigrants. We all tried to stuff papers and at the same time survive. They told us that we could set up a non-profit association and invoice through it. We don’t hesitate and start offering videos, graphic design and content for blogs and social networks. It was a little bit of what everyone knew how to do. Each one put 10 photos of his trips, in those photos we put the logo created by Eduardo and the project began to exist.

When is Jessica formally linked?

Jess always accompanied the process, but in the first stage he still studied Political Science at Pompeu Fabra University. When the education projects started, she felt more interested in starting to collaborate and became a key piece, becoming the natural and absolute leader of the process. For six months he led the team completely, in one of the moments of greatest work.

When did these projects start?

After the presentation of “En la línea”, the documentary about immigrant referees, in Barcelona and Colombia, he wrote the first call for grants for a project of sensitization and education for development. This idea was materialized from a previous work of mine in Sabadell (a municipality near Barcelona) where, with another non-profit entity, he had developed some workshops and an international cooperation project in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia).

What exactly was the project about?

It was the birth of La Cruïlla Comú, a strategy that in the classroom seeks to reflect with young people on the role of the media and citizen media in the construction and deconstruction of imaginaries and stereotypes about people from different cultures. Racism is one of the most worrying issues in Europe. Despite the obvious atrocities committed in the past, even today far-right populist parties gain spaces of power on the political spectrum and citizens perpetuate more or less aggressive behaviors with minority groups. It is in the education of the youngest where the possibilities for change can be.

How has this project been welcoming young people and teachers, where and how many times has it been implemented?

La Cruïlla Comuna (the common crossing, in Spanish) has become our flagship project. We have been implementing it since 2010 and we have been in more than 10 schools. Not only in three or four different neighborhoods of Barcelona, but also in other municipalities such as Sabadell, Rubí, Sant Boi and L’Hospitalet. Young people have a good time and always evaluate it positively. The teachers and heads of the institutes are also very grateful despite the fact that the project is a little them, in the sense that it shows that the challenges are immense. The general reflection is that young people are very susceptible to television discourses and that schools urgently need to rethink their traditional teaching methods, completely removed from the new sensibilities and logics from which young people consume and process information. These hyperconnected boys and girls feel much more identified with the language of the media than with that of their teachers. If they do not react and stop looking at the media as a demon, to also take advantage of them as tools for discussion and analysis, the battle will be lost. Young people are attracted to what excites them, seduces them, excites them, inspires them. La Cruïlla Comuna has taught us that we all have stereotypes and prejudices, but above all it is necessary that schools open up completely, decisively and urgently to new technologies. It is not, of course, a question of incorporating more equipment into the classroom, nor of spending large resources on audiovisual materials. The simple Youtube is an immeasurable bank of information. The aim is to use ICTs to foster a new truly horizontal dialogue, where teachers tend to have a monopoly on words and knowledge. Where young people can express their own voices and views on reality, promoting an education closer to the daily reality of people, people who need to join society first as citizens and then as producers of goods and services and not the opposite. In the end, it is nothing more than humanizing teaching and returning to basics.

But what specifically happens in the workshops?

Well, on the web ( you can know the project in depth. In summary there are 4 workshops during the subject of education for citizenship or similar + a documentary video, + a group on Facebook + a final socializing event.

Are reflections the product of observation during the workshops?

Well, let’s say that they largely have to do with participatory action during the development of interventions. Although the methodological design of each project so far has been typical of the Speaker, the fundamental philosophical ideas that inspire us come from different Latin American authors. For example, in matters of Communication for Social Change, the names of teachers Jesús Martín Barbero, Orlando Fals Borda, Paulo Freire, Néstor García Canclini, Alfonso Gumucio, but also of friendly teachers who inspired me in this search are key: Jair Vega, Clemència Rodríguez, Rafael Obregón, Andrea Lafaurie, Jesús Arroyave. All of them are related to the Social Communication program of the Universidad del Norte de Colombia, but I also have references c of the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, where the PhD in communication develops: Miquel Rodrigo, Joan Ferrés i Prats, Pilar Medina, Mónica Figueras. Without reading some of his documents, the Speaker would not be the same.

Are all the projects of elParlante inspired by these ideas and authors?

Barribook TV, Ravalead@s TV, Dismantling TV, City of Hope, are similar processes. Each in nearby towns, connected to schools, but separated from the formal environment. The young beneficiaries come voluntarily outside school hours. The methodology is similar, the specific objectives of each project vary, although everyone works on interculturality as a guiding thread, and all, in some way, try to close the open circle with La Cruïlla, as they seek to empower the young participants to make their own audiovisual productions, moving on from media criticism and reflection, to action. Each of these projects includes an initial part of information, expression and deliberation from the critical analysis of audiovisuals, to then, from a technical training, propose a space for co-creation with our team, and thus build disturbing and personal stories that help dismantle rumors, prejudices and stereotypes about cultural diversity, but also that question some of the more serious problems that we face as a society, Demonstrating to the rest of the population that young people have a lot to say, and what to contribute to the construction of new citizens.

How would it be great to keep young people angry?

It’s a question we are always asked. In Barcelona, young people have a wide range of activities and possibilities for distraction. I think there are two factors: at the moment few things seduce youth more than new technologies. We not only edit videos but we communicate with groups through WhatsApp or Facebook… And we combine this with the return to the essence: we make traditional, dynamic games that help us to interact with others, to all flesh, to look at each other, to laugh. Return the child to stay inside and just when we are young we try to leave. I think that when they come playing us, they are encouraged, relaxed and we all end up being really friends.

At the beginning of the interview we talked about the collective, how do you work as a team in these projects?

ElParlante could not have gotten where it is, had it not been for many people who have collaborated: Ray Buitrago, Eduardo Arias, Jéssica González, Andrea Lafaurie and Ana Cecilia Cerantes, formed the first version of the project. It was a team of Colombians in Barcelona wanting to work communication from different angles. Once the first projects were consolidated, professionals of Spanish origin such as Zeltia Outeiriño, Jordi Biarnés, Roger La Puente, Mireia Fort and Natalia Rivero were linked, who have worked on the consolidation of the association as a self-sustainable and intercultural project. Today there are also consultants like Rafa Crespo or people who represent us in other cities such as Johana Villarraga in Lleida or Alejandro Navia in Barranquilla, Colombia. They all play an important role in shaping interventions. All of them are professionals interested in transforming reality from the strategic but at the same time participatory use of Educommunication. Some come from design, others from education, others from audiovisual, others from the theater, we all know something, none knows everything, that is grace.

Barranquilla mentioned, are there projects in Latin America too?

Our house is Barcelona. We say that we think of it as the main headquarters, but our intention is to reproduce strategies elsewhere, of course, based on respect and knowledge of the context and after the most in-depth research that can be done. Always working hand in hand with local institutions and people. We strongly reject north-south international cooperation and the idea of reaching communities of cultures that we are unaware of and intervening without sufficient prior coexistence. However, it is possible to know the dynamics of young Pakistanis in the neighboring neighborhood, in Barcelona itself. In other words, what we try to do is approach ourselves with the greatest respect to different contexts and always hand in hand with local authorities. When we work in the Raval, we do it hand in hand with Servei Solidari, when we do it in Ciutat Meridiana, we do it in collaboration with the Community Plan. In Colombia we work with the Caribbean Museum, the Atlantic Government, and already on the ground, we have the teachers of the schools, the House of Culture and even the National Police.

How was the experience in Colombia?

In Sabanalarga, a municipality of 120 thousand inhabitants, near Barranquilla, the city where we were born, we did the Yamaró project. It was an incredible experience, perhaps the most exciting in a personal capacity. We work for 45 days, 4 hours a day with 20 young people. Six months later we talk to each other on Facebook and be delighted. They were 20 young people from 4 very different schools: two public and two private. Some had traveled on vacation several times to Bogotá, others were homeless, because they lived in a temporary shelter that the government built three years earlier, when the Magdalena River overflowed and flooded its villages or greens. Rarely comes to Barcelona the smile of these boys and girls, the excitement with which they arrived every day, during their holidays to “work”. They were very excited about the idea of making films and I feel that they learned, but above all they knew, they realized that they are not so different, that their cultural traditions have value. On the last day they peeled through the microphone to talk on the stage in front of a thousand people who had come to the square and had seen their movies. These young women were not afraid of anything, they were proud, satisfied, ours too. Roger and Mireia, born in Barcelona, I think they learned more about what they could teach, which of course was not few.

Is there an expectation to continue working in other places?

Perhaps the most serious problem with this type of process is to achieve continuity. Many times it depends on political interests that we cannot control. Personally, we would be happy to work Yamaró every year in Sabanalarga, in fact we requested a grant from the Ministry of Culture, which we still have no answer. In Colombia elParlante is constituted as a non-profit foundation. In the meantime, we want to develop a project with another European entity and think about a youth exchange with EU support and the idea for next summer, is to develop a project with Ohio University in the mountains of Ecuador. Latin America definitely us off, but it would also be a dream to work in Africa. In this final season of TuParlante, we start producing programs in English, from the United States.

What is youSpeaking?

TuParlante sounds like a radio show, but to me it’s much more than that. It is a space of our own that we have won with Pompeu Fabra and Barcelona City Council. It consists mainly of interviews with people from very varied backgrounds with whom we talk about topics related to cultural diversity. In addition to podcasts and interviews, there are videos, photographs, a radio novela and the idea of continuing to connect and spread knowledge. This season, as I told you, Jess has done it from Ohio, where she is studying for a Master of Communication and Development, a couple of programs in English. The idea is that there will be several from 2014.

¿Qué viene para el 2014?

We will start the year finishing socializing the projects of the second semester of 2013. We hicimos 4 proyectos de La Cruïlla Comuna en 4 institutos, hicimos 5 pieces documentaries con los jóvenes de Ravalead@s TV, 3 piezas con jóvenes en Ciutat Meridiana y 16 podcasts, más un vídeo con tuParlante. After the presentations we will continue with the production of 3 more videos for Desmuntatòpics, a project that works very well, in its third season with the Consell de Nois i Noies de L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.

How is elParlant funded?

With terquedad and perseverance. It is a non-profit entity, but above all, with no spirit of loss. We try to be self-sustaining. It’s not easy. Right now most of the resources to develop the projects come from public entities. Either by calls for grants or by direct contracts. We have also financed actions through the sale of other products and services such as institutional videos or dynamization of social networks. We are working on linking private companies and individuals who understand the value of what we do and want to bet on it. For this we are formulating proposals that give visibility to companies that provide us with sponsorship in the resulting products.