Jay Dev, G + Marissa Reilly, G, Boston Ujima Project, MA

Working with the Boston UJIMA Project over the past six weeks have been a wonderful experience for us.

We originally joined the organization in July and planned to work with them to create two stand-alone episodes that could be used to highlight the critical work they have been engaged in over the past few years, and also to serve as the beginning of a longer-running podcast that could be used explain their mission and alert members of upcoming events. Based on conversations that began during spring semester, we proposed an ambitious production schedule that would have had us out in the field on a regular basis, and strategically connecting with community members throughout the process.

However, early on in the process we realized that we had to slightly refocus our efforts to create something more meaningful: community capacity to sustain this podcast after our time with UJIMA. We helped organize a working group of UJIMA members who are now engaged and energized with momentum to keep the podcast going after the one episode that we would produce together.

The first few meetings

To begin the process, we met with our supervisor, Sarah Jacqz, as well as two directors of the organization, Nia Evans and Aaron Tanaka. We worked together to identify an audience for the podcast and began to brainstorm ideas that they were interested in pursuing. The following Wednesday, we attended their weekly meeting. The first half of each meeting is devoted to a workshop relevant to the organization’s model of economic democracy, and the second half of each meeting is meant for UJIMA’s working groups to meet and check-in. During this time, we convened a group of UJIMA and community members interested in podcasting to discuss what they liked to listen to, what was meaningful about UJIMA, and sounds from UJIMA’s target neighborhoods (Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury) that could be included to make the podcast feel like it was from those neighborhoods.

We then took the ideas we had heard from Aaron, Nia, Sarah, and the podcast group and tried to synthesize those into storyboards for two episodes: one that tried to explain “what is UJIMA?” in a way that was engaging and reflective of both the community and actions that UJIMA had accomplished, and a second that told the UJIMA story through businesses in their business alliance. The storyboarding process was fun and allowed us to be creative. We ultimately designed outlines for two episodes and questions the they would be structured around. When we presented our storyboards to the podcast group, however, we received pushback on those questions. Members of the podcast team raised concerns about the way the questions were phrased, and how to make the podcast sound like it was “for the community, by the community.” These were things we had thought about while developing the storyboards, but it was clear that we needed to take a step back and work more closely with the podcast group to ensure they were bought in to what we were making.

Trying again

The following week, we had a smaller group for the podcast meeting, but we refocused on the bigger idea that we needed to convey through the podcast- what is a community-based economy and how is it central to UJIMA’s work? All together, we did a word association exercise to build a vocabulary that made the idea of a community-based economy more comprehensible to a wide audience. From there, we began to brainstorm questions with members of the group.

At the following meeting, we began recording interviews of UJIMA members based on the questions that we determined the week before. We involved members of the podcast team on either side of the interview- as interviewees and interviewers. The conversations that we were having were energizing, the answers to questions were meaningful. The process felt fun again.

Building Infrastructure

Over the next several weeks, we outlined a schedule of recording community sounds, interviewing businesses and members, listening to raw tape and brainstorming segments, and co-editing. We focused a lot of our work around the weekly UJIMA meetings so that the podcast group could be as involved as possible. We also made sure to build in opportunities for members to join us when we conducted work outside of the meetings. Ultimately, members of the podcast team engaged with primarily through the Wednesday meetings, but it seemed like there was greater trust in the co-creation process.

At the same time, we did research on opportunities to continue the podcast after we completed our time with the organization. We researched funding opportunities to pay for both equipment and work time. We were notified of a fall workshop offered by the PRX Podcast Garage that specifically focused on training (and compensating) podcasters of color in Boston, and encouraged members of the podcast group to apply. We also are helping record a member appreciation party that is focused on ‘UJIMA stories,’ and hope more UJIMA members become interested in working on the podcast going forward.

Creating an Episode

As we approach the end of our time with UJIMA, we are working on making the podcast group’s vision a reality. We are in the depths of audio editing, stitching together pieces of interviews that we conducted, and ensuring that everything that we created will be passed off to the podcast team. We will present a draft of the episode to UJIMA, and hope to incorporate their feedback to end up with an episode that captures voices of the UJIMA community. Through this process, we have had to think about how to make the creative process more inclusive and how to create sustaining structures. We will upload a copy of the episode once it is complete, and hopefully it will be the first in a series about the wonderful work that UJIMA is doing in Boston

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