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The Virtual Dinner Guest Project

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project
Look in your fridge or pantry and you will find definitive endpoints of international commerce, our shelves and iceboxes revealing a veritable UN assembly of products and international partnerships.

At this moment the economic and political destinies of the world?s citizens are more interconnected than ever before. We work collectively to sate all manner of appetites, yet our intellectual and emotional connections to one another have failed to keep pace. What price are we paying for these disparities? What are the political, social and moral costs?

Still in its first year, The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an international multimedia initiative born from a simple premise: It is harder to ignore, vilify or harm those with whom we have broken bread.

Imagine making a video conference call from your dinner table while you and members of your community share a meal and a moderated discussion with people in another country. Countries with whom the US has less than amicable relations are actively sought out. Countries that suffer from an overly facile media profile are also a point of focus. The project first launched from the US with a series of Virtual Dinners that connected Americans to participants in Ciudad Ju?rez, Mexico, Kampala, Uganda and Karachi, Pakistan. Still in it?s start-up phase, the project ultimately intends to function as a platform for collaborative social entrepreneurship as well as a forum for international discourse at dinners around the world. We have done all of this on a shoestring budget. Imagine what we could accomplish with even more support!

Since February of this year, the project has established itself in the Middle East and North Africa, connecting from a growing list of cities that include Beirut, Cairo, and Tunis, back to the US with students at Yale, the University of New Mexico, Northwestern, Drexel and other academic institutions. We are reaching out to community leaders and engaged citizens to create critical points of contact during a time of dramatic political transition in the region, and during an election year in the US. Recent participants have included the Ashoka Foundation Arab World, producers at the Tunisia Live news site, and National Public Radio in the US.

We are currently working to implement our "Three Meals that Matter" strategy. Rather than emphasizing a series of one-off events, we are working on a model that asks individuals and organizations to commit to a series of three Virtual Dinners together over the course of six weeks. Each Virtual Dinner has a slightly different emphasis, but each builds on the last, with the aim of creating a lasting relationship between communities, and creating a measurable social impact. The focus of the three dinners will be: Media Literacy, Collaborative Media Creation, and Social Impact. The third Virtual Dinner will require the participants to design very simple but identical initiatives that they can implement in each of their communities... in one week... with no money. We believe that collaboration in a creative process is one of the most powerful ways to promote lasting relationships. The whole process will be filmed. Your support will help the project grow across multiple media platforms, touch more lives, impact communities, and help create dinner table ambassadors in countries around the world.

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project: Talk with your mind full!

Bio Info: When in the US, project founder Eric Maddox resides in Santa Fe, NM. Eric completed his undergraduate studies in Philosophy and his graduate studies in International Conflict Resolution, conducting his field research (and first documentary film) in the Middle East. Eric is also working on another FTHP-supported documentary film on the US-Mexico Border.
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