Kaskosan.com is a web 2.0 platform aimed at bringing together Roma people from around the globe; as well as disseminating information about the culture of the Roma people worldwide. Users may contribute or browse online audio-visual content; participate in competitions; upload their own photos; and virtually, but also physically, meet with other Roma people. A concrete goal of Kaskosan.com is to channel employment, business and education opportunities primarily to community members and also to educate them on how they can better engage with the larger society. Â
Kaskosan.com is also a platform for non- Roma to communicate with the Roma community, in the aim to connect the grassroots with the European Commission, governments and private foundations. The overall objective is for the funders to understand the problems and design inclusion programmes that reach into the communities and respond to real needs of the people.
The issue starts from the fact that "there is no Roma in the Roma movement". The idea behind Kaskosan.com is to change this perception of the existing top-down approach. This site uses a bottom-up approach with a platform that builds and engages local Roma communities and connects them online and offline with a European and global dimension. The main goal is to revive and share "rromanipe" and bring change from within the community.
Kaskosan.com is the door to "rromanipe", the secret code of the Roma people which had never been shared before with the non- Roma world. This code encompasses the values and customs of the Roma/Gypsy people. When comparing the Roma movement to Indian independence or the African-American civil rights movement, one can see that the movement still lacks the people component. When looking at the recent murders of Roma families in Central and Eastern Europe and also the images of bare feet and starving children in Roma slums in today's world, one can understand that the money invested in Roma inclusion has only resulted in a few positive steps.
Description of target users and groups
Although most of Kaskosan members are from the Roma community, more and more non-Roma are joining every day. Registered members are not only from Central and Eastern Europe; there is an increasing number of users from the big cities of Western Europe as well as North and South America.
Two-thirds of Kaskosan's members are 24 and under, including a large share of women (40%).
Description of the way to implement the initiative
Kaskosan.com was launched in May 2009, with a 25,000 euro grant from the Norwegian Civic Support Fund and the Carpathian Foundation. It comprises a social networking engine in seven languages and videos, produced to share and celebrate Gypsy culture worldwide, and to educate people on dance steps, cooking Gypsy food, singing ballads, weaving baskets and carving wood.
This online activity has supported and enabled many offline events as well, from organising a Roma stage on the rooftop of the largest shopping mall in Budapest with 2,000 people attending, to setting up evening parties for members where they could meet each other and their favourite Roma musicians and actors.
Kaskosan.com establishes a common identity across all Roma groups through the communication on "rromanipe". Online marketing tools are used to build up and engage the Roma community in order to reposition the Roma people in the world by sharing their positive examples, values and talent.
The goal within the next five years is to build up a platform with millions of Roma and non-Roma people from all over the world where they can feel at home, and where anyone supporting the Roma cause can engage with them directly. Kaskosan.com now works on growing the base, increasing the number of registrations on the site and providing regular video content for all users. After Hungary, the plans move into further countries of Europe and after that to North and South America.
Among the opportunities identified on how Kaskosan may empower the Roma, feature the following:
Support and strengthen Roma families and communities
- further promote and extend Kaskosan, as an online platform to engage Roma families and communities around the world;
- enable Roma families and communities to share their music, culture and traditional values, while strengthening and enriching the emerging global Roma identity
- extend the benefits of educational achievement and financial stability to Roma families;
- empower Roma families and communities to better engage with the larger society.
Catalyse positive change in Roma communities
- enable Roma around Central and Eastern Europe to connect with the global Roma culture to reunite families and communities;
- identify opinion leaders and community organizers with influence and trust in their communities;
- create heroes out of successful Roma who are integrating in the larger society but are not losing their culture.
- identify young Roma who can be agents of change (community organizers/facilitators/mediators) in their families and communities;
- encourage young Roma to finish school by honoring them publicly at special events e.g. Kaskosan graduation party;
- help young Roma scholars find access to scholarships, financial aid and educational opportunities around the world;
- honor schools and educators publicly in both mainstream and Roma communities.
- provide banking card services to Roma families and communities
- extend micro finance opportunities to Roma through their families and communities
- offer an online financial education through video communication
Use of Web 2.0 social networking and social media monitoring tools (SM2/Radian 6).Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards
Main results, benefits and impacts
During first year of operation, 140,000 unique visitors have visited the site, and Kaskosan videos have reached more than a half million views. The user base is still increasing by 20 to 30 unique registrations a day on average. In autumn 2010, more than 13,000 people have signed up to Kaskosan and have become active members of an international community.
The website has helped mobilise Rroma people at the local level to address social issues and change the perceptions of decision makers. The project has also helped to reposition the movement in a way which has helped them to articulate a common identity.
The success of the project is clearly evident with its 25,000 euro grant from a Norwegian civic support fund, exposure through YouTube videos, online competitions, offline events and partnerships with radio chat shows and international TV.
Other features, up to December 2010, include:
- 200 thousand unique visitors since May 2009;
- 15 thousand registrations with 10K active members;
- Half million video views;
- More than 50 thousand photos, thousands of music and videos;
- More than a thousand registrations per month with no funding;
- Moree than 10 thousand new unique visitors per month;
- Kaskosan's membership has grown by 25-50% per quarter, mainly through viral channels.
Track record of sharing
We take every opportunity to share our experiences with Kaskosan, both informally and at donor conferences, symposia and events. Please feel free to get in contact.
- Our initial impression was that relatively few Rroma use the Internet. However, this turned out to be a misperception. We've discovered many active groups of Rroma on sites such as a YouTube and Facebook, sites which emphasize verbal and video communication, as well as musical entertainment. Another trend we've noticed on Kaskosan is that single users often act as representatives and/or guides for their families or larger communities.
- The single most important bond connecting Rroma on the Internet is their desire to share their cultural heritage, Rromanipe, which includes language, music, values as well as family and community ties. This desire to share Rroma culture is evident across the worldwide Rroma diasphora - in Europe, North and South American - and brings together otherwise disparate groups, such as the Cinti, Lovara, Beas, Usara, etc.
- The Internet is an extremely effective medium for mobilizing Rroma to gather offline. Kaskosan has already demonstrated that in Budapest through inviting its members to the Rroma stage on the rooftop of the largest shopping mall of the capital city of Hungary to celebrate Rromani music within the realm of Hungarian music. Several thousands of people showed up. Further examples are online and radio competitions run to select people to attend the international Khamoro music and cultural festival in Prague. This gives an opportunity for Kaskosan to channel social inclusion information /stipends and scholarships, job opportunities, micro loans, training courses etc./ to the wide Roma community and make them actively take part and formulate the integration of Rroma people to the mainstream societies.