The Diamond Jubilee year has led to tremendous growth across various Jamati institutions, giving Jamati members the opportunity to help tell their fellow Ismailis’ stories through innovative forms of communication. At the forefront of these changes: The newly launched The.Ismaili and various social media channels, which have given Jamati leaders new platforms to engage with the Jamat online and to archive its rich history through readily accessible platforms.
In response to the need for volunteers to create this quality content for the new publication channels, the Council for USA rolled out the Communications Hub for hundreds of writers, editors, audio visual specialists and photographers who will apply their various skill sets to document the experiences and accomplishments of the American Jamat. Nearly 200 talented volunteers from all seven regions in the United States gathered in Dallas in January to prepare for the rest of the Jubilee year. Many of them had participated in the Imamat Day celebrations, talking to hundreds of Jamati members about the launch of the Diamond Jubilee. The January meeting gave volunteers a chance to network and learn from each other.
“This is a wonderful time in our lives, and all of us are here to ensure we can capture the Jamat's emotions visually, and tell their stories,” remarked Dr. Shaheen Kassim-Lakha, National Member for Communications and Publications, to kick off the meeting. She went on, “We have incredible talent gathered here, and the more we can refine our skills, the better we can reflect and record these moments as part the US Jamat's history.”
Addressing the group, Celina Shariff, Convener of the Jamati Programmatic Activities Task Force, said, "It is important that the Communications teams are aware of our priorities and upcoming events so that opportunities for collaboration between Task Forces and institutions can be considered, and resources used efficiently. “ She added, "There are a number of unique programs planned, and themes that will be addressed in the coming months, that the workshop participants will capture for posterity. This is an exciting time for all of us."
The group included professional journalists, photographers and videographers working for national news outlets. Even those who work in unrelated fields— soldiers who served our country in Afghanistan, for example—have found a place in the Communications Hub to showcase and develop their hobbies.
Participants also got a sneak preview of creativity in action, by watching the trailer of a video of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s December visit to Pakistan. The stunning images of volunteers preparing the mountainous regions of Northern Pakistan for the Imam’s visit and heartfelt testimonials from eager Jamati members left Communications Hub volunteers thousands of miles away in tears, reiterating to them the power of storytelling. The group then dispersed into smaller groups for some skills-specific trainings.
In the writers’ room, The Ismaili USA Magazine Editor, Nazim Karim, highlighted the value of The.Ismaili website and other Jamati platforms. “We are writing our own history,” he said, “and we are creating an Ismaili identity. We are representing the Imam’s US Jamat to the world.”
"The website, along with our new suite of digital communications channels, will enable the Institutions to reach the Jamat through a multitude of avenues like never before," added Imran Hasni, member of the Communications National Task Force. "These assets also help us create an avenue to share the Jamat's contributions in our communities and situate us as an integral part of this nation's fabric," he added.
“The outcomes were incredible in every measure,” said Shehzad Manjee, National Audio-Visual Lead for the Communications Hub. He added: “Our youngest participant was 15 and our oldest attendee was 70. One third were women and we had representatives from all seven regions. Pretty impressive for an inaugural workshop. The feedback we have received from the participants has reassured us that there is an appetite for this type of collaboration and professional development amongst the creative professionals within the Jamat.”
Nausheen Habib attended the writer’s workshop. She said she walked away from the meeting inspired. “This weekend was truly inspiring— to see so many quietly dedicated individuals serving our community and global initiatives,” she said. “I learned valuable information that I can apply in all areas of my life.”
Activities were more hands-on for the photographers and videographers. After getting a refresher on content of shots, angles, and other techniques, they were split into groups to take photographs and videos, on which they were then given feedback.
A participant in the audio-visual trainings said, “I wonder what kind of content we will create now that we are all on the same page and properly trained.”
The Communications Hub will continue beyond the Diamond Jubilee year, to work on covering the various events the Jamat participates in across the United States, as well as to tell the stories of the American Jamat— our history, our successes, our ethics, and our experiences.