REFLECTION: Bangkok and Chiang Mai in photos by Grace Martinez

This past spring break, I participated in USC Annenberg’s pilot alternative spring break program, which focused on corporate social responsibility and sustainability. We visited various NGOs, companies and government entities in Bangkok and Chiang Mai while also exploring the beauty of Thailand.
— Grace Martinez


Visit Grace's website to see more photos and read about her experiences in Thailand.


Grace Martinez

is a sophomore studying Public Relations who was born in China but raised in Koreatown, Los Angeles. She is interested in digital marketing, specifically in the industries of technology, music, entertainment and fashion/beauty, but also finds issues regarding politics and social justice interesting. She hopes to combine her skills in design with her interest in technology to create impactful campaigns.


Power of Communication at USAID

Before buzzwords like “the cloud” and “start-up” saturated the streets of San Francisco, hippies and Hendrix cried “peace” and “love” for the world from Haight-Ashbury rooftops in the 1960’s. Consequently, the love bug made its way across the country to Washington, D.C. and with the flick of a pen an executive order wrote the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, into existence. USAID defines themselves an organization that “leads international development and humanitarian efforts, reduces poverty, strengthens democratic governance and helps people progress beyond assistance”[1] since 1961.

In March of 2018 – nearly sixty years after the start of President John F. Kennedy’s passion project – a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from USC Annenberg traveled halfway around the world to set foot in a USAID office in Bangkok, Thailand to learn how the agency spreads democracy via economic assistance today. Of the nearly 4,000 employed by USAID, Ashley Marcus, the Director of Program Development and her colleague Dalina Prasertsri spoke with students of the organization’s grass-roots beginnings before telling them how the Bangkok office’s purpose was to ensure food security, humanitarian assistance, and put boots on the ground for conflict prevention efforts within the Asian region.


Post-presentation, the students learned about what it means to “graduate” a country; or, in other words, provide a means for a formerly impoverished state to stand on its own as a budding democratic nation. However, democracy and its inherent ideals do not come without its fair share of resistance and resistors. Students found out not all aid recipients view USAID as a positive, given the organization’s economic assistance is idealistically democracy-laden. In short, the politics of help is hard, which is why USAID has a conflict prevention communication team that is prepared to ensure stability for an economically developing region in a peaceful way.

When all was said and done, the USC Annenberg students walked out of the office with two very important lessons: the first was that while change is extremely difficult; it does not mean it is impossible. Moreover, the conflict prevention team is inspirational proof that there are still those who believe words and impeccable communication is a great line of defense.




Steven Villescas

is a Graduate Student studying Communication Management. Academically, he focuses on influential communication; professionally, an ideal job for Steven after obtaining his degree would be to work as a communication consultant at a communication firm in the Washington, D.C. or Los Angeles area. 


A visit to the UNESCO Bangkok Office provided an opportunity to learn about UNESCO projects engaging the youth in Thailand and throughout Asia-Pacific. The United Nations has various agencies and it is important to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) to have distinct projects from other UN agencies. As an agency, UNESCO has an expertise in capacity building, compiling evidence for governments to use in policy construction, and in promoting inclusive policy development. Sue Vize, the Regional Adviser for Social and Human Sciences, said UNESCO is working to generate intercultural dialogue for peacebuilding through social and human sciences. Vize’s team is working on many projects focused on youth engagement.

    One example of UNESCO Bangkok team is focusing on youth empowerment is with youth policy workshops in the Mekong region. These workshops organized by UNESCO staff are inclusive and gender equal. Also, both elite and non-elite youth are consciously included, by using the more elite youth to connect UNESCO staff with more remote youth. This indigenous youth think tank while having tangible outputs, the outcomes are a generation of youth who feel their voice is heard and also valuable. In a precarious political climate, it is of utmost value to increase the capacity of youth to be empowered voters and contributors to society.  


    Another youth program UNESCO Bangkok is developing is Generation What Asia-Pacific. This campaign initially launched in Europe, offering an online 150-question survey seeking to generate an accurate portrayal of youth in Europe. Rather than arbitrarily naming a whole generation such as "baby boomers," this campaign allows youth to have a voice in identifying themselves, especially on topics not as widely or openly talked about. Generation What Asia Pacific is scheduled to launch within the year.

The meeting with UNESCO was informative in understanding how listening to youth has become an organizational priority of the Bangkok office. From a public diplomacy perspective, listening is the first step in developing effective programs to address problems, engage audiences, and affect change. UNESCO is exhibiting this by coordinating the launch of Generation What Asia-Pacific and seeking perspectives of multiple youth demographics for their policy workshops. While to some UNESCO may appear to simply be the agency managing World Heritage Site, it is largely focused on building peace as seen in UNESCO Bangkok office visit. It is important funding for UNESCO is not revoked. This leads to understaffed offices and a lack of resources. UNESCO Bangkok explained the positive results they are seeing through their programming, warranting funding. Peacebuilding through organizations such as UNESCO should be valued as they are engaging the youth and creating a socially aware next generation.


Brooke Adams

is a Master of Public Diplomacy candidate at the Annenberg School of Communications and holds a B.A. in English Literature from Azusa Pacific University. Brooke has participated in public health projects in South Africa and Uganda, leading her to pursue diplomacy for development of relationships between civil society and governments to strengthen public health and poverty alleviation efforts.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Consulting at Gulf Group

Gulf Group is one of Thailand’s most prominent energy producers; its diverse business portfolio boasts a number of traditional gas-fired power plants paired with several renewable power plants. The company prides itself on providing safe and reliable energy to the nation of Thailand. Gulf Group’s mission statement is “to integrate innovative strategy, quality resources, premier technology, and culture of commitment to achieve the most reliable energy solution” to Thailand’s growing energy needs.  

Gulf Group recognizes the importance of positive public relations efforts and social development efforts; at each new location Gulf Group opens a power plant, the company engages with the local community to make sure their company is positively received. Gulf Group uses a plethora of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to gain the public’s trust--in some cases, they teach farmers how to farm with reduced pesticides, and in other cases they provide bicycles to local children to make their commutes to school easier. Though Gulf Group spends significant amounts of time and resources on these CSR efforts, they do not seek media coverage for their actions because they are a very private company.


USC’s Annenberg Abroad program had the privilege of visiting two power plants owned by Gulf Group. These company tours were focused on Gulf Group’s CSR and local social impact initiatives. Both power plants were located outside of Bangkok in rural areas that are dense with rice paddies. At one of the power plants, USC students were given a tour of Gulf Group’s sustainable rice farming operations. Here, they were given an opportunity to plant Sakura trees and pick fresh mangos from a neighboring farm.


At the other power plant, the USC students acted as consultants to the company; students were broken up into groups and tasked with the mission of brainstorming new and innovative CSR ideas for the company. The CSR designs that were pitched ranged from creating academic lesson plans that taught children about sustainable farming, to holding town hall meetings where older members of the local community could teach and pass along values to younger members of the community. These USC students combined concepts they had learned in their Annenberg classes with the dense amount of research and preparation they had completed before the trip. Because this group of Annenberg students represented a multitude of different majors and academic interests, this brainstorming session was an interesting opportunity to learn from one another, as well as produce a number of creative ideas that included multidisciplinary components.

Touring Gulf Group and learning about the high value they place on their reputation allowed for the students to understand the importance of corporate social responsibly efforts for growing businesses. As companies expand to new areas and new markets, they can use localized social impact initiatives to maintain positive brand perceptions. Gulf Group’s wide range of CSR strategies illuminated just how varied these programs can be. As consumers continue to place increased value on ethical brands and company transparency, CSR and sustainability actions will surely receive more attention and resources from large corporations.


Emily Quirke

is a junior double majoring in Environmental Science and Political Economics. Born and raised in New York, she finds Los Angeles to be an interesting place to learn about sustainability. She is particularly interested in CSR and corporate sustainability. Emily has a Public Relations minor—she wants to better understand why some companies/countries choose to emphasize their sustainability efforts in their branding, and what catalyzes such efforts.

REFLECTION: Broadening Perspectives

The Thailand alternative spring break trip reaffirmed my thoughts about pursuing an international career after graduation. In our visits to NGOs and foundations, we learned about different corporate social responsibility and advocacy for social impact initiatives. At all of our meetings, the presenters demonstrated dedication, passion, satisfaction, and fulfillment for their work in Thailand.

Gulf Group2.jpg

From our first meeting at Internews, I was inspired by Brian Hanley’s work with other organizations to spread trusted information to neighboring countries. I found his work rewarding by providing underprivileged people with quality information with the power to change lives and make a difference in the world. Today, having access to trusted and credible information is more important than ever as ‘fake’ news has become a real problem in misinforming people.

Moreover, another company visit that resonated with me was the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). I enjoyed learning about the variety of different projects executed by a small team of four. My favorite project was the Asia- Pacific project, Generation What? A youth-oriented global transmedia project that is currently being developed to allow the younger generations to speak up about issues they are passionate about. I found this concept fascinating where established media channels will allow the younger generation to take over their platforms and speak on issues that they are passionate about. I also thought it was a great approach for news broadcasters to connect with multigenerational viewers, raise awareness, and ultimately, call them to action. In addition, at UNESCO we learned about each staff member’s diverse academic and professional backgrounds that led them to where they are today. Furthermore, learning about their personal experiences helped broadened my perspective and provided me with several optional career paths. They reassured me that there is no clear path to a career in a specific industry.

Overall, traveling to Thailand and meeting with NGOs and foundations have helped me visualize an international career for myself in the future. Ideally, I see myself working at an international organization where the mission is to have a social impact on the surrounding community. Lastly, obtaining this international experience through USC has been invaluable and unforgettable.


Saul Guevara

is a pursuing his Masters in Communication Management at Annenberg School of Communications. His professional background in communication and public relations in the field of healthcare has developed his passion for public services that have direct impact on social and environmental issues. Consequently, he is interested in learning about the corporate social responsibility initiatives businesses are implementing to achieve a healthy society by addressing global challenges such as economic development, environmental sustainability, and climate change.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Fighting Fake News at Internews

Fighting against Fake News

USC Annenberg students with Brian Hanley at Internews - Bangkok, Thailand.

USC Annenberg students with Brian Hanley at Internews - Bangkok, Thailand.

Journalism is under attack.

Whether it’s fake news, state-sponsored propaganda or disinformation warfare, the threats facing news consumers and media organizations across the globe are diverse and seemingly boundless. News models are failing. Media landscapes are constantly shifting. In the 24-hour news cycle, this morning’s headlines are simply an afterthought by the afternoon.

Internews works on the front lines to help reporters publish journalism that is timely, accurate, independent and powerful.

Arming journalists with the tools they need to produce original reporting, the non-profit organization operates in regions where access to information is limited and reporters are often viewed as enemies of the state, rather than hard-working citizens fighting to uphold one of the pillars of a peaceful and free society.

“Internews strengthens the capacity of journalists across the globe and gives millions of people access to accurate information that strengthens communities and improves lives,” said Brian Hanley, Asia Director of Internews. “We make sure high-quality content is produced at the local level in sustainable models that will inform, educate and engage.”

Hanley, who overseas media development programs from the organization’s offices in central Bangkok, met with 14 University of Southern California students participating in USC Annenberg’s Alternative Spring Break Program in Thailand this past March.

Founded in San Francisco in 1982, Internews has grown from a small production studio to an internally-renowned non-governmental organization with an increasingly ambitious agenda — providing residents living in some of the world’s darkest corners with the tools and resources they need to shine a light on stories that would have otherwise been forgotten.  

Whether it’s covering environmental catastrophes, human rights abuses, women’s issues, refugee crises or regional poverty, Internews spearheads initiatives that empower journalists to cover important stories more effectively. The organization provides journalism curriculum to schools, publishes content online and engages new audiences.

Journalism produced with the help of Internews is consumed in all corners of the globe — from handheld radios in the Saharan desert to small television monitors in the mountains of Afghanistan and websites accessed through VPNs in China.    

The work of Internews comes as governments continue to crack down on press freedoms.

Censorship is used as a tool to control dissent by authoritarian regimes. Jailings, beatings and even murders of journalists are common.  In Thailand, ten journalists have been killed for their work since 1998, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Despite the threats against journalism, residents living in southeast Asia and other parts of the globe afflicted with censorship place a high value on accurate information that has not been filtered by government, Hanley said.

“We see residents in countries we work are committed to overcome restrictions on speech and the press,” Hanley said. “Journalism today is more important than ever.”


Doug Mornio

  is a graduate student at USC Annenberg, pursuing a master's degree in Communication Management. A former journalist, his work has appeared in newspapers across Southern California. Doug is currently a communications manager for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, home to one of the largest and most diverse faith communities in the U.S. His academic and career interests are in communications, public policy and international diplomacy.

REFLECTION: On the Other Side of the World

Jet-lagged and a little dehydrated, I stood in front of the intricate, golden Wat Phra Kaew Buddhist temple in Bangkok. A mixture of locals and tourists buzzed around taking pictures and paying homage to the temple and smaller temples surrounding it. One of the only things keeping me awake was the sweat on my forehead reminding me I had been swallowed in the humidity of Thailand.


As I gazed around, it hit me I was experiencing culture shock. Thailand was my first time on the other side of the world, and beside the fact that we are all human, I was a stranger to the people and environment around me. The feeling of cultural difference was more prominent at the temple visits, which happen to be some of my favorite memories in Thailand

I had been to Brazil and Mexico before, and in both countries Christianity/Catholicism were the dominant religions and ways of spirituality. In both countries, churches and cathedrals were sprung around towns and in many cases they represented a core in people's’ lives. Now I was noticing the same thing applied to the people of Thailand, except with a Buddhism instead of Christianity and temples instead of churches.

Just like being in the temples and learning about a new religion, the surreal and intriguing feeling of newness persisted throughout the trip. From visiting different companies and experiencing the Thailandese business culture to shopping in large markets and negotiating (although I wasn’t successful) for prices, I was submerged in a new culture.



I was able to navigate through being in a completely new culture by keeping an open-mind, having respect and remaining curious. I wanted to be an observer and experience all of the moments in Thailand without questioning their way of life or way of being. It seems that resistance to a culture different than mine in a country far away from home would not be the appropriate way to make the most of the experience.

Being in Thailand will remain as one of my most impactful experiences at USC. I was able to experience the world with an incredible and dynamic group of fellow Trojans while pushing myself and testing my comfort zones. For the future, I will look for culture shock as opportunities for growth.


Roberto Gutierrez


is a senior Communication major at USC Annenberg. He has worked for companies in the entertainment industry and currently produces content for on-campus organizations. His passions include story-telling, cooking (and eating), and listening to music. Ultimately, he hopes to create content that will inspire people in the near future.  

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Chiang Mai Foundation for Older Persons Development (FOPDEV)


Warren Bennis, legendary scholar and pioneer of leadership studies once said, “success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.” I believe that this quote defines the future of business and communication. In order to prepare for an increasingly interconnected world, it’s important for American leaders in every field of study and practice to build up cultural adaptability and sensibility- to become a global citizen. This unique opportunity to visit Thailand was an important milestone in my journey to towards being a career diplomat. I have been studying East Asian affairs for four years now, but I have never taken the time to understand the surrounding regions and cultures. Thailand culture gave me a deeper understanding of the political, socio-cultural, and economic context of Asia. On a personal level, I have applied the concept of Sabai Sabai, living life in full tranquility and joy, to my daily life.


As an International Relations Global business undergrad and Public Diplomacy Master candidate, I was very set on joining the State Department after graduation. However the companies and organizations we visited during this trip inspired me to look into other paths before joining the State Department. FOPDEV, Foundation for Older Person’s Development was the organization that inspired me the most. They are an NGO that tackles the issue of how to take care of disenfranchised senior citizens. Their Buddy Home Care program trains young adults and children from low socio-economic backgrounds to become caretakers for the elderly and in doing so, they address two huge social issues. I believe that this kind of revolutionary ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’ non-profit innovation is exactly what is needed in not only Thailand, but the United States. Before meeting the founders of FOPDEV, I never seriously thought this issue, but since then, I’ve realized that it’s one of the most pressing issues of our time. I hope to be able to intern with them either this summer, or remotely in the fall. The trip to Bangkok and Chiang Mai exceeded all of my expectations and I can’t wait to go back and experience more of what Thailand has to offer.


Kelechi Emetuch

is a progressive masters student in Public Diplomacy at USC Annenberg and International Relations Global Business in the Dornsife School of Letters Arts and Sciences. She has a professional background in fundraising and sales and hopes to use that knowledge to better the non-profit sector and later create her own social enterprise. When she’s not in school or work, she’s learning how to cook new cuisines and writing poetry. 

REFLECTION: Togetherness & Collaboration in Company Culture

It was about 90 degrees, sunny, and the smiling faces of Thai women dressed in traditional garb greeted my fellow Annenberg colleagues and I as we made our way through a backyard towards their mango haven. It was a sea of green. Thick lush trees and plants and buckets of ripe mangoes enveloped our surroundings. We walked up to a table covered with orderly plates of mango and sticky rice, traditional Thai dessert, as the hosts beckoned us to not be shy and grab a plate as they were shooing away flies who were also attracted to the irresistible treat. I looked around and felt comforted by the peaceful sense of collectives we all now shared in that moment.


This was the afternoon we met with Gulf, one of the leading energy producers of Thailand. Their leaders collaborated with us to figure out ways to strengthen the connection between their powerhouse and the surrounding community. I was fascinated and enthralled at how every single classmate of mine, so eloquently and thoughtfully used their specific lens of study to share how this can be achieved. Ideas such as Gulf sharing their land with the community or sharing and telling stories of the people were presented by my classmates. What I took from this trip, from the fun excursions, to the business meetings, to everything in between, was the importance of togetherness and collaboration. It made me appreciate being in a team where we all lifted each other up, built on ideas, and came to a consensus all for the betterment of the people of Thailand. I realized how teamwork is something I now value and will look for in my career path.


Four weeks after Thailand, I had a job interview with a seemingly promising company. Only to find how money hungry and competition driven every colleague was. I knew after my experience with Annenberg in Thailand I wanted to work in a place where people, their ideas, their goals, and their presence was valued. The sense of collectiveness was a key component and highlight of this trip for me and humanized what I seek down the path in my career.


Isadora Ocampo

is a senior at USC Annenberg studying Communication and will be graduating this spring. She is interested in the field of Human Resources and has had internships in talent acquisition, which has allowed her to put into practice the interpersonal communication, communication theories, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills that she has learned at Annenberg. She is a lover of film, TV, and music and wants to work in the entertainment industry by way of Human Resources. She is currently an intern at Viacom, a for-profit media company and recently she has become interested in learning about corporate social responsibility and sustainability to ensure these conversations are being had in the workplace and beyond.

REFLECTION: Storytelling & Advocacy

For many years, my ultimate career goal has been to be a public relations professional for a nonprofit organization. When I heard about the opportunity to take part in the Annenberg Alternative Spring Break in Thailand, where we would visit and study nonprofit organizations, companies that value CSR, foundations, and more, I thought this sounded like the perfect opportunity for me. While on paper and during the informational meetings this trip sounded incredible, the actual experience far exceeded my expectations.

Maeteng Elephant Park

Maeteng Elephant Park

The Alternative Spring Break in Thailand revitalized my passion for public relations and the nonprofit sector. A few weeks prior to this trip, I was having doubts about whether public relations had a valued role in the sector. During the trip, our company visits reminded me about how influential and necessary public relations work is to organizations. My overall takeaway was that, in order to succeed and make a difference, companies and organizations need people to believe in them. To gain this support, organizations rely on the advocacy and storytelling work of communications and journalism professionals.

While the company visits inspired me more than ever to pursue my dream career, I was also heavily influenced by the other students on the trip. Every member of the group had a different purpose for studying the communications and journalism fields and it was incredibly powerful to hear their stories and experiences. During the long airplane rides and bus rides, we shared our aspirations, projects we accomplished, our goals for the future, and why we chose to study this field. At the several site visits, my peers asked insightful questions that challenged me and helped me grow my understanding of communications and journalism.

The Annenberg Alternative Spring Break in Thailand is an adventure I will never forget and an experience that will impact my life forever. As I continue to advance in public relations and begin my career, I know that everything I learned in Thailand will guide me along the way.

Photo by Grace Martinez

Photo by Grace Martinez


Jessica Milton

 is a Los Angeles native and aspiring public relations professional. She studies Public Relations and Nonprofits, Philanthropy and Volunteerism at the University of Southern California. Jessica knew that she wanted to study these fields after volunteering in high school with many local nonprofit organizations, including ACEing Autism and Shane’s Inspiration. She realized that these organizations were doing such incredible work, but were having difficulties gaining the attention of supporters. Jessica discovered that effective public relations could help solve this problem.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Community Relationships at Gulf Group

Building Strong Community Relationships

Gulf Group is an energy company that supplies electricity, steam, and chilled water to public and private Thai industries. Most of the company’s energy is supplied through gas-fired power plants, but the company also has several projects in renewable energy, which they hope to expand in the future. The company has received several national and international awards for its commitment to safe, sustainable energy production.

USC Annenberg students and Gulf Group team members.

USC Annenberg students and Gulf Group team members.

The visit to the power plant involved an introduction to the company and a tour of the grounds, which include not only the plant itself but also a rice farm and mango grove. During our meeting, the company showcased their involvement in the community, including their rice farm that is used to educate the community, support of the local soccer team, provision of water to local religious temples, and much more. The company also elaborated on their commitment to maintaining a transparent and positive relationship with surrounding residents, which Gulf Group achieves by reaching out to communities two years before beginning new projects and keeping open lines of communication with Gulf staff. After discussing the company’s current CSR practices, we had the opportunity to divide into teams and devise strategies for focusing on “big picture” CSR practices (for example, launching a social media campaign showcasing personal stories of community members).


The company stated that Gulf Group is now one of the most highly traded stock in Thailand, which seems unsurprising given the company’s commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. In fact, several of the company’s business partners have said that Gulf Group does too much to stay involved with surrounding communities. Regardless, Gulf Group serves as a success story of corporate social responsibility and developing strong relationships with surrounding communities. The company hopes to inspire other companies to develop similar practices not simply to create a positive public image but to give back to communities


Rose Martinez

is currently a sophomore studying Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She has a passion for environmentalism and health, and someday hopes to work on documentary films. This is her first time out of the United States.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Corporate Social Responsibility at Gulf Group

USC Annenberg communication students traveled to Thailand during spring break to visit Gulf Group, one of Thailand’s leading energy producers to learn about their corporate social responsibility initiatives. The Gulf group are known as an energy company in Thailand producing safe and reliable energy selling to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and industrial users. However, during site visits to the power plants, USC students learned more about the company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. What started with empty land improvements in 2015 has grown dramatically within the last four years. To assist with company growth and site expansion, Gulf created several environmental and cultural initiatives to give back to their surrounding communities.


An environmental initiative Gulf created to support sustainability are rice farms, which are located near the power plants. In turn, the rice farms have created employment for local villages and communities. When cultivating the rice farms, Gulf uses minimal to no chemical usage. As a result, Gulf’s product is better without chemical and better than local farmers’ product. In fact, Gulf seeks to improve farmers’ income by providing alternative options such as teaching farmers to be self-sufficient, productive with their time, and to use new technology. Additionally, not using chemical has helped preserve the soil and water canals in the area. Another environmental initiative is the Million Tree project, in an effort to create a more sustainable environment and conserve green areas in village communities located near each of Gulf’s power plants.

Other corporate social responsibility initiatives at Gulf Group support local education, culture, art by donating scholarships and funds educate and invest in the Thai people. What’s more, Gulf motivates the younger generation to learn more and pursue environmental sciences by welcoming children to visit sites and analyze power plants. What’s more, Gulf has gained national and international recognition from EIA Monitoring, Green Industry, and PFI within the last two years. Given these points, USC Annenberg students gained a first-hand insight into challenges and effectiveness while evaluating on Gulf’s corporate social responsibility.  


Saul Guevara

is a pursuing his Masters in Communication Management at Annenberg School of Communications. His professional background in communication and public relations in the field of healthcare has developed his passion for public services that have direct impact on social and environmental issues. Consequently, he is interested in learning about the corporate social responsibility initiatives businesses are implementing to achieve a healthy society by addressing global challenges such as economic development, environmental sustainability, and climate change.

COMPANY SPOTLIGHT: Capacity Building at Internews

Capacity Building 

Internews is an international non-profit organization that helps empower people by providing them with the resources to be able to have a voice in their community and in the world. With a budget of about $75 million dollars and a global staff of about 700 employees, Internews is a fairly small international NGO compared to its contractors because it helps with assistance more than acquisition. The organization addresses the issue of information poverty and inequality, which limits freedom of speech and access to quality education. The organization’s plan is to provide access to diverse content, to help people create quality content, to include those who historically haven’t had access information in the flow and creation of news, and to provide more opportunities to engage communities using the media. Because a lot of people in the world don’t have access to a free press or the resources to build a free press, Internews helps to create news stations, online publications, and papers. It also trains local journalists in order to provide places that are in conflict zones, post-conflict zones, extreme poverty, and closed and closing societies to be able to have access to factual, propaganda-free news.


            The company’s mission statement is focused on greatly expanding the information and knowledge people have, but it’s no small matter to successfully provide communities with these powerful tools during times of political and social turmoil. Brian Hanley has been the regional director for Internews in Asia since the fall of 2015 and is based out of the office we visited in Bangkok, Thailand. Their biggest programming initiative is in Afghanistan, because “everyone wants to get out of Afghanistan, so we try to give them hope to stay,” Hanley said. Some of the largest roadblocks not only in Afghanistan but the other places they are located (their programs span 5 continents) is the war-torn regions that many citizens live in and the prevention of the free flow of news by the government. Despite the opposition, Internews makes sure to partner with organizations that support content produced by marginalized people, including women, youth, and disabled people.

The success that the organization has had in furthering its mission to provide quality information to people in under-resourced and oppressed areas can be shown from the number of news outlets it has helped build, and but when it comes to analyzing the social impact of the work that Internews is doing it can be difficult because of the few funds the organization is allocated to spend on evaluations. The organization is primarily funded by multilateral donors like USAID and the World Health Organization and is only 5-10% private philanthropy so they focus most of their efforts on maintaining and expanding the current projects. The organization is not responsible for the creation of the content so it doesn’t have the power over the quality or diversity of the content being produced. However, Internews localizes their approaches so as to be more sustainable within a community.


Savannah Robinson

is a junior at the University of Southern California from Berkeley, California studying journalism and human rights. In the past, she has worked for the youth desk of National Public Radio and as both a correspondent and producer for Annenberg Radio News and Anneberg's International desk. Savannah has been traveling internationally since she was 6 months old as most of her family lives abroad (her father being from Jamaica and her mother from England). She enjoys and is focused on reporting on policy reform and politics and is interested in pursuing a career as a foreign correspondent or as a producer of advocacy journalism for a non-profit.

REFLECTION: Developing a Love for Asian Culture

Photo by Brooke Adams

Photo by Brooke Adams

Honestly, other than Thailand, I’ve never had a strong desire to travel to Asia. Growing up, all of my favorite movies, television shows, and books took place in Europe. I wanted to travel to Paris and live like Madeline, have a summer romance in Rome like Lizzie McGuire, and become a princess in the completely made-up but clearly European country of Genovia like Mia Thermopolis. But thanks to a childhood neighbor who brought me a gift from Thailand, and, honestly, a photoshoot at the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market on America’s Next Top Model, Thailand was added to my list of travel destinations.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew other Asian countries were mystical and beautiful, too. I would see photos of friends backpacking through Vietnam, eating dim sum in Hong Kong, and exploring temples in Cambodia. But Asian culture was not something I was familiar with. Classes in elementary, middle, and high school stressed European and American history almost exclusively. We were drilled on Renaissance art and monarchies for years, and unfortunately, glossed over the entire Asian continent. And we really missed out. 

Photo by Brooke Adams

Photo by Brooke Adams

We had a layover in Hong Kong and I was hooked immediately by the airport alone. After eating authentic Thai food (did you know papaya salad is supposed to be spicy?!) in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I realized how incredible authentic Vietnamese food could be, too. And after walking through Wat Po during our midnight tuk-tuk tour and learning about the violent but fascinating history of the temple, I finally understood that Thai history, and the history of a lot of other Asian countries, was almost exempt from my education. It took going to Thailand to register that I didn’t learn much about Asian history and culture through a textbook, and maybe it would be worth exploring historical sites across Asia to learn on-site, instead.

Exploring Thailand completely lifted my prior inhibitions to exploring Asia. Since landing back in Los Angeles, I’ve been dying to go back. But next time, I’ll be bringing a newly developed appreciation and fascination for Asian culture and a desire to explore and understand all of it.


Claire Porter

is a senior at USC pursuing a major in Communication and minor in Marketing. She has centered her education around the intersection of media and social impact and is currently in a communication course titled WOMEN: Designing Media and Communication Projects for Social Change, which is sponsored by VICE Media. Previously, she conducted research with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and is published in their studies. She plans to find a career that allows her to help influence others and create social change, preferably back home in the San Francisco Bay Area.