Voice4Thought was born out of a research project that started in 2012: Connecting in Times of Duress. At that time, West and Central Africa were undergoing many social and political transformations. In Senegal Y’en a marre, a youth movement driven by hip hop artists, united Senegalese citizens to oust their president and demand rights for its citizens. Mali and Niger had Tuareg rebellions. The Central African Republic was plagued by a civil war. There was an arrest of an opposition leader in Chad for the alleged coup plot. Within these societies, youth voices sprang up to protest. At the same time, art and social media became dominant tools for self-expression. We understood these not as a coincidence, but as a conjuncture in history where digital communication and youth culture could create a platform for ‘voices’ or people to be heard. But it was not only the youth who found their voice; many other people took part in this process. They interacted with the researchers of our projects, creating mutual discoveries of reflections, ideas and information. These moulded into research reports, and exchange of information and knowledge. As a result, the notion of co-creation was established and in different ways, and led to new forms of expression for these voices: biographies in contexts, blogs, and the pamphlets, biographic video-accounts. These are the tools with which a ‘voice’ makes us discover new points of view and rethink our world.
These people and their stories that became part of the research have subsequently contributed and been essential to the creation of Voice4Thought: Didier Lalaye (alias “Croquemort”), Pangmashi Yenkong, Ahmadou Jigooru, Salma Khalil, Juliette, Al Hadj, and Rodrigue, were the first who shared their stories with us. We always welcome others to do so as well.
Another key focus for Voice4Thought are the pamphlets and e-publications of our voices. When we started, we did not anticipate the turning tides in Europe and America. In today’s politics, polarisations and extremism call for dialogue and action, specifically to give voice to the unheard in order to share their stories and facilitate change. Voice4Thought wants to step into this space in order to explore, exchange and co-produce knowledge and ideas to tackle these issues with publications, projects and events.
The official launch of Voice4Thought took place in 2014. In 2016 Voice4Thought became an independent, non-profit organisation based in Leiden, The Netherlands. It is registered at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce/Kamer van Koophandel (# KVK 65930029).