Update on SiroccoBlue Development

Born on January 13th, 2016 and now just over two months old, SiroccoBlue has taken a few important steps forward that I’d like to take a moment to share. Importantly, all of our work thus far has been 100% free of charge to artists, writers, and event organizers (and will remain free of charge). We have focussed on writing and sharing original content only  on topics that we are passionate about: arts interventions in urban space, incredible dancers and visual artists, great musical tributes, and the theme of crossing cultural boundaries (that aspect of the Sirocco winds that is our thematic core).

During these two months, SiroccoBlue became the Fab 5, with four volunteer writers sharing some content and jumping in at times, plus me, Jacob (that Fab 5 name is based on a Michigan Univ. basketball team and came during our visit to an art studio in Springfield where the Hall of Fame is located). I am very interested in posting people’s writing (hopefully with some photography or video and around 500-1200 words) on themes relating to visual and performing arts, architecture, culture, history, translation theory, and linguistics. Also of great interest are brief writing pieces in science and technology (especially renewable energy and green tech involving wind and ocean a lo Sirocco Blue) as well as the intersection of science and social change. We’re always glad to review those writing pieces and share them: SiroccoBlue7@gmail.com

In our first two months, we offered our writing and publicity services as volunteers and without requesting that our work be promoted because we believe that if our content is good and the writing is engaging, then people will naturally want to promote our services. In other words, instead of building our writing coverage around direct, explicit exchange agreements (i.e. ‘we write, you must promote’), we have left it to the subjects of our writing to do as pleased. Because we have not framed things around such explicit exchange, the people and groups we have written about have offered all kinds of feedback that is just as helpful: different web technologies to showcase our writing, the need to organize our ideas visually, possibilities for a volunteer pilot involving CsF students in the US and adolescents in Bahia, the importance of writing in multiple languages and engaging multiple audiences, how to use social media, and much, much more. We are very grateful for that insight (as well as the heartfelt gratitude from some of our readers) so please feel encouraged to promote the blog or any of the services that we have listed here as well as provide any kind of feedback

That approach has resulted in thousands of visitors to the blog while we develop the business model and the website (SiroccoBlue is just a blog right now). Web traffic has come from mainly the U.S. and Brazil, which was expected, and also:

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.10.56 AM

Somehow Indonesia disappeared but we did receive several readers from there as well. During the afternoon of March 17th, according to our stats, we had over 12,000 readers come to the blog. We know that’s not much, but it’s a lot more people than the six that read my doctoral dissertation (which took many years to write)! One day at a time!

Because we have been focused on generating original content and promoting local events and organizations, we have not yet linked up with referring organizations nor have we done google search optimizations, but we will be doing so soon (considering that, the above number of visitors is something we’re proud of in our infant stages). In that arena of affiliation, a proposal is being reviewed by Boston.com and we will begin posting stories more regularly on Boston.com so that the editorial staff sees SiroccoBlue as an important community voice that should be on their webpage. The same is true of MassLive.com.

Perhaps most importantly, SiroccoBlue has a few projects that have moved forward over the first two months. Our services are much more defined and we’ll update according to each business line:

International Education Consulting Projects

We have started with our first (pro-bono) College Admissions Advising “client” from the marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro. We will be working to explain the US Ph.D. system in terms of admissions and scholarship/assistantship funding packages and we will be supporting the writing of the personal statement and statement of purpose documents. Our hope is that the application support is itself an educational process that taps into our years of college advising and teaching college-level writing courses. Our goal is to help our “client” understand the different types of scholarship funding types available, plan financially for the study period in the US, define a research project and express it in clear, persuasive writing, and choose the right universities to apply to and provide support through the application process. We will also recommend candidates via letter of reference to universities in the SiroccoBlue network as well as universities outside of that network. Based on the great questions coming from Rio de Janeiro, we’re going to record some important ideas on the pre-application process and will share them on the blog free of charge.

After researching the complex requirements both on the U.S. and Cuban side, we also built out our first study abroad program partnership in Santiago de Cuba (Cuba). We shared some of the complexities of this research in our blog posts under the category “study abroad.” This is exciting because we have secured an important operational center that will make available all kinds of short and long-term study programing for students and hard-core cultural studies travelers from all over the world: Caribbean and Cuban Studies, dance, percussion, Afro-Cuban religion, history, visual arts, trips, volunteer work, and much more.

We are currently reviewing a group of US labs (at universities) that has requested that SiroccoBlue recommend talented scholars from Latin America for a unique lab internship/mentoring program. This would involve the creation of an application and a formal recommending system—more to come on this as it would be perfect for students that have a scholarship and are already in the US.

We are also reviewing a proposal to build out a network of non-profits in Boston, Providence, and NYC geared specifically for students who have studied abroad. In short, this network of businesses would hire students who have developed strong intercultural and linguistic skills having participated in study abroad programs. In this way, SiroccoBlue would be facilitating the “entry” of students–post study abroad program and upon graduating with at least a B.A.–into positions that will allow them to use and continue to develop their cultural and language skills.

Reviews, Publicity, Promotions

Since we started, and completely free of charge, we have done 25 reviews ranging from local restaurants, major scholarship conferences, musical tributes, dance and music concerts, to local dance masters. We have additional reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor, as well, that we’ll be growing in number. This hands-on experience doing the reviews and carefully measuring the feedback has allowed us to start packaging different types of reviews and which we will start selling to clients in May.

Content Editing & Translation 

Thus far, we have had one content editing project (a book project on identity, home, and belonging) and one project that involves content editing and translation simultaneously (a new scholarship program for Latin America). Our parameters for accepting translation and content editing may be too tight–we want to focus on projects that have cultural or historical significance, or that have some aspect of social justice– and we may consider opening up our translation and editing services to include all mission-driven nonprofits (Portuguese and Spanish into English, for now). e

Future 

Upcoming and still pro-bono

We have some incredible stories on Ciência sem Fronteiras scholars and four interviews

Original writing on Tony Gatlif’s incredible film, Vengo, as well as more writing on the Sirocco as a dynamic model for cultural exchange and crossing

A piece on an extremely talented, local visual artist, Terence Tavares

A global view of World Music of Boston’s March Flamenco Festival series

A piece on getting lost in Cambridgeport and two original poems (one on the word ‘saudades’)

As you can tell, we will be busy! If you like what you see, please “Like” us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SiroccoBlue

Also under construction and in development is our web and visual presence…

We hope to soon have a simple yet modern webpage under the name “Sirocco Blue Consulting, LLC” (or a variant of), a logo featuring the force of the wind and crossing of boundaries, and the SiroccoBlue.com blog will also be improved. If any volunteers would like to help with these three tech/visual projects, please send a line on Facebook to our primary admin account (“Sirocco Azul”) or an email to SiroccoBlue7@gmail.com

Thanks for following SiroccoBlue!

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