Chicas Poderosas brings its empowering training in digital storytelling to Miami

Since June, Chicas Poderosas has helped more than 1,000 Latin American journalists learn digital skills and use them in their communities. Attendees at the immersive, hands-on digital storytelling workshops have researched and prototyped digital projects on water issues, agriculture, crime, elections and demographics in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Now, Chicas Poderosas is bringing its training model, network and mission to empower Latin American women journalists to excel in digital, design and data journalism to the United States. Chicas Poderosas Miami will occur April 17 to 20 at Univision and the University of Miami School of Communication. The event is organized by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) with the support of Knight Foundation. Chicas Poderosas was created by ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Mariana Santos during her fellowship year.

“There is a huge shortage of women in media technology and Chicas is reversing that trend,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “The conference will prepare a new generation of women equipped to shape the news of tomorrow.”

Chicas Poderosas attendees learn through one-on-one mentorship from leading digital journalists, collaborative work on interactive stories about their communities, and focused technical clinics on design, visualization, interactive graphics and data journalism. Projects created in previous workshops include a timeline of the armed conflict in Colombia, an app for logging and visualizing mood, and a visualization of atypical elections.

“At the Bogota workshop, most journalists arrived wide-eyed, with little knowledge of how to analyze or visualize data, publish a website or create an interactive graphic,” said mentor Miranda Mulligan, executive director at Northwestern University Knight Lab and part-time Chicas Poderosas adviser. “By the end of the event, they created timelines, analyzed elections data, prototyped interactive graphics, tracked political influence, created maps. It was exciting to watch.”

When Santos joined The Guardian’s interactive team in 2010 as a designer with an advertising background, it was the devotion of her director and mentor Alastair Dant that helped her become an interactive designer for news stories. Through training, mentorship and teamwork, she learned the skills and gained the confidence to create compelling digital news media. “It made me believe in myself,” she said. “I want to bring that to the world, to empower women to come into newsrooms without fear that they don’t have coding skills or that they can’t learn. All of us can learn.”

While Chicas Poderosas — loosely translated as “powerful women” — is focused on training women, the workshops are open to all. As Santos says, “Chicas Poderosas has space for all hearts.”

She hopes the inclusive organization will build a diverse global community of digital journalists. “At Chicas we help journalists learn technology and we connect them with mentors, developers and designers so they can keep learning,” she said. “We want to encourage more journalists to innovate together.”

The approach is proving successful. “The most exciting thing about Chicas Poderosas is the substantial and highly collaborative community of digital journalists that seems to be forming in Central and South America,” said Mulligan. “And I just love Chicas’ subtle and welcoming approach to empowering women in journalism technology.”

Speakers and mentors for the Miami workshop include Giannina Segnini, former investigative editor of La Nación; Chrys Wu, New York Times developer advocate and founder of Hacks/Hackers; Alastair Dant, interactive developer  at The New York Times; Erika Owens, of Knight-Mozilla OpenNews; Miranda Mulligan and Joe Germuska, from Northwestern University Knight Lab, and Alberto Cairo, a data visualization expert and University of Miami School of Communication professor. Training also includes mentors from Vox Media, the BBC, La Nación, Sun Sentinel, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the University of Miami and former Chicas Poderosas attendees.

Additional sponsors for Chicas Poderosas Miami include the World Bank Institute, Univision, University of Miami School of Communication, University of Miami Center for Computational Science, Northwestern University Knight Lab, SPJ Florida Pro and NAHJ South Florida.

Chicas Poderosas Miami is free. Register and learn more at

Rebekah Monson is communications manager at the University of Miami School of Communication and co-captain of the Code for Miami Code for America brigade.