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Archive for October, 2011

A few weeks ago, Iulian Circo, who’s working at Population Services International (PSI) in Mozambique, asked if I’d look at some slides about an idea called ‘Movercado’. I checked it out and it seems pretty cool.

Movercado is described as “an  interpersonal communication experiment” with the goal of supporting behavior change communication (BCC) in large countries with poor infrastructure.

The problem that Movercado would address?

‘Taking behavioral messages above the line (TV, Radio, Mass media)  doesn’t really work beyond the all important effect of creating awareness. Organizations such as PSI know that very well and focus a lot on inter-personal communication. That means we need a critical mass of trained “agents” placed throughout the country that conduct standardized information, education and communication sessions in their communities.  Obviously, supervising, training and deploying such an army of “agents” is difficult, slow and very costly. Additionally, efforts to ensure quality and keeping the training materials up to date adds to the costs. Finally, reaching the critical mass required to have an impact with this traditional model in a large country is very difficult.’

Enter Movercado, which aims to facilitate this process through a series of face-to-face training, SMS, calls, incentives, data collection and personalized messaging with agents and the target population.

There is a step-by-step detailed description on the Movercado blog, but since I don’t know the context well, it was confusing at first. So Iulian created a quick user  scenario and had a friend draw up the visual below to help with understanding the process and flow of the application:

How would Movercado work?

‘Manuel lives in Beira, Sofala Province. He sells airtime and cigarettes nearby the port and is always looking for more business opportunities. He also goes to school at night. One day he sees an announcement in the papers about an inter-personal communication training offered by PSI, that will allow him to supplement his income. He registers for the training.

The training is about inter-personal communication in the area of Malaria Prevention. Upon successful completion of the training, he receives a training kit that contains training materials, training aids, information sheets as well as a stack of cards containing unique codes. He leaves his telephone number and some other personal details with the trainer and three days later he receives a SMS informing him that his registration with Movercado is completed and he can start delivering IPC sessions.
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Now, Movercado links his details to the range of codes in his kits, which means that every code in that range represents a session in Malaria prevention conducted by Manuel.
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Emelita works at the market nearby the port selling cashew nuts and tangerines. She often buys airtime from Manuel. One day Manuel asks her if she knows anything about malaria prevention and proceeds to go through the standardized session as learned in the training. Upon completion, he hands her a card and tells her that she should text the code on the card to such and such number – the message is free and she will receive an additional 5MTN in cash (6 cents US). 
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After arriving home, Emelita texts the code to the given number. A few minute later she receives a message congratulating her for having undergone a very important prevention session along with a voucher for 5 MTN in airtime. 
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Shortly after, Manuel receives an SMS  informing him that the session with Emelita has bene validated and he receives an incentive in Airtime or M-Kesh, whichever he prefers.
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A few months later, due to the rainy season, malaria becomes more prevalent in Beira. Manuel receives an SMS informing him that during this period his incentives for every session delivered will be higher. 
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A month later Emelita receives a call from a trained PSI quality control agent who goes through the session with her, reinforces the message and provides more specific information on Malaria, including health centers where nets are available for free.
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Less than six months later, Manuel finishes all his cards. He calls PSI on a toll-free number and is informed that in order to receive new cards he needs to attend a refresher training – he is given specific details about the regular refresher trainings implemented by Nova, a partner in Beira.  
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In another scenario, Manuel works for Viva, a local community NGO. In this case Manuel’s incentives may be slightly different, as per the agreement between PSI and Viva. Viva themselves receive a payment for every session that Manuel conducts (or they receive points that are then converted in financing), and they may be trained and certified to deliver either the initial training and/ or the refreshers themselves.

I think the idea has merit. My main concern is the still low mobile phone penetration rate and skill levels in Mozambique. The ITU reports only 31 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants (likely lower in rural areas), an adult literacy rate of 55%, and the country has low network coverage. It is currently ranked 141st out of 152 in terms of ICT access, 135th in terms of use and 147th in terms of ICT skills by the ITU. So the idea would need to be supplemented by other approaches to reach the majority of the population (something Movercado aware of too, of course).

Iulian  has written up some other potential risks to the idea, such as quality assurance control and the possibility that people would try to game the system.

I think it’s a really interesting model. What do others think?

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This is a guest post/cross post from Jamie Lundine who works with Map Kibera. The original is posted on Jamie’s blog Health Geography.

The Youth Empowerment through Technology Arts and Media (YETAM)  project is a joint initiative of Plan International and local partners in 6 African countries (Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal). The project was initially funded by Nokia but is now supported by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Plan Finland. In Kenya, YETAM is being implemented in Kwale County, with youth from 3 districts receiving training in digital media, including audio recording, visual arts, and various new technologies.

In Kwale County, the YETAM project has thus far empowered young people to employ video, audio recording and radio programmes to explore issues of child protection and child rights. Youth have also used information communication technology (ICTs) including Facebook to connect and explore governance issues and discuss accountability within local and national institutions.

Through the YETAM methodology, technology, arts and media are used to “start the conversation” about community issues – a strategy that has also been employed by our teams– through work that started first in Kibera and expanded and evolved in Mathare Valley with the support and mentorship of Plan Kenya.

Our team was first approached by Plan Kenya in July 2010 to support a 3 day mapping and new media training which were components of a week-long training and reflection for the YETAM project.

On October 3rd, Primoz Kovacic, Jamie Lundine, Zacharia Wambua and Maureen Omino joined Plan staff, members of Plan Kenya’s partner youth groups, and District Youth officers from Kwale County to begin a process of youth-led community mapping.  The purpose of the mapping is to support the on-going YETAM project and feed into youth-led advocacy work in the 3 districts. We were very conscious that we did not want to do “mapping for the sake of mapping” but rather hoped to add value to existing projects and programmes through supporting the collection of issue-specific information that could be used together with other information

The first step in the process was a “feasibility assessment.” Our work in Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru and some rural areas (Taita Hills, Mt Elgon) had given us the technical skills and understanding of the opportunities and challenges of digital media, particularly in relation to the type of youth-led advocacy work that Plan Kenya supports, however we were not familiar with the particular environment in Kwale. The first week we spent in Kwale, 30-some youth and Plan Kenya staff convened together at the Kaskazi Beach Hotel in Ukunda (south of Mombasa).

The mapping process involves young people from three of Plan Kwale’s partner organizations. The groups are:

  • Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium – with representations from the National Youth Councils from the 3 districts in Kwale
  • Kwale Young Journalists – a coalition of 14 organizations in Kwale distrct who have been trained to produce audio clips and are working on licensing for a radio station to deal with children’s issues.
  • Dzilza eco-tourism group – a community based organization based in Samburu along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway

We spent the first day of the feasibility assessment going over expectations and exploring the concept of mapping, with practical examples of our work in Kibera, Mathare and Primoz’s work in Taita Hills. The expectations from the youth included “meet new friends” & “exchange ideas”, “know more about mapping”, gain “more skills on ICT and mapping”, understand “the impact of mapping to the community” and “how to contextualize mapping and social life.”  It was clear from the expectations that the youth were excited about and interested in the process we were about to embark on and had come prepared to embrace mapping and digital technology as part of their toolset for advocacy and action within their communities – it is up to us to impart our knowledge to further empower them in their work.

After a morning of discussions, we needed to start to understand the geographic environment and social issues facing the young people in their communities.

This would help us facilitate the mapping process and organize the 3-5 weeks of data collection and field work.

First we asked each group to prepare a presentation of their group including, who they are, where they work, the main issues they deal with and activities they undertake. We also wanted to know the stakeholders they engage with on the various issues and during activities they carry out.

The youth were asked to draw a map of Kwale county. They divided into the three groups – Kwale Young Journalists, Kwale Youth and Governance Constorium and Dzilza. The exercise took longer than expected but the teams had interesting and thoughtful discussions of what features to include on the map and how to represent the entire county – which proved to be more challenging than anticipated.

Realizing the challenges of mapping the entire county and that each group needed to narrow down a smaller geographic region and specific issue to map – on Day 2 we asked the youth to break out into groups and draw the 3 districts that make up Kwale County. Interestingly, they divided themselves into groups based on who lived in what district instead of going into teams based on the region in which their group worked.

The smaller geographic region and the previous days experience made the paper-mapping much easier. The maps were more specific and clear than on Day 1!

Kinango District Paper Map

The youth also identified a wide ranging list of approximately 10 issues for each District. In Msambweni for example, the youth discussed child abuse, sexual exploitation and child trafficking (in relation to the tourism industry in and around Ukunda), drug abuse, disasters such as floods and drought, poor academic performance in schools, early marriages and pregnancy, deforestation, lack of birth registration and ID cards, environmental pollution and squatters. This wide range of issues are important to note and discuss – however for focused advocacy work and 3-5 weeks of data collection it would be unmanageable.

Kwale District Paper Map

So at the risk of discussion fatigue, we took the youth on an afternoon of setting up GPS devices to prepare for field work – to introduce GPS data collection and start to understand the scope of the issues we could focus on.

On the third day we focused on the major issues within each group. We asked the young people to come up with the main issue or challenge their work was trying to tackle, their proposed solution, the action steps required (including relevant stakeholder engagement) and the data required to work toward the proposed solution.

Kwale Youth and Governance Council

The main challenge/issue identified by KYGC was social accountability (or lack of accountability due to poor governance and leadership). Their proposed solution involves “empowering society” through community forums, sensitization of the community on social accountability and “participation and inclusion [of community members] in decision-making process.” This will include activities such as stakeholders meetings, participatory planning & implementation of government projects, community involvement in monitoring and evaluation of projects, involvement of the community in the mapping, making recommendations and impact assessment. The team wants to focus on devolved government funds, including the Constituency Development Funds (CDF).

The data the team requires to support their work in social accountability are the following:

  1. Number of projects (aggregated from the data collection process)
  2. Budget allocation for each project
  3. Community participation (identification, place, project, proposals , capacity project committee)
  4. Relevance
  5. Impact (no of beneficiaries, workmanship, quality)
  6. Observations
  7. Project Categories
  8. Recommendations

Kwale Young Journalists

The Kwale Young Journalists chose to focus on two issues related to child protection: child labour & early pregnancy. The tean proposed that these issues can be tackled mainly through increased awareness of children and parents about the importance of education.

The action steps or activities for this proposed solution include 1) reporting cases of child labour and early pregnancy to the administration and the voluntary children officers 2) guidance and counselling of children and parents 3) holding barazas with the community through the administration 4) introducing life skills clubs in schools and villages (for example music, accounts, and journalisms clubs, etc)

Data required

  1. Reasons and vulnerability to child labour
  2. Forms of child labour
  3. The number of children involved in child labour
  4. The number of parents not taking care of the children
  5. The number of people
  6. The number of orphans
  7. The most vulnerable areas
  8. Family status
  9. Blended families
  10. Number of pregnant girls
  11. Reasons of vulnerability to early sex
  12. Number of schools most affected
  13. Number of girls who have gone back to school after giving birth
  14. Data on the number of reported cases
  15. Data of the effects of early pregnancy

When mapping child protection issues, we are aware that some of this data may be extremely sensitive and has the potential to result in further victimization of children and families if publicized. We suggested to the team to focus on publicly available information, such as information on schools, cases, cases of school-drop out, qualitative and quantitative information on the reasons for school drop-out and safe places for vulnerable children.

Eco-tourism in Samburu

The major issue that the Dzilaz group in Samburu will focus on is eco-cultural tourism and human-wildlife conflict. The causes of tension between tourism and culture, as well as wildlife conservation is exacerbated by the conditions in the semi-arid area, where the Dzilaz group operates. Poor government policy, animal migration and poaching and killing of animals are related issues the group is concerned about. The solutions proposed by the group include a combination of advocacy, participation in policy and livelihood activities. They suggested the community work on afforestation and reforestation, installing proper fencing eg electrical fence along animal migratory routes, enforce good governance policy through community participation with other stakeholders, liaise with the relevant authorities for technical support, for example lobby with KWS to permit us to introduce watching, animal hunting of antelope. Actions toward these solutions include door to door campaigns, awareness meetings, seminars/trainings, empowering communities on policy development, identifying resources for exploitation and meeting stakeholders.

Data required

  1. Points of human-wildlife conflict
  2. Number of people affected by the human wildlife conflict
  3. Distance of one school to another
  4. How many have been compensated for human-wildlife conflict
  5. Degree of damage to people, crops, properties

The brainstorming of data/information that the 3 groups hope to collect is a great start, however several concerns arose – including issues of privacy and child protection. Our on-going work focuses primarily on public datasets so we encouraged the youth to think about public assets rather than private data. We also realized that the type of information the teams are interested in is a combination of qualitative and quantitative information – GPS data collection will be only part of the information solution for this work. This week, Primoz, Zach and Maureen are working with each team to create data collection forms to concretize this information and decide on the strategy for further documentation to support GPS data collection and mapping.

Field work – Mapping Ukunda

The final two days of the feasibility assessment involved data collection and practical field work with the GPS devices. This was to begin to build skills, excitement and a better understanding of the practicalities of mapping.

The team of 30 youth split up into the three teams and divided the area to be mapped among them. Some walked along the main strip along Ukunda beach – from Kaskazi hotel to Congo Mosque – including the small village of Gombado, others mapped the area between the beach front and Ukunda town and the last team mapped Ukunda town itself.  Three hours of walking through the area and collecting data in the hot sun proved to be quite tiring for everyone. In two afternoons of field work the teams collected over 350 points of interest and mapped several roads and paths that were not previously mapped. The youth also learned how to digitize over the GPS points and tracks they had collected in the field to contribute data to OpenStreetMap and begin making a map!

Mapping Ukunda

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This is a guest post by (my boss) Tessie San Martin, CEO of Plan International USA. Tessie presented at Fail Faire DC last night. These are her thoughts on the event, and about failure in general.

I attended the most extraordinary event, hosted by the World Bank and organized and sponsored by a variety of organizations including Development Gateway, Inveneo, Jhpiego, and Facilitating Change.

The objective of the event was to share our failures using technology in a development context, and to be bold, forthright, honest, and (this is very important when talking about one’s shortcomings!) humorous. There were 10 presenters (including me).   We all agreed to be on the record.   The event, and the fact that I agreed to be on the record did make my IT and Communications teams a wee bit anxious.  But I was keen to take on this opportunity.

We do not celebrate failure often enough.  But we should.  As Tim Harford has said in his very entertaining book, Adapt, “Few company bosses would care to admit it, but the market fumbles its way to success, as successful ideas take off and unsuccessful ones die.  When we see the survivors of this process – such as…General Electric and Procter and Gamble – we shouldn’t merely see success.  We should also see the long, tangled history of failure…”

In my presentation I spoke about what I call organizational kryptonite (all the geeky readers out there like me will know that kryptonite is matter that weakens – and slowly kills with extended exposure – Superman):  being silent about your failures.  If we do not share – and learn from – failures, we will never learn what works.  If we do not take risks, and encourage experimentation, we will never advance.  The successful organizations are those that motivate risk taking. As well as transparency and openness, about what is working and what is not.

So I attended this Fail Fair, and happily shared with the audience our various challenges (a nice euphemism don’t you think?) with the application of technology for not just what I could learn (and I learned a lot) but also for what attending and presenting says about Plan.  We are failing.  And in that failure we are learning, adapting and advancing, and therefore improving our ability to improve the lives of children around the world.

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I joined Twitter because of frequent flyer miles.

No really.  It’s true.

I kept trying to use my miles and failing, due to blackout dates or not having enough points to go where I needed to. The use-em-or-lose-em deadline came up on one particular airline, so I accepted an offer to sign up for some magazines. In addition to a hefty increase in junk mail, I began receiving Wired Magazine – and my synapses started firing at a million miles per hour.

This was around 2006. I’d find myself suddenly having breathless conversations with the few people around who would listen about technology and the science of networks and other similarly nerdy stuff. This really wasn’t like me, but then, I was late to the game for a couple of reasons: for one, I spent the 1990’s in El Salvador and there was not much Internet or Wired magazine available there at the time. Secondly, I’d always been much more of an alternative music/ development/ social sciences geek than a computer / video game geek.

But something had changed since high school and college. There was Radiohead for starters… but on top of that, it became strikingly clear to me that things were aligning in a way I hadn’t seen before. Tech could really have a social purpose.

In Wired, I started reading about the idea that the Internet was horizontal, that things could be free, that people could collaborate in self-organized nodes, that social media could bypass ‘official’ pronouncements and allow alternative voices and ‘citizen journalists’ to be heard. I started thinking about how many of the principles and philosophies behind social media networks were closely aligned with those underpinning participatory approaches to development:  self-organizing, community-led processes and self-management, accountability and transparency, ownership, learning by doing, building on local knowledge and localized expertise. I got hooked on trying to link some of the ideas that were fueling social media and online networking with the work that the organization that had been employing me for several years (Plan) was facilitating with young people and communities. I started reading blogs about technology and aid, and I began writing one too.

Over time, my initial interest broadened to how new technologies — not only social media networks, but also new tools like mobile phones and GPS units and digital maps and all kinds of other new tools and platforms — could be put at the service of community development.

In large part, the reason for the branching out and wider perspective was that in December 2008, a couple of development and technology leaders/ bloggers/ mentors (Ken Banks and Erik Hersman) gave me a suggestion. “Get on Twitter,” they said,” if you really want to keep up with what is happening.”  I was wary of the platform, so instead of my real name, I used the name of a kitten we used to have – @meowtree  – also a bit of a play on my last name.

Quickly I realized there was nothing to fear. Twitter opened up a whole world at the professional and personal level. I found all kinds of people from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds who were discussing, debating, trying, failing, learning, blogging, and collaborating on a variety of projects related to technology, human rights, global development, community work and other fields I am very interested in.

Joining Twitter was like signing up to get an online degree in a very specialized field, where everyone was both teacher and learner. The quantity of information and knowledge shared among practitioners and theoreticians in my field and related areas was infinite, as were the ranges of opinions.

Through Twitter I’ve had the opportunity to work on voluntary side projects and connect with experts and practitioners for research and professional or personal advice. Sometimes a number of us join together to get across a certain point that we feel strongly about, and it ends up getting to the ears of someone who’s making major decisions or it gets brought up by individuals in personal conversation, spreading the ideas offline. A group of Twitter folks who are part of the ‘Smart Aid’ collaborative recently conducted a survey to find out more about who reads aid and development blogs, for example, and what they do with the information there.

Not just a news and professional education platform, Twitter is also a friend and colleague network. Over the past 3 years, I’ve met a few hundred new people in real life that I initially connected with on Twitter.

It’s a great feeling when you are chatting with someone at a conference, and they look down at your name tag (where you’ve penned in your Twitter handle with a Sharpie) and exclaim “Wait! You’re @meowtree!? I’m @so-and-so!” You’ve only just met, but because you’ve connected on Twitter, you already feel like old friends. You can immediately jump into a conversation and continue on with a topic you’d been batting around on Twitter or make plans to partner up on a work-related initiative or simply discuss the fact that you both like the same kind of beer.

Last week a colleague alerted me (via Twitter, naturally) that I’d been named by the Guardian as one of the “20 Global Development Twitterati” to follow. It was unexpected, and I’m hugely honored.  The Guardian’s Global Development team does fantastic and highly credible work facilitating forward-thinking debates and discussions around development. Being listed alongside the 19 other “Twitterati” is indeed a privilege, as they are some of the leading voices in the aid and development debate.

So if you have an interest in development and/or new technology, you can either accumulate a ton of unusable frequent flyer miles and follow my convoluted path, or you can skip all that in-between and simply “Get on Twitter!” Once you do, be sure to follow the Guardian’s list of 20 Global Development Twitterati. But don’t stop there – the Twitterverse is full of brilliant minds and voices that you won’t want to miss if you are serious about engaging in a stimulating global development conversation.

Note: this post originally appears on PlanUSA’s blog.

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