A lot of ink has been spilled writing about how technology is only 10% and all the other stuff you have to do to make the project successful is 90%. These two posts talk in detail about the issue: Allocation of time: Deploying Ushahidi and Why technology is 10%. Nowadays we all agree that this is true so I’m not going to add my two cents to this discussion. What I want to write about is how Map Kibera Trust (the Trust from now on) plans to start doing the 90% in Kibera.
Let me first paint a picture of the situation at the Trust at the moment. The Trust has around 20 on and off members, who were trained in basic GPS and OSM techniques, video editing and Ushahidi platform. Because of this there’s loads of information that exists mostly in cyberspace. We believed – and it was an honest belief – that if we opened up information, people would make good use of it. But apart from a small number of individuals, mostly foreign, that have used the data for their academic research, the data stayed untouched.
The problem was that we did things the wrong way. We collected information first and then started asking people if they need it. Our approach was supply driven instead of demand driven which was nicely pointed out to us by an independent IDS research: Mediating Voices. Because of this we have now backtracked to make a new action plan for community engagement.
The question we asked ourselves is: “Now what?”
The answer is not simple and to at least start working on it Kepha and I sat down over coffee, wrote DATA on the middle of a piece of paper and asked ourselves: “What’s next?” In a short brainstorming session we came up with a general plan of community engagement in Kibera. What we realized was that the Trust is going to need help. And the help needs to come from within Kibera, from the people living and working in the community.
We decided we will start by networking and organizing community meetings at which we will present the information collected so far. At these meetings we will organize so called “peoples committees”, each representing different issues.
I will explain the work of these committees with an example concerning education:
As I said, Kepha and I started with the word “data” at the beginning of our brainstorming exercise, which is obviously not the best way to start. But making the best of the current situation, we decided that through community meetings, networking, and presentation of our maps and database of educational facilities, we will organize an “education committee”. The committee will have two branches or types of members – Trust members and Stakeholders.
The Trust members will be the link between the stakeholders and the community. Their role will be to collect and supply the information, analyze and advocate for better and new ways of information usage. We see the Trust more as a supplier of information than an implementor or the end user of this information.
Collected information will end up in the hands of the second branch consisting of community members, NGOs, local administration, private sector, legal institutions etc. Their role will be to act upon this information by writing action plans, proposition statements, determining what kind of projects should be undertaken next, involvement of government representatives and lobbying for better service provisions in Kibera or other activities.
This will be a mutual partnership between the Trust and different types of communities in Kibera. The Trust’s role will be a steady supplier of information and the communities the implementer of activities. Of course this is just a general idea but we hope it will get something rolling.
So will the people want to be a part of something like that?
I believe the answer is Yes! I’ve seen people excited when they saw the data, the maps, and the videos. Organizations need information – facts – in order to do their work or to address certain issues. I’ve seen people talking at community meetings, contemplating how to use the data to plan activities or who to engage when information was presented to them in an understandable manner. In Mathare, where we began by talking about data to community groups, we found a large demand for data by community leaders, and groups. It’s something about having facts, a proof, in your hands that makes you fill with possibilities, with hope that you can actually do something and move from just talking about things to actively doing them. For once I’m optimistic.