Speaking to young innovators and social entrepeneurs in Hong Kong at MaD 2012 conference. A fantastic experience to meet young people with ideas and projects to change the world for the better – one step at a time! PS. Carl Sagan is awesome.
Imagine this; a driver is stopped on a provincial road in India. They are asked to pay a ‘fine’ for some unspecified infringement of the road traffic laws. The men asking are dressed in police uniform and one seems to be carrying a weapon. They’d like the fine to be paid right now, in cash please. Much is left implied and unsaid as each party searches the other’s eyes for an understanding of the real nature of this transaction. The driver pays the ‘fine’ and is permitted to carry on travelling down the road. The driver is pissed off, but hey, this is normal – and its just the way things work round here – and what can one pissed off driver do about this stuff anyway?
Well, there is something that people can do now, they can speak out, and make these hidden transactions, the ‘bribe economy’ visible through initiatives like the India-based www.ipaidabribe.com . The site enables people affected by bribery to write about their experiences in public and to track the incidence of bribery in an open and transparent way, it aims “to tackle corruption by harnessing the collective energy of citizens.”
You can report on the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency and values of the bribes made, and the reports add up to provide a snapshot of bribes occurring across any given city. They make formerly covert activities visible so that individuals who are sick of corrupt practice can build a stronger case for change, together, from the ground up.
And this idea of making things visible as a form of power and a force for legitimacy of experience can be brought to other contexts. One of the most powerful online tools out there is the interactive map. Geography and place bring things to life for people, and if you are not on the map then you’re not part of the ‘visible’ geography – you are part of a hidden world with little legitimacy as a home and a place to live. This is the case for many slum dwellings.
Take the example of Kibera in Kenya – Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya, was a blank spot on the map until November 2009, when young Kiberans created the first free and open digital map of their own community.
Map Kibera has now grown into a complete interactive community information project with the additon of Voice of Kibera – a portal for citizen reporting and community advocacy which has the map at its heart.
The Map of Kibera “has steadily emerged as a powerful tool for not just locating place, but also for influencing the social, political & economic spheres in Kibera and beyond.”
What else that is hidden or covert can be made visible through social media to make a real-world change? If you’re intersted in reading more check out this blog from Giulio Quaggiotto who works on Knowledge Management at UNDP Europe and CIS. There is much more that can be done through using these online tools to make a real-world difference.
Sometimes you just wish you’d thought of an idea first…
In the words of the Hometaping website:
“People think that only the talented or the beautiful should be able to make music. This is bullshit. Making music is something everybody can enjoy. And everybody has something worth making a noise about.
‘Hometaping‘ is a big effort to help as many people as possible to record an album of their own music in one month. It is a celebration of what happens when they do.
So if you can’t sing but do anyway, you are Hometaping. If you’re crap at the guitar but it makes you happy, you are Hometaping. If your saxophone makes you smile but your neighbours wince, you are Hometaping. If you’re convinced your songs are intricate masterpieces, you are Hometaping.”
Making a s hort album and posting it online, then showing up to play at a hometaping party (whether via skype from transylvania, or live in london) should sound rather terrifying. Somehow, the hometaping ethos kinda takes the fear out of the process – and makes it well, fun, to record your own music for the first time. Its not often that online hype and offline actions marry up so perfectly, but I think the team behind hometaping have hit the right note… its easy to join in, non-scary, and not too techie – but without the online streaming and uploading then the thing wouldn’t exist.
I think that too many campaigns or initiatives that use the web end up getting bogged down in making the tech too complex or the messages too official. You can learn alot from hometaping no matter what kind of community project you’re trying to run.
In fact, I liked the whole concept so much that I bought the company! Well, no, I didn’t but I did ask Basil, one of the people who set up hometaping to tell me (and all of you) a bit more about what it is.
Murray: Now, we’ve known each other for quite some time in the professional realm. I’d like to push things forward in the Friendship realm.
- Conchords: What’s the Friendship realm?
Murray: Well, you’ve heard of a realm – yeah?
Conchords: Er, yes.
Murray: Well, this is like a friendship one; a group of people basically getting together, calling each other friends…Look at this.
Conchords: What’s this?
Murray: A friendship graph; look along here on the x axis – that represents time passing, on the y axis here, that represents the different levels of friends. Okay? We’re starting up here with friends, down to workmates, colleagues, strangers (which is pretty much everyone I’ve noticed) …and then enemies.
We’re pretty comfortable navigating our social relationships by classifying them more or less in the same way as Murray rather bluntly describes. Up until 5 or so years ago it has been very easy for people to segment their ‘realms’ and to vary their behaviour according to whether we’re in the company of ‘friends, workmates, colleagues, strangers or … enemies’.
However, now social media usage has become so widespread, with 26million Facebook users in the UK , many of us are increasingly faced with the quesiton of how best to communicate consistently and with integrity across ‘the friendship graph’ and how best to draw together a fragmented online and offline identity across a wide variety of social networking platforms, including the office, the pub and your living room sofa.
The thing is that many people seem to be a bit confused about how to get the most out of the new networks available without compromising traditional ones. The key to making social media work for you lies entirely in your own hands, through taking pro-active control of the online networks that you use and the way you use them:
In the first instance, that is about deciding which platforms to use, and which to disregard.
Then, there’s the question of what content/conversation you want to share with the rest of the world
Finally you can use your privacy settings and groupings to help people engage with that content
If you get it right, then people will be able to engage with you online in one persona that pretty much reflects the real, offline you in all your rounded and lustrous glory. If you get it wrong, as many of us do, then it could well be a case of coming over as someone with a split personality, or maybe just giving us all TMI. People don’t want to be dragged up the friendship graph by force of your ‘fab nites oot!!!’ Facebook album! As you can see from the Conchords’ efforts, you might end up jettisoning your ‘workmates’ into the ‘strangers’ realm before you know it.
You might remember me mentioning the marvellous Goodgym a while back when the project won the Social Innovation Camp weekend ideas pitching session. Yes, this is the project I almost fell into a canal for.
The concept is very simple – it matches two differing needs in order to provide a different kind of social service.
The idea of GoodGym is to provide isolated or immobile older people with regular human contact and to provide motivation for younger, mobile people to run and get fit. The Good Gym aims to make it easy for people to channel the energy used up as part of their exercise routine toward a wider social good.
I was very pleased to see that Ivo and the team were featured on BBC London News spreading the word about the project. Check out Goodgym on the telly! Excellent to see things going from strength thanks to lots of wonderful project leaders and volunteers’ time.
The project is currently piloting live throughout Tower Hamlets right now and looking for people to get involved there, as well as inviting expressions of interest from further afield.
It was great to see groups of young people being supported to create their own mobile apps to create a range of useful and hopefully sustainable services, and at the same time gaining skills and confidence to talk about technology and entrepeneurship.
My personal favourite was ‘stop and search’ an app for young people to use and give feedback on stop and search actions carried out by the police.
Where have I been these last 8 months or so?
Could I possibly have been over at NESTA, managing the final stages of the Big Green Challenge and helping set up Jailbrake with the team at sicamp, as well as taking on the role of Chair at OteshaUK whilst simultaneously storing up ideas for allsorts of exciting blogposts that I haven’t had time to write up as yet…?
That sounds about right to me.
Watch this space for some new news and some old news, but definitely no Huey Lewis and the news. There are limits.