Although I've only been at Media for Development for a week, I can already see the potential for digital innovation to boost MFD's mission. I hope that a mashup of my background in web & social change and Media for Development's experience of participatory media will produce some pioneering ways to empower marginalised communities. So here's a snapshot of my thinking about where to go and how to get there.
My starting point is the way Media for Development uses participatory media to help transform people's lives. As a digital guy, this seems to me like a good match for the 'maker' meme - people participating in building their own stuff and their own solutions to problems. To my mind, a good starting point for MFD digital projects would be co-creation and the kind of co-design promoted by @thinkpublic and @wearesnook . This can by carried through the technical side of digital projects by appropriating agile development- the tech project methodology that iterates in small stages, keeping the project close to the users and allowing it to adapt as new issues and opportunities emerge.
At the other end, the digital scene is a wellspring of questions about impact and ROI, as embodied by Measurement Camp. The visibilising of social connections that's embedded in the social web makes social network analysis a way in to measuring impact, especially around ideas of social capital. And I expect Social Return On Investment (SROI) will be a useful way to pin numbers to our projects in a way that aligns with MFD's values. Of course, the most powerful way to convey impact is to hear from people themselves and MFD is already expert in the power of narrative.
One of the biggest challenges that faces MFD or anyone trying to build peer to peer support is the investment of time and resources it can take to get self-generating momentum in an online community. My first ideas about tactics is to start with stuff that's simple and useful, and can be applied immediately in people's lives. There were some good examples of this at Jailbrake - an event that applied the Social Innovation Camp approach to making web & mobile services for young people caught up in the criminal justice system. For example, we heard that even a simple text reminder at the right moment can make a difference by helping someone with a fairly chaotic lifestyle make it to their probation appointments.
Daniel from the Nudge Me project at Jailbrake (Photo credit: theps.net)
As one of the founders of Social Innovation Camp, I'd say its approach has a natural fit with media for Development and I'm expecting to draw a lot on @sicamp contacts and experience as I go forward with projects here, including the aim of making enterprises not just projects i.e. innovations that can find a way to be sustainable instead of petering out when the initial funding fades away.
But no statement about strategy would be compete without a 2 by 2 matrix :) so here's mine for MFD-Digital: with communities along one axis and digital along the other, we start with the communities that MFD knows well (e.g. people with experience of prison) and the tech that has already been successful (like the online community of Savvy Chavvy). Innovation on the communities axis means new hard to reach groups, and MFD already has plans to work with military veterans, and with young dad's who are in danger of being excluded from parenthood. Innovation on the digital axis has some straightforward starting points, like mobile and mapping: i've been inspired by the potential of open street mapping to catalyse community mobilisation, and i've already met with frontlinesms to look at ways that toolset can help overcome the digital divide here in the UK. In the future we may convene sicamp / crisis camp style events to catalyse unexpected digital innovations.
At the end of the day, though, it's not about tech but about the potential of digital to enable transformation; a change in people's lives and ultimately in themselves. And also, perhaps, in those of us doing this work. I'm looking forward to reporting irregularly on this journey.