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Community + Mobile = Meaningful Conversations for Positive Social Change

Mobile is making information easier to access and share, increasing transparency and empowering citizens to drive changes…from Kenya to Holland Park!

Ushahidi” (“testimony” in Swahili) was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. The original website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phone. Since then crowd mapping powered by mobile has helped out everywhere, from disturbances in Haiti to summer rioting in London.

Indeed the mobile revolution is right on our doorsteps, profoundly changing the way we interact at a local level. Take Love Clean Street. It helps Londoners report issues wherever they are in the capital and get them solved quickly.

Last week I was in Holland Park playground and I saw a huge nail sticking out of a ladder. There was no park attendant around, so after pulling my two-year-old out of harm’s way, I took a picture of the nail, registered my location and filed my report. Super mum powered by mobile! I received an alert some days later about the issue being sorted. Not bad. Since then it’s also worked for fly tipping in my street – and it could help you with anything from rubbish to broken street lights.

The revolution brought to you by the app is that it cuts out the need for a frustrating call to your local council – no more “hold the line, your call is important to us”. And the council benefits from accurate and timely information.

Love Clean Street is even turning into a campaign tool to “Save LewishamA&E”. (Although I don’t know how many thousands of mobile pics you’d have to send to get Jeremy Hunt interested…)

That’s where we need to join the dots. We have social media. We have brands. We have influencers. We have Public Services. How can we connect all this to make an impact? How can we kick start that conversation at local level?

Priya started Changify in London, fed up with the lack of opportunities for making immediate change in her street. Changify is a new service for the public to initiate and build links between local council, brands and neighbours.

That’s what I call joining the dots.

As a Changifyer, you create local change projects by spotting, rating and reporting on things you care about. You simply take photos or send texts, along with positive/negative ratings of a local place or issue. You can also share these on Facebook or Twitter to get more online backers. The team aggregates data across social media and create a real-time Good Index that reflects the neighbourhood sentiment on local matters. The goal of the team is then to share that info with the relevant brands and public bodies so that they can make the required changes. Brands that back Changify projects would get recognised for their contribution through the platform.

Brands who want to maximise mobile to drive social change need to make the link between public services, citizens and the private sector. As the executive team at Avaaz (a digital campaigning community) says, “technology alone doesn’t create change, but it can supercharge campaigns that have a clear strategy and theory of change”.

Digital is revolutionising conversations and can turn all of us into campaigners.  But mobile adds scale, makes it quicker, more transparent (localising the information) and more democratic (more people access the internet through mobile than via their desktops). I could see major FMCG brands working in hand with the Love Clean Street app or the Changify community. It would fuel positive change and build their equity in much better way than developing yet another gaming app. Less apps…more sense.