Just imagine a tool that shows how aid is working. Itís getting more and more realistic as today we launch AmLabs new identity and our new concept: Three60
AmLab (Amsterdam Lab) is the physical hotspot for development and innovation in the center of Amsterdam. The place to be for anyone who is involved in international development. AmLab is an initiative of 1%CLUB, Akvo and Text to Change.
Three60 wants to become the Global Label for Aid Transparency and Data Gathering using mobile phones as a reporting tool. The Three60 approach has the potential to make information about aid that is, aggregated bottom-up, sourced from multiple viewpoints, open, and real-time, accessible to all. This new way of communicating about the impact of aid gives anyone, anywhere, the possibility to get involved and see for themselves how aid is working.
1%CLUB, Akvo and Text to Change have joined forces in AmLab and Three60, because together we have the expertise and tools to increase our reach and revitalize traditional development aid practices with technological innovation:
360, because we want to make aid transparent, 360 degrees around the world.?
360, because we believe aid should be visible from every angle in the development chain.
360, because we want to establish a 360∫ feedback loop connecting everybody.?
360, because that will be our global SMS short code for everybody to send their feedback to about development projects they are involved in.
Three60 is not only a platform, itís a movement to get people more involved into the transition of becoming more open about development aid. We want to achieve total transparency using a bottom up approach. How is our approach radically new compared to traditional data-gathering methods for aid?
Join the future of aid transparency now at:
Three60 is an initiative of 1%CLUB, Akvo and Text to Change; Three organizations who share a firm belief in the potential of modern technologies to speed up development. All three partners have been pioneering tools for social change since 2008 and have developed tools and services that are in use by governments, companies, NGOs and communities across the globe.
While entering the building at ‘s-Gravenhekje 1A in the city centre of Amsterdam you can feel a special vibe hanging in the air. In an old warehouse packed with history, Amlab is established.
Amlab is short for Amsterdam Lab, which consists of three different organisations respectively Akvo, Text to Change and 1%CLUB. Over one and a half year ago they decided to combine their energy and creativity and found an office where they could work together. In theory these three organisations just seem to share the same office but in reality they do a lot more.
What these three organisations have in common is that they all believe in the use of technology for social change. 1%CLUB is the online marketplace that connects people with smart ideas in developing countries with people, money and knowledge around the world. Text to Change uses mobile phone technology to inform people in developing countries about all kinds of social issues. Akvo develops and runs web and mobile services and builds networks of skilled partners that can change the way development aid is allocated and reported.
The collaboration between these three is not formed by policy, donors or other official cooperation agreements. What brings them together is their common search for innovation and the energy that comes with these young organisations.
The three organisations bundled their ideas about transparency within development aid and made up a plan. With this plan there will be no more discussions about the impact of development. The impact of a project will be exposed to everyone whether it’s bad or good.
How does this work? By using simple mobile reporting tools we will share first-person stories and data with a global audience and offer crowdsourcing tools to get people involved in supporting development projects with their knowledge, time and money. We set up a ground breaking way to explain how aid impacts the lives of people at the local level. A young Kenyan will be able to share his opinion about his local health clinic or the entire health system in Kenya just by using his mobile phone. We will share these stories with a global audience and offer crowdsourcing tools to get people worldwide involved in supporting development projects with their knowledge, time and money. The progress of technology allows us to take part in this global conversation.
Yesterday the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation announced that the AmLab idea is chosen as one of the top 10 best ideas they received. After beating over more than thousand other ideas in the competition AmLab is now ready to prove what it’s worth.
Not by endless conditions written on paper but with collaboration and shared passion brought together in an inspirational old warehouse, that’s where innovation starts!
It’s done! Thanks to six 1%PROJECTS in Nairobi we’ve been able to test four M&E 2.0 tools: a smartphone application, participatory video, texting and blogging. In a pilot of just four days, between June 25th and June 28th, twelve highly committed participants have provided us with valuable insights into the (possible) value of M&E 2.0 and the challenges that still lie ahead.
Inspired by the thought that ‘change is good’, we’d hereby like to share our four most significant insights and changes of opinion based upon this pilot:
1. Using M&E 2.0 tools encourages enthusiasm for M&E in general. Based upon the fact that a lot of our colleagues tend to see M&E as dull, boring and complicated, we were surprised to meet a group of motivated staff members, all eager to learn more about M&E. And the use of 2.0-oriented tools definitely increased their enthusiasm. In itself, being able to work with smartphones and flip-cams stimulated participants to carry out M&E, it actually became fun!
2. M&E 2.0 improves the appreciation and perception of organizations. The pilot-organizations received a lot of positive feedback from actors around them, simply because of using our M&E 2.0 methodologies. In the case of Amani Kibera for instance, several community members were impressed by the fact that the organization was able to carry out a real sms campaign! Other CBO’s working in the same area approached staff members of the organization to find out how they had managed to organize this. Making use of these tools is regarded as something reserved to big NGO’s and corporations, not as a playing field for small CBO’s.
3. Availability of required M&E 2.0 technologies is still limited. For successful implementation of the piloted M&E 2.0 tools in the long run the presence of technological hardware like smartphones, flipcams and laptops is required. This is a challenge for all of the involved organizations. The phones required for the use of texting as an M&E tool are readily available and widespread, However, this tool unfortunately has high percentages of errors and drop-outs in the process of data collection.
4. A lot of work remains to be done. To enable organizations to keep on implementing M&E 2.0 a lot of work remains to be done increasing the usability and scalability of 2.0-tools. The front-end, but mainly the back-end of tools like a smartphone application and a texting campaign are still highly inaccessible for tech-dummies. It requires too much expertise and needs to be simplified. This will encourage project owners to continue using M&E 2.0.
As highlighted above he pilot in Nairobi has provided us with some first answers to the questions ‘Which tools (mobile, video, photo) can be used best for data collection and how?’ and ‘How can we motivate and engage project owners to use this tool?’. Now we need more input regarding the question ‘How can the input generated through these tools be visualized (e.g. a dashboard, through mapping) and which software is needed to do this?’.
Therefore, at this point we challenge you: programmers, communicators and designers, to come up with relevant solutions to this puzzle. Feel free to use our findings, analyze our raw data or ask for our opinion. We remain committed to developing M&E 2.0. At your service!
This is a guestblog by Crosbond Boera Moseti. Research assistant on the M&E 2.0 pilot and student at Multimedia University College of Kenia.
Hey! Howdy there? Hope everyone is well. Fantastic!
Just a bite to chew on here: Would 1%CLUB partners in Kenya be able to measure the effectiveness and the in-depth performance of their projects? Well they would, but (here is the catch) not only in a M&E 1.0 kind of way. This is a rather bureaucratic and top down approach of gathering and collecting data. Project managers would be the ones who lead the project team in the fact-finding mission, supported by the project team and expensive external experts.
Accountability to the donor wouldn’t be guaranteed though. In terms of venues of disseminating this information or the tools used, you would find that there was a rather hard way of relaying the data or providing a singular source of info. So much about the disadvantages of the M&E 1.0. It expresses the need for a dynamic more advanced and user friendly way of finding these facts and measuring the impact of projects in Kenyan communities. A pilot project was hence commissioned by 1%CLUB (Marianne), EyeOpenerWorks (Henrik, Martijn) and an external eye with the name Crosbond. The aim of this pilot was to find out whether new methodology would help in finding out the ‘most significant changes’ through projects. Guess what? The project was a success story! Local communities were ecstatic about being directly involved in the impact evaluation.
In Kibera myself, facilitating the process of the NGO Amani Kibera, I got a culture shock here. I was completely mesmerized about how this NGO organize their football teams, how they were friendly, welcoming and homely and how they were able to feel the urge to emotionally, passionately and proudly involve their members in interviews, receiving conclusive and personal feedback. The work that Amani Kibera has done here!!! Can be compared to the focus that ants do have to build their castle in readiness for the tough times ahead, this was just so awesome!!)
In Tetra Park village (where the NGO Kamane operates), Henrik and I got to be invited with open arms, even with sodas. It was evident that there was an issue of language barrier but I came in handy as a translator. We walked around for a short while and we got to see the informal settlement almost similar to Kibera but sort of smaller. The fact finding, follow-up, selection process of the stories, conversations from multiple sources, trust, and learning were all real-time and with this we could be able to find multiple sources of data that were synched together.
The Most Significant Change methodology for me was how the smooth transition from the old version of evaluation to the new dynamic method of monitoring. The participating NGOs were able to relate and adapt to the system quite much faster than I expected. They conducted the process all by themselves with minimal glitches!
This blog, the third in a series about M&E 2.0, is dedicated to you. Because our main question practically is: ‘How can we make your life easier ?’. After creating clarity about what M&E 2.0 is and setting the rules for this playing field we are finally at the point where we can dive into the development of the hard- and the software. Therefore we start this phase of development by answering the first question remaining after our previous blog: ‘Which tools (mobile, video, photo) can be used best for data collection (within M&E 2.0) and how?’.
First of all it is good to be clear about the fact that, after the co-creation session, we decided to put the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique at the heart of our pilot. For this technique we owe many thanks to Rick Davies and Jess Dart for their groundbreaking work developing MSC. Their pioneering is vividly described in The ‘Most Significant Change’ Technique; A Guide to Its Use (pdf) (2005).
MSC is an established form of participatory monitoring and evaluation. The method is participatory because many project stakeholders are involved in recording and analyzing the data. MSC can be implemented throughout the project or program cycle and collects stories of change from the field based upon one core question: ‘What, in your eyes, has been the biggest change in your life through this project?’. What follows is a systematic selection of the most significant of these stories by panels of stakeholders, feeding back the results to the field. In this way it the method more than an impact assessment tool, it is moreover about developing a continuous dialogue with all possible stakeholders about what works and what can be improved.
One of the golden values within MSC is Simplicity. Simplicity is the key to succesfull implementation: ‘Don’t talk, just KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)!’. Keeping that in mind, we’ve come up with a set of four simple tools to be tested in pilot. So what tools did we come up with?
First of all, with the support of our friends from AKVO we’ve created an MSC Smartphone App that allows organizations to interview stakeholders according to MSC standards. The App is a simple and intuitive piece of software that helps interviewers to collect and process stories in an efficient way. The collected data includes a picture and a geotag of the location of interview. This geotag enables the presentation of data in a Google Maps-like environment.
Secondly, combining MSC with Participatory Video we’ll equip fieldworkers with flipcams to record most significant change stories on camera. A simple tool that allows organizations to visualize their impact.
Our third way of capturing stories will be through texting, with the support of Text to Change. Using posters, flyers and mouth-to-mouth advertisement residents in a project area will be inspired to TEXT their most significant stories of change in a series of messages. Texting provides a creative opportunity to collect a wide variety of short stories in a more anonymous way. A micro-incentives stimulates participants to join: one out of every five participants wins 100 KES (€1,-) airtime!
Blogging, the fourth tool and last tool we’ll experiment with, is already becoming a more commonly used instrument. A selected group of stakeholders (for example a staff member, the director, a beneficiary, a board member and an outsider who knows the project) are invited to regularly write a blog in MSC style about the project at stake.
At the end of each pilot-day a panel within each participating organization will make a selection out of the stories collected through this set of tools. The panel will feed back their results to the community immediately for verification and further exploration. We’ll support the panels in organizing this in a creative way that fits their own context.
Ok, enough of the talking: Let’s go and do this! This June 25th to June 28th fifteen very exited representatives of six 1%Partners in Nairobi throw themselves in to test the methods & tools described above. We look forward to sharing their results and experiences with you in our next blog.
On our way now, keep you posted!