knowledge piece
Tech to grow agency in communities

Tech to grow agency in communities

This article is based upon a learning circle call with a diverse group of partners serving communities to grow their wellbeing, and captures the main insights.

AtmaConnect is on a mission to create platforms that activate people to connect with each other in their community, and is currently operating in Indonesia, Puerto Rica and Ukraine. It has reached 13 million people, in more than 300 locations, with more than 25 million views of actionable information. The impact is impressive, reporting 85% of changed behaviour. 91% reports that AtmaGo -the app of AtmaConnect- motivates them to take part in mutual support activities. 79% saying that AtmaGo helps to build their community, “Neighbours helping Neighbours”

technology should support connection and communication in communities
To make communities an irrepressible force for good, technology should be geared to connect and facilitate communication in communities. One of the root causes that technology did not (yet) contribute to development in impoverished communities is because
it has been used to tell people what to do, or to gather information. Technology could be geared much more to build the power that the people in the communities already have, by connecting them with each other. AtmaConnect is building the platform to allow exactly this:
multi directional connectivity and communication. AtmaGo is an essential element on the platform, it’s an online Network Neighbors Use To Help Each Other. This application of technology is making these people and communities an irrepressible force.

growing agency in communities, creates huge economic value and saves lives
When people (are empowered to) take early action, as a result of an early warning, at a scale of a million people, this would be worth a 100 million dollars in avoided economic losses. And over 6000 healthy lives saved. To get to this scale, AtmaConnects focusses on
two sides. Firstly, supporting the community leaders. Supporting them to learn, gather information, to know how to evolve as a change maker. On the platform they are supported with networking, collaboration and education (capacity building). Many of this is offered
through a peer-to-peer resource sharing. Secondly, to convince large institutions and donors, it is needed to bring localisation to life. This requires an infrastructure that allows to document, aggregate and reporting back local impact at scale.

a human centric design approach is a must
Only a human centric design approach forces to address the needs of the people. Technology to support agency in communities needs to be based upon a process that puts the people centre stage. A human centric design approach is constantly asking the people if
this is what they need. Based on this the application of the technology will be adapted to address the needs of that moment in that specific community. AtmaConnect started for example in an impoverished community in Jakarta, Indonesia, by addressing the need to
exchange water price information with each other. Ultimately improving the affordability of water. Which led to the question to share more information with each other. Following that need, AtmaConnect designed technology to support the exchange in this hyper-local social
network. People started to use it for many kinds of
information sharing, about flooded streets, location of
flooding shelters, finding jobs and people for their
household businesses, coordinate for road repairs, or
joint planting mangrove trees and so on. A whole range
of topics evolving around mutual aid activities was
uncovered. From disaster response to advocacy,
economic empowerment and climate action.

partnering is crucial to get the support for communities on the platform
To get the communities to access to the support they need, it’s crucial to partner with many and different community support organisations (CSO), and to document their support on the platform – for others to either being able to fund it, or for other community leaders to be
inspired and enabled to ask to replicate it in their community too-. In this way a whole set of classes and modules and tools can be shared, used and evaluated. Ultimately, this will empower the communities to grow their ability to take on local and development projects.

The Plentiverse
It’s a transformative new infrastructure where we use technology to
• built more connection between people (as opposed to the current dominance of growing disconnection from real life)
• actively contribute to community leaders becoming change makers (to face and deal with threats from climate change, conflict and inequality)
• connect the global resource flow to locally-led initiatives that create the actual real world impact
• enable collective action
In this Plentiverse we would pay for indigenous people to protecting forest or a rural community for planting trees or a coastal community for preserving mangroves. It would bring funds into unbanked parts of our population. It could be done because The Plentiverse
would have registered the actual impact and can generate the evidence it has been done.

it’s easy to build technology, it’s much harder to get people to use the tech
Last but not least, we learned that a key success factor to connect and grow a strong community, that actually uses the tech. Many, if not most people do not realise that they have something to contribute to their own community. So, what helps is to provide citizens
journalism and digital literacy trainings to help people realise they have valuable information to share. Convincing them that their voices are welcome and needed. It is key to figure out what motivates the communities, what inspires them. Some focus group discussions showed
AtmaConnect for example, that people enjoy to have some friendly competition with their neighbours, so they introduced, gamification, text messaging notification and the use of earning points for platform interaction. Simulation of growth on the platform helps a lot too.
Getting value as a result of what you share on the platform is incredibly important for success – bumping up usage of the tech.

We hope you enjoyed the learnings and that you can take (parts of) them forward. Our Learning Circle conversation rich, so have a look at the full recording!