Category Archives: development2.0

Insight-out en de platformgedachte

Onlangs gaf ik een pitch tijdens A Call 2 Action. Samen met wat oud-collega’s hadden we een idee uitgewerkt voor innovatie in de ontwikkelingssamenwerkingssector op basis van de platformgedachte.  Tijdens A Call 2 Action bespraken we het idee breder en vormden we een groep mensen die het komende jaar onder begeleiding van een coach het idee gaan uitwerken.

Hieronder een korte presentatie van het idee dat we als werktitel Insight-out hebben meegegeven. In deze blog probeer ik te motiveren waarom we denken dat Insight-out uniek is, voortbouwt op bestaande kennis en praktijken, gerealiseerd kan worden in een jaar, rekening houdt met de lokale omgeving en kan bijdragen aan een structurele verandering van de sector.

Uniek, maar voortbouwend op bestaande kennis/praktijken:

Als onderdeel van de ontwikkelingssamenwerking 2.0 beweging, zie je verscheidene online platforms ontstaan die op een andere manier invulling willen geven aan ontwikkelingsprojecten. De 1% Club en Akvo zijn goede voorbeelden van market place platforms waarop over het algemeen kleinschalige projecten worden gepresenteerd. Dit zijn projecten:

  • die zowel door individuen, bedrijven en donoren ondersteund kunnen worden (door geld of door het inzetten van kennis of netwerken),
  • die zich onderscheiden in transparantie door per project door middel van blogs, foto’s, en video te laten zien wat de voortgang van het project is,
  • waarop zich rond een project online communities kunnen vormen van mensen die het project steunen/leuk vinden en mensen die direct bij het project betrokken zijn.

Deze nieuwe manier sluit goed aan bij de toenemende behoefte van mensen om een meer directe relatie aan te gaan met projecten (in plaats van geld te geven aan een grote organisatie), om meer inzicht te krijgen in waar het geld naartoe is gegaan en wat de resultaten zijn, en om meer interactiemogelijkheden te hebben (commentaar op de voortgang, ideeen geven, etc.). Ook biedt het een mogelijkheid voor mensen in ontwikkelingslanden om zonder tussenkomst van “makelaars” als Oxfam Novib direct in contact te komen met mensen die in hun projecten geinteresseerd zijn. En kunnen ook mensen op wie de projecten gericht zijn meepraten over de kwaliteit van het project en in contact komen met anderen. Op een overstijgend niveau biedt zo’n platform met projecten ook de mogelijkheid om te laten zijn waar alle projecten zich bevinden op de kaart, kan er kennisuitwisseling gaan plaatsvinden tussen de verschillende projecten, etc.

Nu zijn deze initiatieven nog vooral gericht op kleinschalige projecten (bijvoorbeeld tot 5,000 euro). Als we het organisatorische systeem van ontwikkelingssamenwerking echt willen veranderen zullen we echter moeten kijken of dit model ook kan werken voor de grotere projecten zoals die nu worden uitgevoerd door grotere internationale NGOs. Pas als deze organisaties echt worden uitgedaagd op hun speelveld van grote projecten, pas dan zal de sector echt worden uitgedaagd om de manier van werken te herzien.

Ons actieplan is om eens te gaan testen wat er allemaal bij komt kijken om grotere projecten op een online market-place te zetten en te gaan piloten met crowfunding, grote transparantie m.b.t. de projectresultaten en het opbouwen van een community rond zulke projecten. Dit is uniek, want dit wordt nog niet gedaan met grotere projecten van de gevestigde INGOs. We zullen in het proces echt moeten gaan leren wat de specifieke uitdagingen hiervan zijn.

Het is niet de bedoeling dat we zelf een digitaal platform gaan ontwikkelen. We kunnen gewoon gaan piloten op een of meerdere van de bestaande platforms (1% Club, Akvo, PIF World, Worknets) en in kaart brengen wat voor extra functionaliteiten er nog gewenst zouden zijn.

Kan het gerealiseerd worden binnen een jaar met een kleine groep mensen?

Binnen een jaar kunnen tenminste 3 projecten gepilot zijn, kunnen de ervaringen in kaart gebracht worden en kan er een plan gemaakt zijn voor verdere ontwikkeling van een succesvol platform voor grootschalige ontwikkelingsprojecten. Dit is realistisch omdat binnen een aantal organisaties al ideeen bestaan om hieraan te gaan werken. In de groep die aan dit actieplan gaat werken zitten mensen van Oxfam Novib, ICCO en War Child en buiten deze groep van mensen die bij de AC2Abijeenkomst was, beschik ik over een uitgebreid netwerk van mensen die op dit terrein actief zijn (1%Club, Akvo, Partos innovatieplatform, etc.).

De lokale omgeving:

Dit initiatief is in eerste plaats gericht op het veranderen van de structuur van de ontwikkelingssector in “het Noorden”. In onze lokale omgeving lijkt er behoefte aan dit initiatief. In onze lokale omgeving in Nederland is, zoals hierboven al eerder beschreven, een groeiende behoefte aan meer transparantie over de ontwikkelingsprojecten, aan een directere band met de projecten en aan meer interactie. Mensen zijn meer en meer kritisch over de grotere ontwikkelingsorganisaties die vaak een “black box” zijn (de individuele projecten kunnen niet gevolgd worden) en waar vaak moeilijk mee te communiceren is. De sociale netwerk (Facebook) generatie zal meer en meer vragen om een andere benadering. Online zie je dat steeds meer makelaarsfuncties, de tussenpersonen, verdwijnen (de muziekindustrie, het reisbureau, de makelaar, kranten, etc.). Ook in ontwikkelingsamenwerking vervullen veel INGOs de rol van tussenpersoon. Dit initiatief kan dan ook in deze trend geplaatst worden.

Natuurlijk biedt een online market place platform voor ontwikkelingsprojecten ook veel kansen voor mensen in ontwikkelingslanden. Het kan voor hen transparanter worden waar er wat voor soort projecten bestaan, en hoe die gefinancierd zijn, ze kunnen zelf feedback geven op de projecten, kunnen zelf projecten aanbieden op de market-place, kunnen leren van andere projecten, kunnen een online committed community opbouwen rond hun projecten. De macht van de grotere INGOs kan daarmee worden doorbroken. De tussenpersoon moet gaan nadenken over een ander soort rol op het platform.

Duurzame en structurele verandering van internationale samenwerking:

Het initiatief is een eerste belangrijke stap op weg naar een andere inrichting van het systeem voor ontwikkelingssamenwerking. Door de platformgedachte door te voeren in ontwikkelingssamenwerking kan er een machtsverschuiving plaatsvinden in de sector en een hele nieuwe dynamiek ontstaan met als grote meerwaarde: efficiency, synergie, innovatie, transparantie, hernieuwd “draagvlak” en betrokkenheid, en kennisuitwisseling.

Ben benieuwd naar jullie reacties.

Social Platform for Development Cooperation: How does it work? What does it look like?

I would like to thank all the people that commented on my previous post, both on my blog as well as through the ecollaboration network. For me, the contributions confirmed the need for (and non-existence of) the open social platform for development cooperation organisations that I am proposing.

I will need two blog post to explain why and respond to all the comments and questions that I received:

  1. In this post I will be focusing on the technical aspect of my ideas: How does it work? What does it look like? How is it different from some of the suggested alternatives?
  2. In the next post I will focus on the process side of implementing the idea: How do we get organisations to join and use the social platform? What kind of technical support do they need?

How does it work? What does it look like?

The vision 

From the comments and suggestions that I receive, I get the feeling that some people don’t see the scale of the idea that I’m talking about. What I feel is needed for a more transparent, networked and collaborating development cooperation sector is a worldwide open social platform, that aims to integrate all the actors in development cooperation, in all the countries of the world. I visualise the open social platform as a world wide web within the broader Internet, where all development organisations have their web address (their organisational profile) and that will function as a natural starting point for them to access the information that they want to share and access on the internet? In the same way that a lot of people use Facebook as the platform on which they read news, write blogs, share twitter post, buy books, listen to online music, send messages, and donate to good Causes. The social network platform has become their Internet platform, and this is only just starting with more and more applications being build for Facebook every day. To my opinion, we need something similar for the development cooperation sector. Something of that scale and with the flexibility to keep growing and developing. 

For me this is something completely different than most of the examples of social networks that people have sent me, arguing that we don’t need another similar social network. The type of social network that I am referring to goes a few steps further than existing examples like WiserEarth or plans like Partner Up, not just in terms of scale and ambition, but also in terms of  integrated web 2.0 applications and openness. I am envisioning an open (source and content) social platform that can be improved by the users and in which everyone can develop applications that fit the needs of the users. I am very interested if the plans of CIARIS (to develop an application, called Shirikisha, that can give clear picture of all the connections between the organisations) are anywhere along these lines.

Some examples of the features

My ideas for functional features within the social platform are endless. Below I will give you a few examples that may help to visualise the idea. In the future I would love to work with the people of the Common Craft Show to explain to whole idea in Plain English, or with the creative people from Free Range Studios, but for the moment you’ll just have to do it with my own descriptions. 

Each organisation will have an organisational profile page. One of the challenges is doing justice to the various types of organisations there are. There are INGOs with HQ in London and offices in 30 developing countries. Or organisations like the Red Cross, with a Federation office in Geneve, National Societies, and hundreds of local branches. The connection and information needs of the HQ and Federation office are very different than those of the national offices of the INGO or the local branches of the Red Cross. Therefore I think that we need an option to create sub-profiles, that are aggregated at each level up. At the same time, we need to keep in mind (like Alberto Nardelli wrote in his comment) that “at the end of the day people, even if as representatives of an organisation, and not organisations, use social networks”. This brings up the question who’s is adding information to the organisational profiles. It could be one person, the communication department, or people from various departments of an organisation. But it must be possible to develop an application that various people in the organisation can use (upload documents, tag bookmarks, geotag project locations, update and describe connections, etc.) and that will generate the aggregated information on the organisational profile. So we are talking about social networks underlying the organisational profiles….are you still with me?

Another feature could be multilayered profile pages. One layer developed by the organisation itself, but anolther layer that presents the way beneficiaries and supporters see the organisation and the results of their work. On this layer beneficiaries could upload fotos, show long-term impact, share successes or lessons learnt from failures, validate the work of the organisation, link up with other people that are supported by the organisation and get to know their experiences. Supporters can subscribe to the cause, can start online discussions with the people who’s social needs are being addresses, leave critical remarks, and where the organisation can interact and engage with their audience. So again, a social network in itself that feeds into a layer of the organisational profile. This could even be linked to existing applications like the Causes application in Facebook).

On their organisational profiles, the organisations will be able to specify what kind of organisation they are (tags), what kind of work they do (tags), where they work (geotags, although not sure if you can also geotag regions), they can add their Connections (the organisations that they directly work with) and describe the nature of each connection (including tags). They can than add the applications to their profile that they feel they need, for example to share publications/ training materials / evaluations (tagged), to share videos (tagged), to present projects or campaigns together with other connections (tagged), to work on shared documents with their connections, to offer donation possibilities to their supporters, or to ask beneficiaries to provide their input for reports. The possibilities are endless and a lot of already existing applications can be used.

Based on all the tags (think del.icio.us) that are generated, but also based on the location and the themes the organisations work on, an application can dynamically connect organisations around different parametres of similarity. This is the Last.fm Neighbours function. Through this function the organisations can discover potential new Connections, or at least they can see who does similar work and make sure they coordinate their work with them. Based on the tags, the Neighbours function can not only show the organisations working on the same theme or in the same region, but also show organisations in other parts of the world working on similar project and using similar training materials.

And of course there will also be a Home page, with feeds from all the Connections and tags that the organisation wishes to follow. This is the page where employee of the organisations will have a look at every day.

Matthew Slater commented: “The complexity of organisations and relationships and projects in the non-profit world could be very hard to model”. I agree and this elaborated post probably confirms that. However, I think with the existing technology and with the developing semantic web, we finally have the possibility to do just that.

Another social platform for development cooperation?

I received some interesting reactions on the launch of my idea to start developing a social networking platform for all player in the development sector.

Commenting on the launch of this blog, Brit Bravo suggested to have a look at WiserEarth. This is a directory and networking forum that maps out and connects organisations that are working on social justice, poverty, and environmental issues.

Josien Kapma pointed towards an interesting blog post by David Wilcox where he discusses a number of web initiatives that claim they are the Facebook of the non-profit sector (the most interesting ones perhaps being My Charity Page and UnLtdWorld).

In the comment section of the Social Innovation Camp page where I presented my COOpen.net ideas, Brechtje Walburgh Schmidt suggested to have a look at Kanaal Sociaal Nederland. This is a platform where Dutch non-profits can share information about projects, publications and links with regard to various social needs they are addressing.

By email, I received comments from Dorine Rüter and Johannes Schunter. They both advised me to look at CIARIS, a Learning and Resources Centre on Social Inclusion that aims to strengthen development cooperation practicioners’ capacity to design, plan, manage and evaluate projects and policies to fight social exclusion. To do this, CIARIS collects information and knowledge and connects people.

Dorine Rüter also wrote that although she supports the idea of cooperation and keeping eachother informed in the development sector, her first reaction was: “not another portal!”. She stressed that I had to keep in mind that ICT-illiterate or resistant staff of development organisations may not be willing to invest time in yet another social platform.  

After reviewing all the suggested sites, it’s clear to me that none of them comes close that what I have in mind and what I think is needed for the development cooperation sector. CIARIS is an interesting resource centre and network of people, not a social platform where organisational profiles are linked to one another. Kanaal Sociaal is a knowledge data base and a directory of organisations working on social issues in The Netherlands, but it’s not a social platform using web 2.0 technologies. UnLtdWorld does use web 2.0 technologies and integrates a lot of the applications that I envision for COOpen.net. However, they again focus on individuals.

What I am looking for is a social platform that gives a clear picture of all the connections between the organisations, using the basic applications of a open social network. In Last.fm , everyone can see who are my Friends (the people that I indicated as my connections) and who are my Neighbours (the people that have a connection with my based on the content of our dynamic musical profiles). I think we need the same type of social application in development cooperation. Every organisation could have a dynamic profile (a much more productive version of our individual Facebook profiles) and could show with which other organisations it has linkages. For example an INGO with an office in Honduras has a profile that shows what it’s doing in agriculture. It shows linkages to 20 partner organisations (i.e. farmer associations and community based organisations) in the Northern part of the country, a link to a Fair Trade organisation in Germany, a link to the FAO, a link to consultancy agency that they hired for capacity building, and all their data (together with data from other offices of the INGO in Africa) feeds also into the master profile of INGO.  Each of the partner organisations they work with have a profile as well. That profile should confirm the connection with the mentioned INGO, but may also show lots of other connections they have. All connections have a discription specifying the nature of the collaboration (like in Facebook, where you can edit details about how you know your contact) and this could have linkages to for example shared project pages. All profiles are developing based on (geo)tags that the organisations linked to the training materials, evaluations and publications they uploaded, the themes they work on, geographical areas they work in, the organisations they link to, the articles they’ve bookmarked, etc. The resulting organisational profile pages can function as web 2.0 additions to the websites of organisations, or even replace them.

Such a global, open and dynamic social platform for organisations, generating very valuable “development cooperation data” does not exist at the moment. In my opinion therefore, this is not a proposal for yet another development portal or social network. It’s something completely new, with a totally different functionality than the examples suggested by the people that commented on my blog posts. 

The WiserEarth example suggested by Britt Bravo comes closest to what I have in mind, but still is a long way from what I am proposing. It has an impressive database of 108,000 user-generated organisational profiles and was developed to address a similar need as the one I have advocated in this blog. Most importantly, as part of the WiserEarth application each organisation can add other organisations to its network. Sadly enough, that network feature is not really working. There are only few examples on the WiserEarth site of organisations that have added the organisations they are linked to. Why? Is it because of the reluctance of employees of these organisations to be updating yet another social network. Or does it have to do with a broader reluctance of the development cooperation sector to provide openness.  

Development Cooperation needs a redesign in its architecture and a shift towards networked collaboration. However, it’s clear that it will be a challenge to roll out a global social network where all organisations are providing openness about their work and how they are embedded in local and national networks. That’s why this should not just be driven by the organisations themselves but also be pushed by funding agencies, the general public, and the people who’s needs these organisations are addressing.

Idea for Social Innovation Camp

I submitted an idea for the Social Innovation Camp that will be organised the 4th-6th April 2008 in London.
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My idea is to develop an open social networking platform (COOpen.net) for all players in the development sector that can bring transparency with regard to WHO is doing WHAT, WHERE, and together with WHOM. Think Facebook for development organisations with the endless possibilities to integrate useful applications for sharing of information. The transparency will benefit development organisations as they can develop their networks for learning, coordination and collaboration, but (as the content will be open to everybody) will also empower the critical general public, funding agencies, and the very people who’s needs are being addressed by development cooperation. They can make more informed choices with regard to their donations and funding, validate quality and successes of the organisations, and push development cooperation organisations to “show themselves” on the social networking platform.
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COOpen.net can be the first global concentration of “open development cooperation data” and the first global collection of social graphs of development cooperation organisations. By using web 2.0 technologies, the development cooperation SYSTEM can be innovated and opened-up, resulting in better ‘networked’ development organisations (including lots of new players in the field), and improved exhange of information within the networks. An important step towards “development 2.0“!
Please have a look at the idea that I submitted to Social Innovation Camp: http://www.sicamp.org/?page_id=96
I would be very interested to receive your comments, questions and feedback at the bottom of my contribution on the Social Innovation Camp website.

Worldbank’s Development 2.0 Wishlist

On the Worldbank’s Private Sector Development Blog, I found “an imaginary wish list of start-ups in a Development 2.0 world” (a post by Giulio Quaggiotto). One of the ideas on the wishlist is:  

  • D-projects.org: a web site that aggregates information on all development projects run by international and local NGOs, international agencies and financial institutions, and volunteer organizations. Potential donor interested in Ghana, for example, could compare projects and select the ones to give their money to. Development agencies could use the site to check out who else is working on a specific country or issue before embarking on a new project. Recommendations (Amazon style) by users could help donors make more informed choices and, thanks to word-of-mouth, smaller, but worthy, projects may get increased visibility.

Although there’s reference to a “website” instead of the more obvious choice for and online social network of development organizations, it’s actually the first post I read that’s closely related to some of the key ideas and questions that I launched in Orgbook:

– It confirms the need for aggregated information on the work of development organizations (working on various levels).

– It highlights the potential benefit for donors: they can make more informed choices and assess the networked capacity and institutional analysis of organizations that applied for funding

– It points at the potential for development organisations: they can assess their added value in a certain area and theme, and build networks with the relevant players.

– It stresses the potential that users of the services provided by development organizations can be added to the social network and can hold the development organizations in their area accountable.

I will follow the Worldbank closely to see if they are following up on their Wishlist!