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February 25 2011

17:00

Ushahidi Takes First Steps in Evaluating Kenya Projects

This post was written by Melissa Tully and Jennifer Chan. It is the first in a series of blog posts documenting a 9-month Ushahidi evaluation project in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and supported by the Knight Foundation. A version of the post below was originally published on the Ushahidi blog

During the first two weeks of January, we traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to begin phase one of a 9-month evaluation of Ushahidi's Kenya projects. Ushahidi is a web application created to map the reported incidents of violence during the post-election crisis in Kenya.

As part of a team, Jennifer and I met with individuals and groups who have incorporated the Ushahidi software into their programming as well as other partners to better understand how organizations have implemented and used the platform to improve their programming and organizational goals.

This evaluation has multiple purposes. In addition to writing case studies of some interesting and dynamic projects that use the Ushahidi platform: Unsung Peace Heroes and Building Bridges, and Uchaguzi in both Kenya and Tanzania; we plan to document our progress through a series of blog posts and to create practical and interactive tools.

Tracking Progress

These resources can help organizations decide if Ushahidi is right for them through a self-assessment and evaluation process. Implementers can use these resources throughout the entire project period to track their progress and strengthen monitoring and evaluation.

We're in the very early stages of development, but based on discussions with people in Kenya who have used Ushahidi and members of the Ushahidi team and community, we think we're developing some very useful stuff. Currently, we're focusing on the "pre-implementation assessment" and "implementation" resources so that we can get feedback from current and future deployments on these key areas.

We're working closely with the Ushahidi team and others involved in developing the Ushahidi Community page to integrate the case studies and tools into this part of the site and to add to the already existing resources for Ushahidi users.

Another goal is to link to guides, case studies, tips, and tricks -- or anything else out there created by the vast Ushahidi community worldwide -- to better serve the entire user community. Let us know in the comments what you think about our service and how we might better improve it.

February 09 2011

14:00

3 Key Topics for the NetSquared Community: Part 3, Network Narrative

Over the last two weeks, we have posted parts 1 and 2 in a 3-part series, sharing some of our observations and planning concepts, and hoping to gather feedback and ideas from you. The first part in the series focused on Local and Gloal and the second highlighted opportunities to Expand our Impact. This week, we want to examine the ideas and framing for a Network Narrative - a topic we really think you can help with! As we share our early thinking about these areas of our work, we hope you’ll help to shape our thinking and direction by sharing your ideas, feedback and questions in the comments, or directly with us at net2@techsoup.org

Creating a Compelling Narrative

There’s lots going on and lots to talk about - whether it’s Project ideas that emerge and change the world, or Local groups that create the first opportunity to share and collaborate in diverse regions around the world. So, how do we pull it all together into a compelling narrative? One for funders vs one for techies, one for activists and one for organizations, and beyond? What’s the story that supports our work? And, from a strategic development perspective, maybe we need to further explore the difference between the overarching narrative and the various stories that support it and match the different groups within the network. Your story is the one we want to tell and we would love to hear how you see the NetSquared programs helping you change the world!

We are so thankful to have members willing to make time to share, ask questions, and dream with us. And we are so thankful to community members like you who share your ideas here! We are looking forward to continuing this conversation and can’t wait to see what ideas you share.

Some questions to get you started:

  • What is the story you see of this sector and your work?
  • How can we capture a compelling narrative that empowers you to get involved?
  • How would you tell the NetSquared story - how are the community-driven programs helping you change the world?

March 11 2010

18:25

Witness Creates Sophisticated Evaluation Tools for Video Impact

Last month, Jessica Clark and I explored how various Public Media 2.0 projects are measuring their level of success in informing and engaging publics. We found that many public media organizations are struggling to measure impact -- and some are relying only on traditional indicators of reach, as opposed to other elements of impact such as relevance, inclusion, engagement or influence. Some projects, however, are taking a more holistic approach that is matched closely to their mission.

The international human rights group Witness, which provides training, support and visibility for local groups producing documentaries about human rights issues, has created a Performance Dashboard that tracks more than just the number of viewers. Using "at a glance" metrics, descriptive analysis and direct feedback from participants, the Performance Dashboard provides a concise overview of impact.

It combines traditional metrics -- such as sales and licensing numbers, email subscriptions, blog statistics -- with more nuanced data, including a timeline indicating progress of core partnerships. These reports are published twice per year on the Witness website, and they are made available to other organizations under a Creative Commons license.

witness_performancedashboard.jpg

Videos With a Purpose

Witness is able to efficiently track progress in large part because they begin each media project with clear advocacy goals. According to Sam Gregory, Witness's program director, all work "springs out of an advocacy strategy." He said Witness is focused on "making videos for a purpose as opposed to making videos about an issue."

Each video project starts with the completion of a Video Action Plan, which encourages partners to think purposefully about intended impact, avenues for action, and measures of success.

Some of these measures of success are particularly striking. For example, Witness worked with the Centre for Minority Rights Development (CEMIRIDE), a human rights organization, to create a film about the displaced Endorois community in Kenya. The film ended up being presented as evidence in a landmark case in which the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights ruled in favor of the Endorois community. Last month, the African Union, the highest legal authority in Africa, ruled in favor of the earlier decision and ordered the Kenyan government to provide the Endorois with compensation and reinstate their land.

While a direct causal link can be difficult to prove, clearly this film did its job. In a case such as this, the element of impact that is most important is influence, not reach. Gregory explained that even if only a few people saw the film, the film achieved its desired impact because they were the people with the power to decide the case.

New Focus: User-Generated Video

Witness hopes to broaden its impact with a new strategic vision that addresses the exponential growth in user-generated video. The organization is focusing on how user-generated video can be used by human rights advocates. (MediaShift reported on the organization's earlier experiments with viral video in 2006.) Witness currently trains about 500 people in human rights filmmaking across the globe per year, and recognizes the need to shift to a more scalable training approach. One of the ways that Witness will make this shift is by developing shared virtual spaces for fostering discussion on what works and what doesn't.

Yvette J. Alberdingk Thijm, Witness's executive director, explained the strategy in a blog post:

Right now and right here Witness, with your help, can exponentially expand its impact. But the demand for our services is far greater than our capacity. Witness's New Strategic Vision is designed to scale our impact. So beginning in 2010, in addition to continuing to train and support individual grassroots organizations, Witness will forge relationships among organizations and networks, creating a broader, more interconnected global human rights community. By doing this, we'll play a seminal role in forging coalitions that seek shared goals, with video emerging as the common language across all types of borders. In addition, we will scale our work by creating video toolkits and other web tools that facilitate knowledge sharing.

With the new focus on networked campaigns, in some ways, impact will become more difficult for Witness to track. What is the most effective way to measure impact when the media in question spans across so many different modes, timeframes, countries and (sometimes overlapping) networks?

In the future, Witness will likely spend more energy tracking the connections that form within and among networks. The Witness team is currently working through the process of adding new categories to the current Performance Dashboard.

The dashboard offers a great model for other media projects. But it's also clear that projects without similar, specific advocacy goals will likely have a harder time making use of the tool. Outlets and creators with more neutral goals of spurring discussion or raising awareness may have to turn to some of the existing impact assessment toolkits -- or perhaps even develop their own.

Katie Donnelly is Associate Research Director at the Center for Social Media at American University where she blogs about the future of public media. With a background in media literacy education, Katie previously worked as a Research Associate at Temple University's Media Education Lab in Philadelphia. When she's not researching media, Katie spends her time working in the environmental field and blogging about food.

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