Mural from Semarang, Indonesia. Photo credit: Shadrock Roberts

Uncovering Local Networks – The Resilience Network Initiative

A dispatch from 100RC Platform Partner Ushahidi about their innovative Resilience Network Initiative:

Ushahidi’s new Resilience Network Initiative (RNI) connects city governments and citizens with technology that makes it easier for individuals, community-based organizations, and government to exchange information about stresses and shocks they encounter and existing capacities for response. Well-placed technology supports strong social networks, enabling these populations to respond easily and share significantly better information, holistically increasing the effectiveness and capacity for response within each city. RNI helps identify key stakeholders, deploys the appropriate technology, and provides services and support for using existing or new crowdsourcing tools, all to help city governments communicate better with their citizens for rapid response and shorter feedback loops.

As a 100 Resilient Cities platform partner, we’re part of a group of organizations from the private, public, academic, and non-profit sectors that work with cities – both their governments and other actors like community-based organizations in the city – to identify the right tools for this complex job.

The Local Landscape

RNI starts working in a new city by focusing on understanding the local landscape of community leaders, volunteer organizations, and other groups who strive to improve their city. We start with questions:

  • Who is the most active?
  • What services are being offered?
  • What challenges are being faced?
  • What services are needed?
  • What are their concerns, capacities, and plans these citizens have for the future?
  • How do they define resilience in their city?

Uncovering these networks or helping to build them requires time. We follow the many leads, introductions, and suggestions that each person we speak to offers up. The result is a more complete picture of the city and all its vibrant pieces. This work answers questions such as, “who is the best person to train women on technology?” or “who has the best ability to coordinate volunteers in a disaster?” and “where is the most critically vulnerable part of this city?”

These networks are valuable assets for communities but can remain undiscovered. When this is true, every new initiative in a city is at risk of re-starting this investigative process, potentially duplicating the work of their predecessors without adding to it.

Why Networks?

We work to build these networks in some cities, and help governments connect to existing networks in others; in doing so, we ensure the right kinds of connections are built.

In Semarang, Indonesia we’re providing tools that neighborhoods can use to report on issues that are important to them, in a way that local government will understand. We train community-based organizations on the tools and how to train others in their area. We share strategies for finding and connecting to other groups who share similar resilience challenges or capacity. And we work with the Chief Resilience Officer to ensure that this information can be used to improve the way the city operates.

Our tools allow for cities, individuals, or communities to collect the information that is important to them; whatever the specific context or challenge they face. Local governments have used Ushahidi to improve urban service delivery in Ireland and for community mobilization against gender-based violence in Cairo. We have also supported or provided our tools for several other networks that align with the goals of 100 Resilient Cities.

Transparency 

The transparency of our own work is at the core of our vision of success. We make all of our processes and software available free online, open source so anyone can access it. RNI uses Ushahidi’s tools to provide open data about how we work, where we work, and who we are working with. You can use the platforms below to join our journey, follow along, and add your voice to the conversations:

You can follow RNI’s progress via Open Explorer, which gives a short summary of all RNI activities and maps our progress as the Initiative evolves.

You can also see and download data about where we’re working via our deployment of Ushahidi, which allows you to download geographic data and activity summaries or connect to them via API for use in a geographic information system or other map applications.

You can see who we’re talking to and following by accessing our Twitter lists for Boulder, USA and Semarang, Indonesia.

RNI is strongly influenced by the increasing desire for open data: to promote transparency, to drive innovation, to facilitate participatory governance, and to improve coordination. By sharing information about the groups we work with, we hope to give greater exposure to hard working local organizations and allow them to be discovered by others who might not have known where to look. The Twitter lists for each city also offer a quick and easy way to get a glimpse of the activities happening in those cities and to identify potential partners for your projects or ideas.

Of course, our data and our contacts reflect how we work. They will not always be complete and will never represent the entire social life of a city. But by sharing what we know, as well as how we know it, we are committing to the same coordination, transparency, and collaboration that are at the heart of who we are. And these are essential priorities for a city that wants to engage all its stakeholders in a collaborative process involving free information exchanges.