Fariha Raisa, Feedback Labs | July 1st, 2022
Technology, policymaking, grassroots organizing, and evidence-based decision-making. These are at the heart of the solutions for projects undertaken by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI). Founded in 2019, CEI is a non-profit organization tackling various societal and development issues through entrepreneurial and social innovation. It has been creating innovative solutions in social entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and SME financing. Moreover, CEI aims to revive local language and literature and promote Nepali artisanal crafts for the income generation of disadvantaged artists.
For the purpose of strengthening community-led initiatives for civic involvement, CEI has developed a tool called Shaasan (meaning governance). This tool is a tech-enabled citizen-led initiative that promotes civic engagement and responsive governance. CEI recently came to LabStorms to discuss challenges related to this tool that involved hiring people with the right mix of skills and experience in civic engagement and technology, technological know-how to understand the workings of an app, and navigating through the complex and convoluted political systems and cultural factors that may hinder or aid their initiative.
- Civic engagements in times of COVID. The app allows citizens to report local civic issues, notify friends, communities and concerned civic/private organizations, and then act by mobilizing community-led change instead of waiting for the government. Discussions centered around the verification of the submitted information. If a large number of people report the same incident, it is more likely that the report is legitimate. If it pertains to a serious offense like robbery or assault, then videos are used as evidence that must be reported to the law enforcement agencies. If the information is false, then the user is flagged. It was also recommended to close the loop with citizens that their representative has taken no action on whether an event is unresolved and follow up if any step is undertaken.
- Informed decisions for technological know-how. As a non-profit that is not a tech company, it becomes too difficult to upkeep as it requires many resources in maintaining a platform. This means that lack of capacity from the team and lack of resources make it difficult to sustain a tech platform. As such, conversations revolved around outsourcing as opposed to an in-house tech team. A hybrid solution was proposed to have an in-house tech lead who can project-manage vendors. Participants also suggested creating a resource map of all the skills CEI has and list what it needs so that time and resources can be optimized. Furthermore, it was recommended to map out any possible presumptions that the tech partner may have in the case of possible tech partners.
- Scaling the tool for the greater good. Scaling a tech solution is often a hybrid of sourcing skills needed to build the platform if it is not a tech company. Attendees suggested using existing platforms that offer scaled capabilities and then dedicating internal owners that will help to manage and grow the platform. Moreover, user-centered design is essential as well, and it was recommended to plan out the data and user requirements long before the app is in the field with people logging in. Participants also warned of the possibility of being overly ambitious and suggested looking at smaller prototypes to help CEI get to the larger vision.
As the session drew to an end, CEI concluded with action steps following ideas from the participants. One of the major takeaways was conducting a resource mapping to uncover all needed components before diving into scaling the project. CEI also emphasized closing the loop with the citizens to keep them engaged throughout the process.
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