MobLab equips social change campaigners with the tools to be creative, collaborative, people-powered, and nimble in today’s fast-moving and connected world. Through their trainings and workshops, they blend systems thinking with design thinking to help campaigners or activist organizations get out of their own bubble and connect with people they aim to engage in their campaigns.
MobLab is founded on the belief that campaigns are most effective when organizers include constituents in the design and implementation of campaigns. But how can they encourage participatory methods and feedback during COVID-19 — when resources are more constrained than ever and when rapid response often means excluding people from the process? MobLab came to the LabStorm group for advice on measuring the impact of participatory design and feedback work in order to show its value at this unique time. Here is what LabStorm attendees recommended:
Use depth as a measure of success. At a nonprofit or aid agency, it can be challenging to measure the impact of feedback and participatory design on program outcomes. In a campaign environment, it’s even harder. Social issue campaigns operate in complex systems with many variables, so it is difficult to show causality of campaign design in creating results. In order to measure the impact of participatory campaigns, LabStorm participants suggested that MobLab focus on the depth of uptake in a given community. MobLab can use metrics such as the number of reshared materials to see how much targeted audiences are spreading the word deeper into their networks. Participants also recommended that MobLab measure impact in long time frames. Social change doesn’t happen overnight, so MobLab may not see the impact of their participatory design methods in short time frames. One attendee noted that in their activism work, they insist on decade-long timeframes for measuring the impact of their work. MobLab can use a similar approach to make sure the are not missing any of their success by cutting their measurement time short.
Note changes in the campaign ecosystem. Beyond measuring success by looking at the depth of their campaign uptake, MobLab can look at the social issues that campaigns support and evaluate the social issues’ progress on a larger scale. LabStorm participants noted that campaigns are not just about boosting so-called vanity metrics but changing the landscape so other organizations and campaigns emerge. MobLab can measure “ecosystem-change” as another metric of success. Attendees agreed that funders could play a big role in changing the landscape by supporting efforts to determine if a campaign is reaching more people across a specific geography or if more people are becoming involved in an issue over time.
Show how participatory design shifts power. Participatory planning gives communities impacted by a given campaign seat at the table and ensures that campaign plans come from an informed and equitable perspective. During COVID-19, campaigners risk perpetuating oppressive systems if they skip listening to the communities they impact. MobLab can emphasize the power shifting aspect of participatory design in order to garner support for community engagement work during an exceptionally busy time. LabStorm attendees applauded MobLab for supporting pilot projects for culture change, and encouraged MobLab to invest more time and resources in power building projects that have shown success in testing.
This LabStorm emphasized the challenge of measuring causality and impact in complex social change ecosystems. Have you seen examples of participatory design making a difference for campaigners and activists? Do you have an idea for how MobLab can measure the impact of their feedback and participatory planning work? Please leave a comment below or email [email protected].