use collective intelligence

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Plan your action

  • Citizen reporting can work in many regions, although there will be differences based on both technology and your community's ease with using certain tools. This is one reason why Twitter is an effective tool in India: Indian Twitter users can post updates by text message on their mobile phones using a free short code, a service which is not available for all Twitter users worldwide.
  • You may not need to create a tool from scratch. Ushahidi, which was used to track violence in Madagascar, was first built for a similar project in Kenya. The Foko team didn’t have to create custom software, but they did need to adapt it to their campaign.
  • One form of live reporting is to collect spontaneous reports of current events, as the Mumbai attacks did. For this form of reporting to work, it’s important to have in place a network of bloggers and citizen reporters ready to publicise and respond to the live reporters' updates.
  • Another way of live reporting is to coordinate reporting in advance, like the Madagascar campaign did. This kind of reporting needs a strong outreach plan to engage potential citizen reporters. Traditional media can be used to raise awareness about the initiative.
  • There's growing power in community reporting. In the past 10 years, how news is made has changed considerably. Not only are communities making news of their own, but traditional media from radio to television are also including citizen reporting.

Do it yourselfAsk

  • How will field reporters get information to each other? Will you focus on mobile phones or the internet as a way of getting and sharing information?
  • Will you be trying to coordinate spontaneous reporting, or will you make a plan in advance with citizen journalists?
  • Is there an out-of-the-box tool you can use to compile reports, or will you need to make something of your own?
  • What’s your media plan/outreach plan? Live reporting campaigns tend to get as much press for the technology they use as for the issues they are raising. How will you manage this kind of media attention and the increase in reports it might bring?
  • For live reporting to have a strong impact, it must be connected to a timely or hot issue. What’s the timely event you can use to best engage your audience?
  • Consider the appropriate use of live reporting tools. What context does something like Ushahidi work best in? What limitations does it have for your campaign?
  • How can you avoid the problem that some of these systems only work when there are a lot of people become involved?

Different ways you can do this

  1. You can use mobile reporting to draw collective attention to an issue. Ask people to answer questions related to your campaign by sending in text messages or photos with their mobile phones. You can share these reports on a website or a mobile phone accessible website.
  2. Live reporting can keep advocates safe during a protest or action. Two tools people have used for this are Twitter and a mobile video program called Qik.com, with which advocates can share text and video updates on who may have been arrested, and draw attention to this news from supporters around the world.
  3. If mass media are not listening, or if your campaign faces censorship, advocates can use tools like Twitter or Ushahidi to report on direct actions. These reports can be used to leverage international media attention.
  4. If you have a fast connection to the internet, you can use live video to broadcast a campaign event live to the internet with a computer, a video camera (which may be built into your computer), and a live video program like Ustream.tv or Livestream.com.
  5. You can protect information from being confiscated by sharing it across a network of trusted supporters. if people have captured photos or videos they can share them with others located outside of the risk area by phone-to-phone file transfer, or by email, and can then delete them from their phones.