let people ask the questions

download this tactic card (pdf 744kb)

Oneworld image of person using mobile phone

Plan your action

  • Find a way to source your information. Infonet's Budget Tracking campaign consisted of government data, data collected by local social development groups and information from text message queries and visitors to the website. In this way Infonet used crowd-sourcing to collect data that helped create new information, as well as to verify existing data.
  • Any text message platform you choose will need to be customised in order to meet your users' needs. Some platforms work well for relaying current news by sending the same messages to many people and others are better for providing unique answers to questions asked by different people.
  • Working with text messages, data, or voice transmission for mobile phones may require negotiations with telecommunications companies which can be time-consuming and costly. Ask other people in your country how they have achieved this and see which providers may offer a bulk or discount rate to not-for-profit organisations.
  • Some information may be better conveyed on websites or spoken through voice services like Freedom Fone. Many campaigns use a combination of methods to maximise reach.
  • While tracking, you may be able to ascertain which regions have the greatest participation based on mobile numbers or by using quick surveys sent via text message.

Do it yourselfAsk

  • How will you collect the data you will be making available to people, and what sources can you trust?
  • Will you permit people to add their own data to your campaign?
  • Is there an out-of-the-box tool you can use to collect queries and transmit information, or will you need to create a tool of your own?
  • What’s your media/outreach plan to maximise participation?
  • Is there a timely event that your campaign can connect with to encourage more people to pay attention to your issue?
  • In addition to putting needed facts in people’s hands, is there a target, (a person or organisation) who can make the change you want to see, that you can ask people to speak to directly?
  • Your campaign may involve collecting and broadcasting sensitive information over telecommunications networks. What security and privacy concerns exist and how will you address them?

Different ways you can do this

  1. To prevent users being charged for mobile messages to you, you can buy a short code from a telecommunications provider. Short codes are designed to be shorter and easier to remember than normal mobile numbers. Shared short codes can be much more affordable than dedicated numbers.
  2. To engage audiences where a straightforward question-and-answer approach may not be persuasive, you can offer information in the form of entertaining and educational quizzes.
  3. Pose a question on a controversial topic and collect opinions through text or voice messages. In response, send back a fact or a resource to connect your audience to more information.
  4. If you get consent from people, you can use their contact information to re-connect with them for future actions.
  5. At an action or demonstration, ask supporters to send a text message if they would like you to send them alerts during the action: about police activity, safety measures they can take, and legal or medical support.