Development · ICT4D · Meetups · Participation · Technology

Participatory Technology – Meeting Up on the South Coast (#tech4socialchange)

The Scene…

Friday September 27th 2013, a dark room above The Quadrant in Brighton, having lost my guest speaker and my MC, and experiencing the obligatory technical problems with the projector, beginning to panic a little…

(One day I plan to attend a conference of the Institute of Projector Technicians, see if *they* have the same problems as the rest of us!)

Turn my back to stare at a broken cable, and 2mins later, Robert Chambers and a supporting cast from the Institute of Development Studies are there, and about a dozen people have trickled upstairs without me noticing – considering it’s still 15mins before the posted arrival time and the last event had a total of 4 turn up, things are looking up!

IMG_2281Cut to 30mins in the future…  A crowded room, barely a spare seat, slightly too busy if anything, and definitely too dark . . .and me at the front getting smacked on the head by a roll of flipchart paper by Chambers for inadvertently introducing him as “esteemed” – rookie mistake, and odd considering it’s a word I have never used before in my life – ah the joys of my hatred of public speaking!

All-in-all I think I can safely say that the 3rd attempt at a Brighton “ICT4D Meetup” was an undoubted success.  It’s (now broadened out slightly to Technology for Social Change, to ensure people doing interesting social/tech work locally can participate and share experiences with those doing similar work overseas.  I think there was also a healthy mix of academics vs. practitioners vs. technologists – and the fact that about 20 people were still nattering away an hour after the ‘official’ end – well that’s gotta be a good thing right?

So, for those of you who couldn’t make it… What did you miss..?

  1. Introduction by Robert ChambersRobert Chambers‘ElePhants in the Room’ – always good to see Robert’s engaging style of talking, and I think this session set the tone really well for the speakers who followed – helping make sure they focused on the key topics of participation and power and not just the technology or development angles.  Nice set of Who Whose Questions to help get people thinking too…
  2. Series of Lighting Talks
    Great speakers, academics, practitioners, technology-focused projects, developmental work, local stuff.  Great mix and really inspiring stuff…Thanks to all the speakers (some of the presentations are linked below too)…

    • Mark Robinson, DfID (Making All Voices Count: Using technology to promote engagement and feedback on government service
    • Oliver Bettany, On Our Radar (Using mobile to train / support reporters from isolated and excluded communities to share news and influence policy)
    • Rachel Masika, University of Brighton (Barriers to women’s participation in mobile-phone mediated services)
    • Olivia Comberti, Anansi Digital (Mobile App and Participatory Research – helping people share their life goals and support each other in realising these)
    • Alan Jackson, Aptivate (Agile, Development, Integrity?)
    • Katharina Welle, STEPS Centre, University of Sussex (Can ICTs help to make water supply schemes in Sub-Saharan Africa more sustainable?  A proof of concept is still needed.)
    • Purna Shrestha, VSO (Using ICT for social change, increasing accountability & transparency)
    • Joe Press, Royal Holloway University (Community engagement & appraisal of participatory video in Sri Lanka)

    Particular highlights for me were Rachel, Katharina and Joe for pointing out the potential pitfalls, failures and potential negative effects of technology – something the ICT4D community often seems blind to; my colleague Alan from Aptivate for bringing together the work we do abroad and the way we live/work at home – integrity and ‘walking the walk’ being critical, and Olivia for just being so passionate, open and honest about her plans and goals – refreshing and I really hope it comes together!

  3. ‘worldPub discussions’
    Slightly less effective I have to confess was my attempt to create an informal version of World Cafe and Knowledge Cafe learning groups – slightly glibly called worldPub discussions, that focuses on networking and collaboration and not just learning.  I’d love any feedback on this, as I still think the idea works, but the venue wasn’t great for it, I didn’t introduce it that well, and didn’t have time to explain the process to the table ‘hosts’.  Ah well maybe next time!

All in all though – over 50 people, everyone seemed to enjoy it, have fun and get a lot out of it, will try to arrange another theme for November/December.  Any offers to help arrange would be much appreciated!!

Particular thanks must go to Aptivate for giving me the latitude to run with this idea, for supporting (I’d say “sponsoring” but that’s a bit too freemarket-capitalist) the event, and in particularly for offering all the attendees a free ‘Loband’ Report (to see how to make sure their websites can be seen by most people in developing countries, it probably can’t right now!)

If you didn’t make it, watch this space, join the Meetup Group, or keep tabs on the Twitter hashtag #tech4socialchange to make sure you don’t miss the next one!

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