A crowdmap of votes in BRAC’s informal, unscientific poll of its community network’s priorities for development after 2015.
Crowdmapping is an undeniably cool tool in development. It’s amazing that we now can take data from people scattered all over the place, who don’t know each other, and easily consolidate it into a central, often beautiful and transparent website.
BRAC often uses crowdmapping, but traditionally it’s the old-school, low-tech style. We sit with community members to draw out important details of a neighborhood: gathering points, extremely poor households, toilets, etc. Often the first draft is drawn in the dirt, and then converted to hard paper form.
This dialogue of collaborative map making has important social effects that enable BRAC, its volunteers, and community groups to gain support and work more effectively.
But what if we could leverage this very solid network of grassroots’ presence for quick, informal polls?
That question confronted us in the middle of a discussion on what the world’s development agenda should be after 2015, post-Millennium Development Goals. We decided to do an experiment—to leverage our community forums to run a non-scientific, nationwide poll.
The open-source, crowdmapping platform, Ushahidi, advertises that it can be set up within minutes. While it took us a little longer, within a week we were prepared to receive responses via SMS and automatically catalogue them by district of origin and vote.
Local BRAC staff members, the program organizers who are always present during these meetings, conducted the poll, spending a few minutes at the end of the meeting to read the question, possible responses, and count the votes. For each meeting, we received just one vote, representing the most popular response. The results immediately came up on the crowd map.
I was on a field visit in Narsingdi the first day that the polls were open. After a full day of visits and meetings, I came back to the regional office, where I promptly opened my laptop to look at the map, and see if there was any activity. Indeed, over 200 votes had already been posted. I thought that was a lot! Little did I know it was just getting started. By the end of the week, we had reached 2,600 votes. A week later, when we closed the poll, we were close to 12,000 votes, conservatively representing over 175,000 participants.
The results are interesting. In each of Bangladesh’s six divisions, education was the top priority, receiving 36 percent of all votes. Health, sanitation, and electricity were tied, each with about 15 percent of votes. Together, these four categories represent about 80 percent of all votes. While there are significant methodological limitations, the emergence of education as a top community priority is supported by other community consultations, such as the UN’s recently published “my world” report, another attempt to making the priority-setting process more inclusive.
Most exciting from my standpoint is that we now have a “new,” easy-to-implement tool of grassroots polling by SMS. Our frontline staff demonstrated that they can execute surveys of this kind. How else can we use this tool to map grassroots ideas, preferences, or events nationally?
It didn’t take long for a second use case to emerge. For the events held on Valentine’s Day (February 14th), BRAC staff and clients participated in the “One Billion Rising” activities, mobilizing people across several countries to demand an end to violence against women. In Bangladesh, we asked staff to count and SMS the number of people who participated in the local events. In each of the 64 districts, our district BRAC representative (DBR) sent an SMS will the total number of participants for his or her district. These went directly to a crowdmap. Within hours, we had calculated that an approximate 2.6 million people had been mobilized in BRAC’s activities across Bangladesh.
What’s the next opportunity to apply this application? I’m not sure, but I’m excited to find out.
What other frugal and powerful tools are out there that we haven’t discovered? If you think you have one, apply to join us at the first Frugal Innovation Forum organized by BRAC’s Social Innovation Lab. The event will take place March 30-31 in Savar, Bangladesh. Don’t wait to apply; the deadline is this Thursday, February 21!
We live in an innovation obsessed world. Organisations across sectors have made innovating an explicit priority. Many are devising deliberate strategies to foster innovation. In 2012, BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, developed the Social Innovation Lab for this purpose. We step out from the researcher’s cubicle and explore innovations happening on the frontlines. As we try to determine what works and what doesn’t, and why and how, we often come across innovators who are doing extraordinary work; yet, they are relatively unknown. This map is an effort to put innovators across South Asia on a simple, open platform.
The idea that organisations can improve their work by interacting with their peers is at the heart of the Social Innovation Lab’s “Doing while learning” initiative. The project aims to encourage dialogue amongst South Asian innovators with the goal of creating a better understanding of how social innovations scale and to map the South Asian innovation ecosystem.
Our first task was figuring out who the existing innovators are. Some of them we could find by searching the web and others we found on trips through India and Bangladesh (we hope to visit Pakistan soon to increase our connections there). There are many innovative organisations, but it was difficult to find one comprehensive list. We’ve developed this map to ignite a global discussion regarding low-cost, high impact innovation, or what we like to call frugal innovation.
At our Frugal Innovation Forum, in late March, we asked organisations to share the names of their innovative South Asian colleagues. Their insights are the key input of this map. From BRAC’s 41 years of experience in this region, we know that social innovations are not new to South Asia. However many of them aren’t on the web, and that makes them invisible to the global North.
The international development sector is often perceived as less innovative. The reality is that a scarcity of resources has pushed the development sector of South Asia to a point where innovation is not a buzzword, it is essential.
We know that scaling innovations continues to challenge many innovators. However, partnerships can be a great way to increase an organisation’s impact. If you are looking for innovative partners, you should take a look at this map.
When we think about innovation, we tend to think of fancy gadgets, but many of these organisations based their model on a low-tech idea. The map includes Dnet, in Bangladesh, which trains and funds female entrepreneurs in rural areas. A young woman riding on her bicycle and carrying a laptop to provide internet-based services in the rural areas is no longer a shocking scene in Bangladesh. They are known as Infoladies, an interesting example of empowering women and village communities.
If you want to see a game-changing innovation, consider the example of Goonj. It has made clothing accessible to some of India’s poorest by creating a way for middle class Indians to donate their used clothing.
Increasingly, there is recognition of the importance of a facilitating ecosystem, or the “Silicon Valley effect”. Innovators need inspiration, support, and collaborators. That’s why Aavishkaar provides venture capital financing and management support to socially conscious, environmentally friendly, and commercially viable ventures in rural areas – those without access to established financial institutions. By covering the last mile, it is demonstrating the power of venture capital and its ability to transform rural innovations into viable microenterprises.
This map is just a starting point – we hope it is a platform for connecting and making the richness of the South Asian ecosystems for social innovation more apparent and accessible. If you are interested in learning more about South Asian innovators, check out the map and add innovative South Asian organisations that you know about. You can also post your comments and raise the “credibility” of each organisation. We encourage you to explore the many social innovations across South Asia!
Amanda Misiti is a Knowledge Management and Communications Officer for BRAC’s Social Innovation Lab. @ajoymisiti
Anjali Sarker is the Bangladesh focal point for Ashoka and a consultant to the BRAC Social Innovation Lab. @anjalisarker
We are excited to officially announce the winners of the innovation fund for mobile money challenge! These projects were selected from the 100 ideas that were submitted on the innovation fund challenge web site, reviewed by external advisors, and finally decided on by an internal judging panel. These projects will be implemented over the course of the next year by BRAC in Bangladesh—so stay tuned for many more updates!
(Nearly) cashless branch: This pilot undertaken by the integrated development programme is a move towards creating cashless BRAC branches in the remote char areas (riverine islands created and destroyed by floods and erosion). Given the transportation challenges and limited access to financial services in these areas, mobile money will make it easier for both BRAC clients and staff.
Mobile micro-insurance: Most of BRAC’s clients lack access to traditional forms of insurance. Through a joint collaboration, the microfinance programme and outsider partners will offer micro-insurance with low, flexible premiums using mobile technology to poor households. It will offer protection for incidents like accidents and illnesses.
Flexible school fee payments for secondary schools: Paying school fees can be a challenge for low-income parents. To address this, the BRAC University Institute of Educational Development will introduce a flexible payment scheme using bKash at the SSCOPE low-cost secondary schools. Parents can pay without needing to come to the school premises each time.
Adolescent savings: To encourage savings behaviour among adolescent girls and provide easy access to safe savings, the education programme will work with their adolescent clubs to encourage the habit of mobile savings among its youth club members. Adoption of technology is higher among youth, so this can drive adoption and create a lifetime savings habit.
Young women participate in a kishori or adolescent club. photo credit: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani
Mobile payments for community health workers: This initiative by health, nutrition and population programme will look to improve operational efficiency, transparency and security by integrating mobile money instead of cash to disburse honorariums and incentives to thousands of workers.
Relief vouchers for disaster victims: When a disaster strikes, the most important thing is ensuring that the most vulnerable can access relief as soon as possible. To respond to this need, the disaster, environment and climate change programme will develop a mobile voucher system that enables clients to directly access goods from local businesses, who will be reimbursed via mobile money by BRAC.
Damages as the result of tidal water and a landslide in the Bandarban area of Bangladesh. photo credit: BRAC
Mobile disaster relief funds: For disasters like evictions, garment factory fires, and floods it is difficult to mobilise funds quickly, even though many would like to donate. The disaster, environment and climate change programme will set up a simple donation platform that enables them to send money via their mobile phones. This idea originated from a university student in Chittagong.
All of the authors work with the BRAC social innovation lab.
KERRY GLASGOWIS HUMANITY'S LAST BEST CHANCE - Join search for Sustainaabilty's Curricula
101ways-generation.docx 101 ways education can save the world WHAT IF WE DESIGNED LIFELONG LIVELIHOOD LOEARNING SO THAT so that teachers & students, parent & communities were empowered to be ahead of 100 times more tech rather than the remnants of a system that puts macihnes and their exhausts ahead of human life and nature's renewal 2016 is arguably the first time thet educatirs became front and centre to the question that Von neummn asked journalist to mediate back in 1951- what goods will peoples do with 100 times more tech per decade? It appears that while multilaterals like the Un got used in soundbite and twittering ages to claim they valued rifghts & inclusion, pubblic goods & safety, they fotgot theirUN tech twin in Genva has been practising global connectivity since 1865, that dellow Goats of V neumnn has chiared Intellectual Cooperation in the 1920s which pervesrely became the quasi trade union Unesco- it took Abedian inspired educations in 2016 ro reunite ed and tecah as well as health and trade ; 7 decades of the UN not valuing Numenn's question at its core is quite late, but if we dare graviate UN2 aeound this digital coperation question now we give the younger half if the world a chnace especially as a billion poorest women have been synchronised to deep community human development since 1970
Dear Robert - you kindly asked for a short email so that you could see if there is a CGTN anchor in east coast who might confidentially share views with my expectation of how only Asian young women cultural movements (parenting and community depth but amplified by transparent tech in life shaping markets eg health, food, nature..) can return sustainability to all of us
three of my father's main surveys in The Economist 1962-1977 explain imo where future history will take us (and so why younger half of world need friendship/sustainable adaptation with Chinese youth -both on mainland and diaspora)
1962 consider japan approved by JF Kennedy: argued good news - 2 new economic models were emerging through japan korea south and taiwan relevant to all Asia Rising (nrxt to link the whole trading/supply chains of the far east coast down through hong kong and cross-seas at singapore)
1 rural keynsianism ie 100% productivity in village first of all food security- borlaug alumni ending starvation
2 supercity costal trade models which designed hi-tech borderless sme value chains- to build a 20 million person capital or an 8 million person superport you needed the same advances in engineering - partly why this second economic model was win-win for first time since engines begun Glasgow 1760 ; potentially able to leverage tech giant leaps 100 times ahead; the big opportunity von neumann had gifted us - knowhow action networking multiply value application unlike consuming up things
1976 entrepreneurial revolution -translated into italian by prodi - argued that future globalisation big politics big corporate would need to be triangularised by community scaled sme networks- this was both how innovation advancing human lot begins and also the only way to end poverty in the sense of 21st C being such that next girl born can thrive because every community taps in diversity/safety/ valuing child and health as conditions out of which intergenerational economic growth can spring
IN MORE DETAIL TECH HUMAN EXPONENTIALS LAST CHANCE DECADE?
- we are in midst of unprecedented exponential change (dad from 1960s called death of distance) the tech legacy of von neumann (dad was his biographer due to luckily meeting him in his final years including neumann's scoping of brain science (ie ai and human i) research which he asked yale to continue in his last lecture series). Exponential risks of extinction track to mainly western top-down errors at crossroads of tech over last 60 years (as well as non transparent geonomic mapping of how to reconcile what mainly 10 white empires had monopoly done with machines 1760-1945 and embedded in finance - see eg keynes last chapter of general theory of money); so our 2020s destiny is conditioned by quite simple local time-stamped details but ones that have compounded so that root cause and consequence need exact opposite of academic silos- so I hope there are some simple mapping points we can agree sustainability and chinese anchors in particular are now urgently in the middle of
Both my fatherwww.normanmacrae.netat the economist and I (eg co-authoring 1984 book2025 report,retranslated to 1993 sweden's new vikings) have argued sustainability in early 21st c will depend mostly on how asians as 65% of humans advance and how von neumann (or moores law) 100 times more tech every decade from 1960s is valued by society and business.
My father (awarded Japan's Order of Rising Sun and one time scriptwriter for Prince Charles trips to Japan) had served as teen allied bomber command burma campaign - he therefore had google maps in his head 50 years ahead of most media people, and also believed the world needed peace (dad was only journalist at messina birth of EU ) ; from 1960 his Asian inclusion arguments were almost coincidental to Ezra Vogel who knew much more about Japan=China last 2000 years ( additionally cultural consciousness of silk road's eastern dynamics not golden rule of Western Whites) and peter drucker's view of organisational systems
(none of the 10 people at the economist my father had mentored continued his work past 1993- 2 key friends died early; then the web turned against education-journalism when west coast ventures got taken over by advertising/commerce instead of permitting 2 webs - one hi-trust educational; the other blah blah. sell sell .sex sell. viral trivial and hate politicking)
although i had worked mainly in the far east eg with unilever because of family responsibilities I never got to china until i started bumping into chinese female graduates at un launch of sdgs in 2015- I got in 8 visits to beijing -guided by them around tsinghua, china centre of globalisation, a chinese elder Ying Lowrey who had worked on smes in usa for 25 years but was not jack ma's biographer in 2015 just as his fintech models (taobao not alibaba) were empowering villagers integration into supply chains; there was a fantastic global edutech conference dec 2016 in Tsinghua region (also 3 briefings by Romano Prodi to students) that I attended connected with great womens education hero bangladesh'sfazle abed; Abed spent much of hs last decade hosting events with chinese and other asian ambassadors; unite university graduates around sdg projects the world needed in every community but which had first been massively demonstrated in asia - if you like a version of schwarzman scholars but inclusive of places linking all deepest sustainability goals challenges
and i personally feel learnt a lot from 3 people broadcasting from cgtn you and the 2 ladies liu xin and tian wei (they always seemed to do balanced interviews even in the middle of trump's hatred campaigns), through them I also became a fan of father and daughter Jin at AIIB ; i attended korea's annual general meet 2017 of aiib; it was fascinating watching bankers for 60 countries each coming up with excuses as to why they would not lead on infrastructure investments (even though the supercity economic model depends on that)
Being a diaspora scot and a mathematician borders (managers who maximise externalisation of risks) scare me; especially rise of nationalist ones ; it is pretty clear historically that london trapped most of asia in colomisdation ; then bankrupted by world war 2 rushed to independence without the un or anyone helping redesign top-down systems ; this all crashed into bangladesh the first bottom up collaboration women lab ; ironically on health, food security, education bangladesh and chinese village women empowerment depended on sharing almost every village microfranchise between 1972 and 2000 especially on last mile health networking
in dads editing of 2025 from 1984 he had called for massive human awareness by 2001 of mans biggest risk being discrepancies in incomes and expectations of rich and poor nations; he suggested that eg public broadcast media could host a reality tv end poverty entrepreneur competition just as digital media was scaling to be as impactful as mass media
that didnt happen and pretty much every mess - reactions to 9/11, failure to do ai of epidemics as priority from 2005 instead of autonomous cars, failure to end long-term carbon investments, subprime has been rooted in the west not having either government nor big corporate systems necessary to collaboratively value Asian SDG innovations especially with 5g
nye:csis jan2020 dc the greatest debate help search 2025NOW.COM
I am not smart enough to understand how to thread all the politics now going on but in the event that any cgtn journalist wants to chat especially in dc where we could meet I do not see humans preventing extinction without maximising chinese youth (particularly womens dreams); due to covid we lost plans japan had to relaunch value of female athletes - so this and other ways japan and china and korea might have regained joint consciousness look as if they are being lost- in other words both cultural and education networks (not correctly valued by gdp news headlines) may still be our best chance at asian women empowerment saving us all from extinction but that needs off the record brainstorming as I have no idea what a cgtn journalist is free to cover now that trump has turned 75% of americans into seeing china as the enemy instead of looking at what asian policies of usa hurt humans (eg afghanistan is surely a human wrong caused mostly by usa); a; being a diaspora scot i have this naive idea that we need to celebrate happiness of all peoples an stop using media to spiral hatred across nations but I expect that isnt something an anchor can host generally but for example if an anchor really loves ending covid everywhere then at least in that market she needs to want to help united peoples, transparency of deep data etc
please map how and why - more than 3 in 4 scots earn their livelihoods worldwide not in our homeland- that requires hi-trust as well as hi-tech to try to love all cultures and nature's diversity- until mcdonalds you could use MAC OR MC TO identify our community engaging networks THAT SCALED ROUND STARTING UP THE AGE OF HUMANS AND MACHINES OF GKASGOW UNI 1760 12 3 - and the microfranchises they aimed to sustain locally around each next child born - these days scots hall of fame started in 1760s around adam smith and james watt and 195 years later glasgow engineering BA fazle abed - we hope biden unites his irish community building though cop26 -ditto we hope kamalA values gandhi- public service - but understand if he or she is too busy iN DC 2021 with covid or finding which democrats or republicans or american people speak bottom-up sustainable goals teachers and enrrepreneurs -zoom with firstname.lastname@example.org if you are curious - fanily foundation of the economist's norman macrae- explorer of whether 100 times more tehc every decade since 1945 would end poverty or prove orwell's-big brother trumps -fears correct 2025report.com est1984 or the economist's entreprenerialrevolutionstarted up 1976 with italy/franciscan romano prodi