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Building social connectedness and mutual cooperation within communities in crisis through a trusted, multilingual hyperlocal social network

AtmaGo: Neighbors helping Neighbors app to strengthen social cohesion between migrant and host communities on Colombia/Venezuela border.

Photo of Meena Palaniappan
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

There is a complex humanitarian crisis on the long and porous border of Colombia and Venezuela, that involves indigenous people (primarily the Wayuu community) and migrants from Venezuela. A critical gap in communication, exacerbated by a language barrier, has led to poor information flow, lack of services, tension between migrants and host communities, and increases in gender-based violence. Migration services generally target new arrivals, further disenfranchising already-marginalized host communities like the Wayuu. The Wayuu host community inhabits both sides of the border, circulating freely between the two countries, sometimes with no documentation from either country. Indigenous people in Colombia have a disproportionately high mortality rate -- in 2018, for children under five years of age, the mortality rate was 24.1 children for every 100,000. While the United Nations country office has made an effort to prioritize prevention and response to gender-based violence, the issue continues to be widespread in Colombia. Our project will introduce AtmaGo, a hyper-local social network that bridges communities across languages, for use by host communities and migrants along the Colombia/Venezuela border, in partnership with the American Red Cross, Translators without Borders, the Colombian Red Cross, and Mobile Network Operators. AtmaGo is rooted in the idea that through a pro-social and pro-connectedness platform, neighbors can help neighbors not only access vital needs that can save lives, but also fulfill their fundamental human need for connection and mutual support. The anticipated impact of the project will be to build and amplify pro-social peer-to-peer communication that will allow communities (indigenous people speaking Wayuu and Venezuelan migrants speaking Spanish) to interact and collaborate on shared priorities, access vital resources, build trust and social connectedness, and reduce conflict.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

The Maicao and Riohacha Municipalities, on the Colombia/Venezuela border. Red Cross, in their humanitarian work in the region, found that the needs and opportunities faced by migrants and Colombians were issues addressed by AtmaGo in disaster contexts in Indonesia. These include prevalent misinformation, conflict, and an opportunity to amplify community-led mutual support and psychosocial support activities. The platform will complement and extend the impact of ongoing humanitarian activities.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

AtmaGo is driven by community participation, human-centered design and end-user needs, to reduce conflict and violence, and increase cooperative work. AtmaGo technology creates connections between and among people within the same village or town, rather than based on pre-existing friend networks that might be more geographically disparate. AtmaGo elevates pro-social ideas and creates connections that release knowledge, so people can help each other with critical information and solutions.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Our work builds on evidence that social connectedness is linked to social reciprocity, and meaningful interactions. AtmaGo was built to amplify and create opportunities for mutual support, and our in-person events solidify relationships and build meaningful connections with local community members. An independently conducted impact evaluation of the use of AtmaGo corroborates that the app contributes to the improvement of social cohesion and 79% of users found AtmaGo “very” or “extremely” helpful in connecting them with the community (Centre for Innovation Policy and Governance, 2018). Only AtmaGo encourages citizens to take collective action, to organize, and to share knowledge and skills to improve the community. AtmaGo is trusted by its users -- content is moderated so that misinformation is tackled at the root. IDEO.org conducted a study that found 81% of AtmaGo users trusted AtmaGo, compared to their lack of trust in government platforms or other social networks.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

In complex humanitarian crises, host communities and migrant populations face rising tensions, a lack of effective communication about vital services, gender-based violence, and language issues that lead to miscommunication. By introducing AtmaGo and associated visual and audio translation of user generated content, we will see the following impacts: -Increased social cohesion between migrant and host communities through peer-to-peer communication in two languages -Governments and NGOs are able to disseminate official information on resources directly to migrants and host communities, and receive information on the needs of migrant and host populations -Reduced/mitigated conflict and gender based violence. GBV will be addressed through male and female P2P education and protected reporting -Voices and needs of women will be elevated, including through entrepreneurship and economic empowerment -Increased mutual support and community organized improvement activities

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

The inspiration for AtmaGo has been the 1,500 human centered design interviews we’ve done with crisis and marginalized communities around the world. We found that people are seeking ways to contribute and give back to host communities, want to participate in rebuilding and resilience efforts, and need accurate information and connections to governments, NGOs and their neighbors. The inspiration for AtmaGo is people. People who in the toughest of times are still finding ways to help each other. Through promoting social cohesion, peer-to-peer communication, and the spread of vital information, AtmaGo has proven that it can save lives and build resilience for 3.7 million users in Indonesia, where an independent evaluation found that in disasters, AtmaGo saved $324 per household and prevented mortality and morbidity. By bridging the language gap between host communities and migrants, we can increase mutual cooperation, reduce conflict, and with P2P education - reduce gender based violence.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

In Venezuela, the economy has collapsed and shortages of food and medicine have become widespread. Over 1M migrants are passing through Colombia as the crisis in Venezuela continues. The Wayuu communities, host to these migrants, are disenfranchised. They inhabit both sides of the border, circulating freely between the two countries, sometimes with no documentation from either country. Communication between the host and migrants is challenging due to language differences. The Wayuu people lack full recognition as nationals of both countries and are impacted by the sudden influx of people, as well as the impact of being uprooted from traditional lands. The Wayuu lack access to documentation, rights and services, as well as a culturally and ethnically sensitive services. Fundamentally, both groups require assistance tto access basic services and be protected from the effects of violence and armed conflict.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Atma Connect believes that people living in crisis situations are resourceful and ingenious, and know best what they need, and what their strengths and opportunities are. Surveys have found that 81% of users trust information on AtmaGo because the platform allows community members to act as citizen journalists to surface the real time needs and solutions in their neighborhoods, take collective action to solve local problems, and engage government and NGOs to share information about resources. Studies have shown that inflammatory, fear-based and divisive content spreads rapidly online, and traditional social media platforms have economic incentives that spread these messages. What we’ve created on AtmaGo, through digital literacy trainings that help people recognize fake news, citizen journalism and resilience events, and curated feeds that amplify pro-social and pro-connectedness content, is Social Media for Social Good -- unlocking the power of people helping people.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

The American Red Cross hosts the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, a hub for innovation and progressive use of technology. GDPC has deep experience in community approaches and technology, as well as the network of Red Cross/Red Crescent societies whose work influences community level engagement. Colombian Red Cross works with host and migrant communities in order to evaluate their needs and living conditions. In response to the humanitarian crisis on the border, CRC is providing services that include health, psychosocial support, temporary shelter, food security and reestablishment of family links. The Translators Without Borders team brings a combined 60 years’ humanitarian and development management experience, support from over 28,000 translators, and computational linguistics expertise. The Atma Connect team has a combined 60 years of experience in developing international community-based/driven technology solutions that build agency among women and low-income folks.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Atma Connect

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Atma Connect’s AtmaGo mobile app is an award-winning hyper-local platform that empowers people to help each other. We are building a global movement for social connectedness and resilience in vulnerable communities. To date we have directly impacted 3.7 million people in 91 locations and our goal is to spread this globally. Our work builds on evidence that social connectedness is linked to social reciprocity, and meaningful interactions (Emlet and Moceri 2011). AtmaGo is built to amplify and create opportunities for mutual support, and our in-person events solidify relationships and build meaningful connections, allowing community members to share their knowledge and skills to improve the community. An independent evaluation of the use of AtmaGo corroborates that the app contributes to the improvement of social cohesion: 79% of users found AtmaGo “very” or “extremely” helpful in connecting them with the community, and reduces mortality, morbidity, and economic losses. (CIPG, 2018).

Website URL:

atmaconnect.org

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

OAKLAND

5 comments

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Photo of Alejandra Aguilera
Team

Very Interesting !

Photo of Kush Amerasinghe
Team

We definitely have a need to give a voice to people who are in the middle of it all because they know a lot more than what we can hypothesize about how to help from the outside. That's why I'm fully behind initiatives like this. Please share this with anybody who could help with this or leave a comment if you have anything to add. Thanks

Photo of Zulfiqar  Deo
Team

Meena Palaniappan Thanks for sharing this. I agree accurate information is much needed. We have been struggling with getting the public to see refugees as entrepreneurs. Be great to see if we can learn from each others approaches. Business financing for refugee entrepreneurs  is our project.

Photo of Bremley Lyngdoh
Team

Hi Meena great to have your idea on the platform for the challenge. It's exciting and I really like your idea. As the ideas phase comes to an end today the 17th of August, we would encourage you to again have a look at the evaluation criteria here https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/5a147545b687370001bfd10c/5d1a434848ffdc223d8d9bfd_2019%20BridgeBuilder%20Challenge_%20Evaluation%20Criteria%20(2).pdf

Also, it will be exciting for your to check out other ideas on the platform, provide some feedback and explore potential areas of collaboration with them. For example check out the Migration Lab Program https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/2019-bridgebuilder-challenge/ideas/enabling-payments-for-ecosystem-services-via-goodwallet-for-idps-to-restore-land-in-kenya

Photo of Meena Palaniappan
Team

Thank you Bremley! We will check out other ideas on the platform to provide feedback and for collaboration. Let us know if there are areas in our application we can strengthen to address the evaluation criteria. Thank you! Meena