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A series of booths/kiosks within urban slum communities that allow locals to voice their concerns, feedback and ideas

Photo of Simon Robins
15 10

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I'd like to solve the problem of poorer cross-sections of the community not having a means to voice themselves to the leaders of their societies. The ShoutBox would be a communicative conduit aiming to provide a means for these people to communicate directly their community leaders. As not all people in these communities are literate the ShoutBox would be a audio recording device situated in a manned booth which converts their thoughts into text messages that would be related to their community leaders (or designated official) via email or equivalent electronic communication. Particular topics of concern could voted on by the community and then these are added to the ShoutBox as topics for the users to then comment on. Or it might just be an open topic forum for users to say whatever is on their mind and then a designated officer, or community volunteer, is tasked with assigning these comments into cohesive grouped discussions. Giving the public access to an open means of communicating what is important to their communities would empower members of the slum communities and allow the people who lead their societies to hear their individual and collective voices.


The whole community would benefit from this idea as it would allow any member of the society to have their say. The voices of poor people without email, who aren't capable of writing letters or making phonecalls are never really heard. This idea aims at giving these people a voice. The booths, built using modular, shipping container construction, would be implemented in central, easily accessible areas within these communities and could also double as a community meeting/recreational space.


I'm not really aware of the efforts of others related to this idea at this stage but believe it could be implemented worldwide and for relatively minimal costs. The use of the modular, shipping container construction would be cost effective, be expandable & allow for fairly easy relocation if needed. My idea would provide one of the most important factors that relates to the challenge's design principles, information. It would allow the people living at the front-line of climate change to alert their communities and also the wider world of the changes and stresses they're experiencing. Women can communicate their own issues anonymously and without fear of repercussion, just as minorities groups could also have their say without being judged on face value. The information gained via the ShoutBox could help other innovators understand life in the hardest areas of the world and give them the insight into that life and inspire them to create new innovations to help address these issues.


  • Not yet


  • I do not have experience working in a sector related to my idea


  • This idea is meant to inspire - I hope someone else takes it on!


I'm a photographer and graphic artist based in Melbourne. I am really interested in how and visual elements can be used within education and the communication of socio-political issues.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Riya Choksi

wow, great project :)

Photo of Simon Robins

Thanks a lot Riya! Always great to get positive feedback.

Photo of Mat Millay

Hi Simon, great project ... sounds very interesting - sounds as though this could be linked to my general idea:

Photo of Simon Robins

Hi Mat, yes the two would definitely work well together as I can really see potential for the cross pollination of your idea with the ShoutBox booth. The booth could act as a community hub from which your idea could be implemented. Thanks for your feedback :)

Photo of Majed

Great idea Simon,, it allows leaders to make right decisions and people get involved in building their communities. In addition to giving these people a voice, it also results in creating more jobs.

Photo of Simon Robins

Hi Majed,
Thanks for the positive feedback. Yes it would be great if these voices could be heard! The potential for creating jobs could potentially be greater than just people working in these booths. Perhaps a government scheme could be setup that helps employ members of these communities to take action on the issues that are highlighted through the ShoutBox. That would be a perfect full-circle realisation of the idea.

Photo of Majed

I agree with you

Photo of University Sussex

Hi Simon, great idea that is obviously stimulating lots of other people. We have posted a somewhat similar idea to gather community voices, in a more mobile form that could easily be moved around a particular neighborhood (a pop-up type cart). Would be great to hear what you think about it.

Photo of Simon Robins

Yes I saw your idea the other day and love it!! I meant to comment on it but have just been really busy. The mobility of your concept is great. I'll post a more in depth comment on your project page so other people viewing your concept see my feedback. Thanks for the positive feedback on my idea :)

Photo of Simon Hart

Hi Simon - Simon here!

There are some great ideas emerging here on OpenIDEO. Yours is no exception. I am enjoying how they could all be integrated....

Did you see Steven Diebold's idea about canvassing communities and daily diaries with a video cam? As he explains, it's so important to harness the opinion of the target community - if you can, your project will almost certainly be a success. I am thinking your 'community shout box' could be integrated with Steven's video concept.

I am imagining your 'community shout box' sitting at the foot of the flood zone, together with the zonal filtration bed and reservoir, with crops growing on top, like an allotment. The facility would be a community focus for sharing successes in deployment of the systems and learning about how the local people can achieve similar successes themselves. So it would become a real community focal point, much like water wells have always done.

This 'flood well', together with your community shout box and a community allotment (irrigated by the flood well) becomes:

- a social focus - remembering that throughout history water wells a have always been community focal points in all cultures
- an education point teaching people how to take advantage of these ideas:
- Bennett's sustainable roof mini-farm
- Oscar's recycled plastic building system
- Sonia's water filtration system
- A distribution point for the materials and components

As Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". Education is a luxury, but integrating education with the essential business of water management and the growing and harvesting of food, makes education more accessible to more people, even if they are only passing through.

What do you think?

P.S . . . . I'm now wondering if the community shout box could perhaps be itself the 'show home' exemplifying all these ideas about construction and harvesting?


Photo of Simon Robins

Hi Simon,
Thanks for your comment! I love the idea of combining all of the ideas you mentioned and think that is ideally the best way for OpenIDEO to be used. Obviously with so many great ideas, a combination of them would enhance all of the concepts overall.
I do think the ShoutBox would be a great base from which the other ideas can be promoted and also, in many cases, implemented.
However I believe those ideas have to live on there own at this stage of the process, as they are all standalone concepts and I don't want to appropriate other people's hard work and imaginative thinking to further my own concept.
They are all fantastic and if in the end someone was to take the ShoutBox further and combine it with other ideas then that would be an ideal outcome.
I think we all agree that creating a community hub where people can have access to all of these ideas and services is really important, as is empowering these communities with a collective voice with which they can communicate the issues and ideas that are important to them.

Photo of Julian Kloster

Good day Simon,

Your idea sounds great! What do you think about not converting the audio into text, but sending the recordings as audio data? We could keep a lot more emotions within the messages, what could make a difference when the community leaders listen to their people's concerns. We could also add a photo of the person who is recording the message, if this person would like to. Another barrier for community leaders to not take into account their people's consideration.

Another inspiration that goes a little further is to publish these messages on a website (anonymous or not), so anyone else can listen to and see these concerns. We could also integrate something similar to facebook's like button in the shout boxes and on the website, so other people in the community and in other (more or less) related communities could agree on the importance of the message. In the end, this puts of course a lot of pressure on community leaders, governments and maybe the whole world to tackle the biggest concerns of the poorest of people around the globe.

I know my last sentence sounds really big, but that is the thing in my head at the moment. And I believe that it is possible. Maybe this is kind of a thought for a new idea on the topic. I don't know. For the moment I am leaving it a comment.

Looking forward to your answers.


Photo of Shane Zhao

Nice provocations Julian! You and Simon might be curious to check out this idea from the previous Women's Safety Challenge - using media to deliver the voice of women in impoverished communities to targeted audiences with the resources and funding to help:

Photo of Simon Robins

Hi Julian,
Thanks for your input and so sorry about the slow response!
All of your suggestions are great and would totally help develop my original concept further.
My reasoning behind having the recordings turned into text was really just for the 'searchability' of this form of data. This would make it much easier to collate and also to use in other forms of correspondence or communication. I think one important factor that would need to be considered if video and/or audio were used would be the work involved in translation of the recordings into different languages if they were to be published internationally.
I do think the idea of maintaining the original recordings as audio/video would also be great and perhaps the two can be used in unison.
The ability to remain anonymous is really important also though, as this would encourage truly open discussion without the fear of any repercussions. I believe this would be a factor that would open the ShoutBox to all community members and also mean people can feel free to speak their mind, no matter what social or political situation they are enduring.
Your concept of the website and allowing other people to comment or like a post would be powerful too. Using a facebook style forum for social issues could potentially be a great tool. However, again it would omit the people in the poorer demographic, but then again perhaps it could actually also be integrated into the ShoutBox booths. Allowing the population of these slums to communicate directly with other socioeconomic cross sections of their society, and even possibly internationally, would surely be a beneficial experience for everyone involved.
Thanks again and I'm really happy some people have seen the merit of my idea.

All the best,

Photo of Simon Robins

Hi Shane,
Thanks for the heads up on Amy's work. What a wonderful concept she has and would be definite possibilities for cross-pollination of both of our ideas. Both projects are aiming to give a voice to a largely unheard cross-section of society. It will be interesting to see if her project develops further and perhaps even she could integrate my concept.

Thanks again,