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Slum Communication Kit

A physical deck of cards that identifies, articulates and communicates the specific needs, ideas and values of urban slum communities.

Photo of Jordan Lane

Written by

EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

We would like to solve two main problems: 1. How do we give a voice to people living in urban slum communities (local experts) to articulate their needs and ideas? 2. How can we create a common language and visual overview of the specific needs of urban slum communities which can be used easily to "educate" urban decision makers? Our idea is a physical deck of cards that identifies, describes and communicates the specific needs of urban slum communities. The idea is that the cards provide a visual overview and create a common language to facilitate communication between local experts and urban decision makers. The cards solve the problems we have identified by creating a framework for people to build workshops, conversations and ideas around. They are deliberately simple and easy to use. We have found this allows for greater conversation...we don't want people to drown in information, but rather use the cards to spark conversation, ideas and allow people a holistic view over their situation. While some planning/workshop tools may impose certain solutions, our idea is to create the conditions and space for the community's ideas to appear and develop.

WHO BENEFITS?

It should be just as beneficial for residents of a local community to develop and use the kit, as it is for an urban decision maker to use it in a workshop. By using accessible language, locally relevant icons and short descriptions of each item, the kit should feel right at home in a local school, government office, family home or community centre. This is where the ideas should be formed and then implemented.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

By providing a structure (or hooks) for their ideas, without imposing a set solution, the kit allows for local solutions to local challenges. It allows people, organisations and governments the chance to build a common language together, and then use that language to explore, discover, engage and create together. The simplicity of the kit means that it can be constantly updated and adapted to dynamic local conditions. It is not a static deck of cards, but one that is constantly taking the uncertain future and context of climate change into account.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

We are a team affiliated with MethodKit that create analogue card based tools. methodkit.com Through the new methodkit.org - we have started to develop creative commons kits, for the greater good. We are always looking for great people to join us to create place specific tools for change!

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

We have been working with summarising different fields for many years now, in over 50 countries. From sustainable development to equality, we have been defining the essential elements of each field and creating communication tools for each. The idea of the Slum Communication Kit builds upon the knowledge, experience and research we have undertaken throughout this process. Slum Communication Kit differs from this process in the following ways - 1. Site & Place Specific Kits - our goal is to create different kits for different places. A community in India has different needs to one in Kenya - we want to partner with local people and create THEIR kit with THEM. 2. Local Languages & Visuals - each kit will be created in the local language with place specific visuals. 3. Crowdsourcing information - creation in collaboration with local communities - the real experts. 4. Evolving versions - as the needs of the communities change, we want the kit to update and reflect that.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

There are many card-based tools. Here are some advantages we see in our idea. 1. A VISUAL, PHYSICAL TOOL - Easy to grasp graphics to quickly communicate the ideas/needs. 2. DISCUSSION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CARDS - Cards are catalysts that aid to provide structure and overview. Cards provide the crucial information, the ideas and needs you are working on remain in focus. 3. AS LITTLE INFORMATION AS POSSIBLE - cards are not books! The cards provide a quick overview, not a 500 page instruction manual. 4. DESCRIPTION WITHOUT DIRECTION - We want to explain what a measurable goal is but without telling you how you should or should not do it. 5. STRAIGHTFORWARD LANGUAGE - Get rid of the crap, not the complexity. Decode the language so everyone understands! 6. SWEETSPOT BETWEEN STUCTURE & CREATIVITY - Create the space for ideas to devlop & evolve...not push them in a certain direction. 7. CONVERSATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN CARDS - Like building scaffolding, the cards are there to help you build YOUR vision. 8. COVER ESSENTIAL NEEDS - All killer. No filler. 9. NO RIGHT OR WRONG - There are many ways to use the kit. You decide for yourself (we can give some hints too!)

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

We would like to know - 1. How to best facilitate multiple collaborative processes - creating mulitple kits in different places at the same time. 2. How to best distribute physical kits - local printing? Free to download? Creative commons? 3. How to find the right people to create the kits with - finding local experts. 4. How do we ensure those that need the tool most can have access to it?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

The problem Slum Communication Kit is addressing has not been solved yet, because the goal posts are always being moved. Communities are dynamic and ever changing. Urban slum communities are evolving organisms, not engineering problems. Communication is difficult for many reasons - misunderstandings, academic language, lack of forum, corruption, lack of faith and trust, no clear starting point. Our idea lifts communication and builds a framework for the local community to build their needs/ideas/visions on. The conversation is more important than the tools used.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

The great support and communication from the community has shown us the potential to create multiple Slum Communication Kits in many different places around the world. It is encouraging to see the potential in sharing a process that can be translated and applied in local contexts. The idea has evolved to include a diversity of languages and places and people.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

We want to give a voice to the silent. We want to level the playing field. We want to speak like locals, in their language. We want local experts to stand beside government figures. We want to create the tools people need to dream, communicate, create, prototype and build a better future. In concrete terms, our next step is to partner with local organisations to develop a site specific Slum Communication Kit for their context. By developing the kit with them, we can ensure it is relevant, necessary and up to date with the needs of the community. Come and join us! If we can communicate a better world to each other, we are one step closer to building a better world with each other.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

The SlumKit is designed to connect and support existing initiatives in many ways. First, it can be used in a broad range of contexts - from community meetings, to citizen dialogues and planning meetings. For example, if we say a slum community would like to work with their water and sanitation system - the kit can be used at multiple stages through the process. - If the community has already created a Kit for themselves they will have people able to facilitate the processes. - The kit could be used as a checklist throughout the action. - It could be used to communicate with other initiatives (so synergy effects can be found eg. creating footpaths after working with water system). - It could be used to create a list of priorities and create a time-line. - It could be used to talk to local officials and decision makers. - It could be used to evaluate the action. The kit is a visual framework for ideas, and does not impose a set solution. This creates urban resilience!

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Jordan!

Below are some questions from our expert review of your idea. We'd love to hear your responses!

What information do you have about whether local organisations will use or want the kits?

One additional consideration that might be useful to address more explictly is how the cards are intended to be used. Who will facilitate interactions and discussions in communities? The cards can be a handy tool, but the existence of intermediaries would be important to help facilitate application / discussion within different populations in slum. How will these conversations link to community action? 

Photo of Jordan Lane
Team

Hi Chioma! 

Thank you for your questions! Here are our responses...

1. What information do you have about whether local organisations will use or want the kits?
- The response on openIDEO has been quite positive. To date we have been contacted by local organisations in Kenya, Vietnam, France and Brazil to name just a few. All of the local organisations have expressed interest in developing a Kit specific to their site, context & community with us. This is how we hoped the process to develop. Our goal is not to create a 'one-size-fits-all' kit for all urban communities and distribute it, rather that we share our process and collaborate with local organisations and communities to CREATE A KIT FOR EACH COMMUNITY. This ensures that each kit made is relevant for the specific context and community. By developing a kit with a local organisation and community we feel we can guarantee they will want to use it in their activities as they will be not only local experts, but experts in using the kit and understanding its strengths and limitations. 

2. How are the cards are intended to be used?
- The cards can be used in a broad range of contexts and with various methods. They can be a mobilisation and communication tool within groups. For example, members of the community could use them to discuss priorities and activities together. Then the community members could use the cards as visual props and anchors to structure a conversation with the city planning office. In this way they are a communication tool and an interface between members of a group and also between different groups. Some practical examples of the kit in practice include:
     - Citizen Dialogues
     - Visual Planning Tool in a public space. eg. in a community centre
     - City planning meeting
     - Calendar planning meetings
     - Writing a community charter
     - Making a list of priorities for a community
     - Creating a timeline together. 
     - Educating new members of the community
     - Creating neutral ground between decision makers and community members

3. Facilitators and intermediaries - who becomes the human interface?
- We hope the process of creating the kit alongside local organisations builds the confidence and competence in the local community so that they become the default facilitators and intermediaries. As there are many different ways to use the tool, we hope that they will also develop their own practices and processes that work for their local community. If they are active in making the tool, they will understand it better and be able to teach others. Of course we will lend a helping hand and share our knowledge and experiences too!

4. How will these conversations link to community action?
- STEP 1 - Making the tool - allows the community to create a living list of ideas, actions, elements and priorities. This process is very useful as it encourages the creation of a common language, allows for multiple perspectives and is very active. 
- STEP 2 - Using the tool - When the tool is created, those who have been active in the process can begin to facilitate conversations with other local stakeholders and members of the community. Simple language and meaningful icons create a structure for conversations with a group. These conversations can lead to mobilisation and action within a group. The kit becomes a mobilising tool.
- STEP 3 - Sharing the tool - When the group is ready to talk to other stakeholders, they can share what they know with urban decision makers for example. The kit then acts as a visual interface.
- STEP 4 - Maintaining the tool - When action has started the kit can be used as a reference or checklist for action items. As progress is made and the needs of the community changes, the kit can be reviewed, edited and updated to reflect the needs of the community.

The kit creates space for positive conversations to take place. It creates a structure that is accessible and understandable for all. If it is created, used, shared and updated by the community it will be relevant for many years to come. The kit allows space for meaningful communication, so that the community can discuss, plan, create and take action together!

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Jordan! Thanks for the detailed response! Is there a specific location that you have in mind to pilot these cards?

Photo of Jordan Lane
Team

Hi Chioma! 

We have a few locations in mind at the moment. We feel it would be very beneficial to pilot the cards in different contexts at the same time to find differences in process and development. This would allow for a more diverse and robust tool. It would be very interesting (and feasible we feel) to try it out simultaneously in African, Asian and South American contexts. We have formed solid contacts in Kenya, Brazil and Vietnam for example. 

We are of course very open to suggestions from you and the wider openIDEO community. 

Where do you feel we could make a positive difference? Is there a certain city or country you have in mind? 

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Jordan,
Thanks for your response! I think that your idea has the potential to make a positive difference in places where you have solid connections to the local community - to see how people interact with the cards, and what prompts would best suit their needs! Great to hear that it sounds like you have some of those relationships already established.
Have a wonderful holiday!

Photo of Jordan Lane
Team

Hi Chioma! 

Thank you for your encouragement and guidance. We believe the SlumKit has potential to be of positive change through the process of creation and subsequent use. While we have some established relationships, we would really like to reach out and connect with all groups and contexts.

Thank you for joining us on our journey...and happy holidays to you too! 

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