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Raise a Red Flag - Updated 5/17 with new information about a potential pilot!

Some organizations with strong ties to the outside world have staff on the ground in hard-to-access areas. Let's give these disparate networks of well-positioned, better-connected individuals a platform to Raise a Red Flag when trouble is observed!

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SEE PROGRAM OVERVIEW (ATTACHED) FOR MORE INFORMATION

Religious missionaries go to the ends of the earth, to the most 'out-of-the-way', closed places, to share their message. Some global businesses like Coca-Cola have a footprint and supply chain in all but a couple of countries (e.g., although it is not sold in North Korea, because of sanctions, recent photos of Kim Jung-Un with Dennis Rodman depicted the Dictator enjoying a refreshing Coke). There are U.S. agents, diplomats, or soldiers on every inhabited continent on Earth.

Many of these individuals have 'seeped into the cracks' of local society and culture. At the same time, all else being equal, they are likely to be slightly more connected to the outside world than locals are. In short, they are 'One Foot In, One Foot Out' ('OFI-OFO'). I'm guessing that fewer and fewer of them are completely without access to internet, phone, or some mode of communication...precisely because of the nature of their work.

Individuals from organizations like these should be given a forum and encouraged to report even the smallest, seemingly-isolated human rights abuses/crimes. They could Raise a Red Flag a number of different ways:

  • Smartphone app and website
  • Toll-free number (e.g., 1-800-REDFLAG)
  • Text message to toll-free number
  • Visit a Red Flag outpost (which could be placed in the most volatile or at-risk cities/countries)
  • Twitter hashtag
  • Visit a Red Flag kiosk (Redbox, anyone??)
  • 'Invisible' beacons

  • A centralized organization (people) could use smart technology and Big Data techniques to aggregate and look for trends among the Flags that people from these organizations Raise. The organization could then regularly communicate its findings and responses to stakeholders, including the original Flag Raisers.

    Raising a Red Flag could be anonymous, so as not to expose the individual doing the reporting (or the organization of which they are a member).

    So let's connect these disparate networks of well-positioned, better-connected individuals by making available to them smart, easy ways to report human rights violations...to Raise a Red Flag!

NEXT STEPS TOWARD REALIZATION
  • Identify country in which to test concept (pilot)
  • Conduct stakeholder analysis
  • Determine data needs and assess feasibility
  • Conduct detailed design of pilot (scope, duration, etc.) -- See 'Protoyping' question below for new (updated 5/17) information on a possible partnership with the Fund for Peace
  • Develop report mock-ups
  • Build Day One capabilities
  • Execute pilot (including enrollment of Flag Raisers)

How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?

There are two types of Flag Raisers: - 'OFI-OFOs ('One Foot In, One Foot Out'): individuals who are well-positioned within the troubled area but who also have ties to the outside world, i.e., folks who are members of networks that extend beyond the area - 'Locals': native community members This concept's targeting of OFI-OFOs is what makes it unique, but, as many commenters and virtual team members (e.g., James Robertson, Anne-Laure) have pointed out, it's very important to seek the participation of locals too. The idea gathers information by recruiting Flag Raisers to report incidents, no matter how small or isolated they seem. Flag Raisers are instructed to be as descriptive as possible (providing specifics) and to provide the location of the incident. A report is deemed more credible the more description it provides. A crisis in a particular area is deemed more likely or more severe the more credible reports in that area are made (per capita). Thu Do suggested that each incident be given a unique ID and that GPS or technology similar to that used by 911 could be used to automatically capture an incident's location. This would make reporting easier and reduce the burden on the Flag Raiser to consciously do everything. Flag-raisers are kept safe, because reporting is anonymous. Names (of victims, perpetrators, or reporters) are never solicited or attached to reports. To determine the information that needs to be collected, we would ideally conduct a comprehensive inventory and analysis of stakeholders, in particular those who would likely be recipients/users of the information and data coming from troubled areas. Once we know who, specifically, will be using the data, what they need/want, and how they intend to use it, we can determine what's feasible and how to get it, given reporting modes available. Nate Haken has graciously provided an initial list of the kinds of organizations that would be interested in information from Flag Raisers: DFID, USAID, PIND, British Council, Mercy Corps, IRI, NDI, CITAD, British High Commission, NL Embassy, National Endowment for Democracy, State Department, etc. Nate and Krista Hendry pointed out that it's important to utilize a conflict assessment framework to organize the data and draw meaningful conclusions. They shared a report that describes a framework they've used (a variation of Conflict Assessment System Tool, or CAST). In this framework (see Nigeria Example, attached), reported incidents are categorized, or tagged, according root cause ('indicator'). See Nate and Krista's comments for more context.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

Red Flag's footprint in a particular area (and the multi-dimensionality of RF's approach there) may fall into one of several tiers (just two listed here, for simplicity): The most at-risk areas (where the Red Flag organization would want to be more active): - Priority for Red Flag outpost(s) - Active recruitment and training of locals; broad campaigns to raise awareness (similar to the IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING used in the States) - Community events to raise awareness and gain credibility (per Meena's comment) - Flag-Raising modes made available in the order that makes most sense given the area's existing infrastructure Less at-risk areas (where the Red Flag organization would not need to be as active, or hands-on) - A website/mobile app could be a one-size-fits-all Flag Raising mode that countries that are less at-risk get. Similar to Bribespot (see below), A Raise a Red Flag internet presence could happen fairly quickly and could be made broadly available (though language differences between areas would pose an initial hurdle in terms of the speediness with which a site could be developed). A repeatable approach for recruiting particular OFI-OFO Flag Raising networks (e.g., Coca Cola, LDS, etc.), and/or individuals from those networks, could be developed. They would be recruited in the order that makes most sense (e.g., those networks with the strongest presence in the most at-risk areas might be recruited first).

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

A number of different technologies would serve as Flag-Raising modes (mentioned above but repeated here): -Smartphone app and website -Toll-free number -Text message to toll-free number -Visit a Red Flag outpost -Twitter hashtag -Visit a Red Flag kiosk -'Invisible' beacons Some of these would require more development time (e.g., apps take time to develop, and a Redbox-like kiosk would need to be designed, built, etc.). The smartphone app and website are very viable, because, as pointed out in a comment below, something similar has been tried by http://www.bribespot.com which is a platform for people to report bribes. The app has been very successful; in recent months, there have been over a thousand reports of bribery. The app utilizes many of the features that have been suggested for the Raise a Red Flag concept. For example, reporters are asked to provide a narrative description of the incident and to include its location. They can also 'tag' the report with incident-type (e.g., police bribery, financial services bribery, etc.). This tagging concept is transferrable and consistent with what other commenters have suggested regarding the use of a conflict assessment framework. Flag-Raisers could tag reports with incident-type (e.g., killing, rape, mutilation, number of victims, etc.), allowing trending and analysis to be more effective (and more timely). A toll-free number could be used a number of ways to capture reports. For example, the Flag-Raiser could be prompted to leave a VM (and given instructions by the automated voice for providing a voice-report). These messages could then be listened to manually for data extraction, or software could be used to analyze the message and extract pertinent information from the voice-report). The alternative would be to have the caller talk to a live person, but that would mean much higher costs. As Karoline points out in her comment below, People's Radio (spoken tweets: http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/people-s-radio/) could could be another source of data, as keywords could be pulled from the tweets and used for trending purposes. Thanks Karoline! In the same way that ZipCar has brick-and-mortar locations in key cities. Manned Red Flag Outposts could also be placed in the most at-risk places. Not only could Flag-Raisers visit these outposts to Raise a Flag. The outposts could also serve as bases of operation for the kind of local awareness and enrollment (and eco-system nurturing) initiatives mentioned by Meena in one of her comments. Kiran suggested utilizing participating OFI-OFO organizations' retail locations and locals' stores as outposts, where possible. As he points out, this would reduce upfront costs to the Red Flag organization. Analysis and trending would be done with the help of statistical software and Big Data techniques that exist today. Infographics tools and techniques could be used to create useful reports and dashboards. Insights could be layered onto data and views from other sources, creating a more comprehensive and useful picture, per Krista Hendry's comment below. More broadly, similar ideas have been tried in discrete areas, with success. For example, the Fund for Peace has collected data on incidents from Liberia and Nigeria, where there was, at times, little to no internet access. See the attached document ('Nigeria Example') or Krista Hendry and Nate Haken's comments below for more on this.

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

5/17 UPDATE: I've spoken with Krista Hendry (Fund for Peace), and she is willing to explore the possibility of collaborating directly. She said that if we adopted the Fund for Peace framework, we could train our target individuals to upload data to the FFP site. It sounds as though allowing these new data sources to provide information to the existing FFP platfrom as part of a pilot would not be too much work, and she thinks this might allow us to test some of the assumptions that have been make about local versus international data sources.

How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?

ADAPTATION FOR CONDITIONS IN HARD-TO-ACCESS AREAS At this concept's core is the theory that there are networks of individuals in these areas who may retain connectedness with the outside world, even in areas with little to no infrastructure (whether due to poor development or to deliberate tampering by perpetrators). As several virtual team members (Michael Fish and Masato Muso) pointed out, though, even this may not always be true. For example, local government may expel individuals from some of these networks. This risk can be mitigated by diversifying and seeking the participation of different types of OFI-OFO organizations and individuals from multiple countries; this may reduce the risk that all potential flag-raisers are expelled if, for example, the US government's relationship with the country sours If there truly is no infrastructure (or if it suddenly becomes unusable), there may still be ways to gather valuable insights: - As Nathan Maton points out in his comment, noting not just the reports that do come out of a particular country, but also those that don't could be another way to get insight into what's going on. Two other concepts ('Beacon': http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/the-beacon-let-us-know-you-re-safe/ and 'Knowing by Numbers': http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/knowing-by-numbers-monitoring-total-network-connectivity/) provide blueprints for how unexpected, significant drops or changes in data coming from an area can be nearly as informative as the reports that do. - Tracking proxy measures and metrics (e.g., crop prices) that can give us insight about what's going on in an area when direct reports are unreliable or absent BEHAVIOR CHANGE I think Arjan Tupan's Enabler Card concept (http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/enabler-cards) is a fantastic idea that has lots of merit as a stand-alone potential solution. Several commenters and virtual team members (e.g., Anne Laure and Krista Hendry) have mentioned the importance of giving something back to the folks reporting incidents. So, in addition to serving as a tool for recruiting potential reporters, Enabler Cards could serve as one of the vehicles by which Flag Raisers get information back. I'm envisioning a card that still has contact information and asks folks to report incidents, but also provides a summary of area-specific insights that were gleaned from the data provided by Flag Raisers in the previous cycle...kind of like a scorecard. It could describe trends and what to look out for (based on what the most recent data revealed). So a new set of Enabler Cards with fresh information could be released into a particular area every X time units. Not only would this keep the service top-of-mind and help assure Flag Raisers that their input is being used, it would also foster a sense of mutual benefit. So, while a service like Raise a Red Flag may require some behavior change on the part of reporters, by providing information back to them in useful ways, we may be able to incentivize participation. In her own work, Krista Hendry has seen the importance of responding to insights from the data (and ensuring that the response is visible to Flag Raisers). See Krista's comments for more information on this. Kiran suggested that organizations be incentivized to participate by positioning their involvement as an opportunity to exercise social responsibility. As Michael Fish pointed out, though, some organizations do not operate directly in these areas, but instead rely on sub-contractors. Furthermore, other organizations that do have their own staff on the ground may still deem participation too risky. To mitigate these risks, in addition to targeting the OFI-OFO organizations, the Red Flag organization can, in parallel, recruit the individual employees themselves, reassuring them that reports remain anonymous. This way, even if Coca-Cola the company doesn't participate, Coca-Cola employees still can. In the sub-contractor scenario, it may still make sense to recruit individual employees of the sub-contracting organization, as they still qualify as potentially better connected than locals (by virtue of their ties to the Coca-Cola mothership).

Evaluation results

12 evaluations so far

1. How scalable would this idea be across regions and cultures?

Looks like it’d be easy to spread across multiple regions and cultures - 83.3%

This idea could scale but it might need further iteration to make it widely relevant - 8.3%

Seems that this idea would best be suited for a single region/population - 8.3%

2. Would a lot of resources be required to create a pilot for this idea? (think time, capacity, money, etc)

This idea looks easy to pilot with minimal resources being invested - 16.7%

Feels like this idea could take a moderate amount of resources to pilot - 58.3%

Seems like piloting this idea would take a lot of resources - 25%

3. How suitable is this idea for various challenges on the ground such as lack of internet or mobile access?

Yep, it feels like it could work easily beyond internet or mobile access - 58.3%

Not so sure – it looks like it would require online or mobile connectivity - 33.3%

This idea definitely seems to rely on internet or mobile access - 8.3%

4. Could this idea put users or others at risk?

Nope, it looks like everyone would be safe - 33.3%

There are some potential concerns, but these could be addressed with further iteration - 58.3%

I can imagine some people being put at risk with this idea - 8.3%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

This idea rocked my world - 75%

I liked it but preferred others - 25%

It didn't get me overly excited - 0%

View more

Team (11)

David's profile
David Bradley

Role added on team:

"David pointed the team to another concept that may be leveraged! Thanks!"

Shannon's profile
Shannon Herline

Role added on team:

"Shannon did a great job connecting concepts to show how other ideas might be leveraged in this concept!"

Anne-Laure's profile
Anne-Laure Fayard

Role added on team:

"Anne-Laure's early suggestions revealed some gaps that still need to be filled, provided great direction, and showed a lot of thoughtfulness. Thanks!"

Arjan's profile
Arjan Tupan

Role added on team:

"Arjan has already been very helpful in assessing the concept's viability and in identifying parallel solutions."

Ma's profile
Ma Mu

Role added on team:

"Masato raised some interesting questions that need to be answered. Thanks Masato!"

Kiran's profile
Kiran

Role added on team:

"Kiran's suggestion to position the Raise a Red Flag idea as CSR was spot-on!"

Joshua's profile
Karoline's profile
Karoline K

Role added on team:

"Karoline spotted a connection between the Red Flag concept and the People's Radio concept. Thanks!"

Thu's profile
Thu Do

Role added on team:

"Thu Do's initial set of questions provided a lot of 'food-for-thought' and definitely moved the concept forward!"

Nathan's profile
Nathan Maton

Role added on team:

"Thanks Nathan for taking the initiative to see if anything like this is already being done!"

James's profile
James Robertson

Role added on team:

"James pointed the team to another concept that might be leveraged. Thanks, James! Good surname too! ;)"

Attachments (1)

red-flag_overview.pdf

Raise a Red Flag - Program Overview

82 comments

Join the conversation:

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Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

I'm new to all of this so if I'm repeating another's thoughts. my apologies. My initial response is in line with Amanda Dobson's input about local involvement. The most successful liberation movements in history, e.g. Underground Railroad, Indian Liberation, Modern Civil Rights Movement, were built and controlled from the inside out, with insiders driving the movements, and outsiders (OFI-OFOs) assisting. Though the inside leaders - like MLK - were at extreme risk, their internal support networks were strong enough to continue when leadership was compromised. I think Red Flag, therefore, needs a "no-tech" component focused on building underground tag-team style communications networks of local leaders and citizens within at-risk communities. The networks could be structured in a crystalline pattern that allows individuals to pass information to each other directly and discreetly across geographic areas using multiple paths - around, across, inside-out, up (as with Christina Saavedra's wonderful red ballon idea) - with the ultimate objective of reaching an OFI-OFO. Pre-crisis network development towards this objective would be a critical part of the process. Also, you may want to incorporate GIS software into the plan to help with OFI-OFO location mapping. Beyond that I ask, when Red Flags are raised, what then is the plan for intervention?

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Awesome news about a potential pilot, Joshua! Do keep us posted on how things evolve after our challenge is over (you can email us with any updates on hello@openideo.com)

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Thanks, Meena! Will do :)

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Joshua,

I was wondering how you would imagine prototyping your idea based on all these great insights and even proposal for collaboration on the field.

Could you think of a way to prototype Raise a Red Flag, working with Krista?

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Hi Anne-Laure, sorry for the extreme delay in responding to you. Thanks for the idea! I just mentioned this in the concept above, but since it's an outcome of your suggestion I'm reproducing it here...

I spoke with Krista Hendry (Fund for Peace), and she is willing to explore the possibility of collaborating directly. She said that if we adopted the Fund for Peace framework, we could train our target individuals to upload data to the FFP site. It sounds as though adding "Red Flag" data to the existing FFP platfrom would not be too much work. She thinks this might allow us to test some of the assumptions that have been make about local versus international data sources.

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Added an overview document (see Attachment). Feedback welcome!

Photo of Karoline K
Team

Love this idea too! I've linked to you in the concept description of 'People's Radio" - as the data and stories gathered on the radio could easily feed into the Raise a Red Flag platform. Perhaps voice clips with alarming key words etc could be identified and marked into the map, as not all the stories on People's Radio will be alarming. Great discussions in here btw

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Karoline, thanks for spotting the potential overlap there and for the encouragement!

I love your graphic by the way :)

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Love this idea: simple, elegant, effective. I just got back from the Niger Delta, where we're doing something similar. We have collected, coded, and mapped about 3000 incidents of conflict risk factors so far and are adding about a hundred a month. I've got way more data than I can keep up with. As you might expect there's a real hunger for this information. We're starting up a working group in Abuja with DFID, USAID, Mercy Corps, PIND, and others to discuss trends and patterns. We're starting another working group in DC, and more at the state level in Nigeria (eg. Delta). One thing I'd urge you to think about is to code your incidents according to conflict drivers (root causes). Otherwise it turns into name calling and finger pointing and all of a sudden you've lost your credibility. If this is going to work you can't afford to alienate those who have the ability to respond to alerts. Based on our experience, this is pretty important. Also, methodologically, it's helpful to think in terms of a conflict assessment framework. Incidents are embedded in (and make up) a socio-political context. It is that dynamic context that we need to focus our lens on I think. Cheers.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Brilliant insights from the field Nate. We super appreciate folks like your good self joining conversations here with on-the-ground perspectives to fuel our collaborative ideating.

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Yes, thanks so much for sharing your experience and perspective, Nate! I have a couple of follow-up questions for you.

What are some examples of conflict-drivers?

Can you tell us a little more about what you mean by a conflict assessment framework? Are there any examples you might be able to share?

You say there's a hunger for this kind of data. I'm trying to determine who, SPECIFICALLY, would use the information collected and reported by this Red Flag organization. Do you have some ideas for which kinds of parties might want it (and how they'd use it)?

Lastly, are you aware of measures or metrics that might serve as proxies for what we really want to know? For example, might an area's crop prices indicate whether something's going down there? What would these proxies be, or, better yet, how might they be identified in the first place?

Any additional guidance you are able to pass on would be greatly appreciated!

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

By conflict assessment framework, I mean a set of indicators and sub-indicators categorized according to social, economic, political, and security pressures and resiliency. We use a variation of the CAST framework. I can send you our framework if you'd like to take a look. But there are plenty of others to choose from: MPICE, ICAF, PMESII. It's important to have a framework, though, otherwise you've got a ton of noise and no real signal. As to who would use it, in Nigeria, folks that have used the data and participated in Roundtables and Working Groups to analyze trends include DFID, USAID, PIND, British Council, Mercy Corps, IRI, NDI, CITAD, British High Commission, NL Embassy, National Endowment for Democracy, State Department, and others. Anyone who is working on conflict mitigation at any level is eager to participate. You might want to think about your marketing--depending on the users you're hoping to attract. "Raise a Red Flag" may be a little alarmist for some who would otherwise participate.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Great insights indeed. It is indeed important to choose a methodology /framework to categorize incidents so that you can analyze your data. From what Nate said there are several options, I guess what matters is to choose one and to be consistent. I suppose that you could use one that your key partners when developing the prototype use.

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Nate, thanks for the additional pointers and insights! I really appreciate your help, and I'd very much like to see an example of the framework you use (you can email me at josh.d.robertson@gmail.com). Also, I'll think some more about the marketing side, but, in the meantime, I'm definitely open to ideas (from anyone) :)

Photo of David Bradley
Team

Check out this network for data aggregation

http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/worldwide-information-network-system/

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Thanks for the tip, David! It seems to me like the WINS concept complements and overlaps some with the Raise a Red Flag concept. The WINS concept has developed data aggregation, reporting, and visualization in some interesting ways. Since they've already had success in particular areas, it provides an encouraging early test of some of the components of the Raise a Red Flag concept. Thanks again for sharing!

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi Joshua,
Was in a remote location without Internet access for a bit. We'd be very interested in collaborating. We believe having incidents reported on a platform that includes other data to allow analysts and potential responders to have a better picture of the environment in which incidents are occuring can be of critical importance. We really like your concept as a way of creating/adding very important data. Great idea!

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Hi Krista! Thanks for the encouraging feedback! Would love to collaborate. Was fascinated by your WINS concept and what you've already done in Liberia and Nigeria. It seemed as though you've got a pretty developed and articulate vision for data sharing, analysis, and reporting and would be very interested in any thoughts you have on how the Red Flag concept might incorporate some of those specifics.

You mentioned incentives in your concept. If you're able, can you talk a little more about how different stakeholders (e.g., the people reporting incidents) might be incented to participate in something like this Red Flag concept? Thanks so much!

I'm adding you to our virtual team to make it official :)

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Thanks Joshua. Really glad to be part of your team and congrats on getting shortlisted. I've got some people from my previous virtual team that might be willing to join here if you like. They bring various technical skills as well as working with developing networks of people and the issue of incentivizing without tainting results.

We found a couple things in our work so far. Some of this might be repetitive to your idea and others postings and - but I'll just throw it out there.
1 - There are a lot of people working in rural areas through humanitarian and development organizations that can be trained to be data collectors. They have limited access sometimes - but they have access.
2 - The people who give data want to receive the analysis back themselves. We were told right in the beginning of our work that the local people were tired of being asked to give data and then never seeing anything in return. So giving them special access to the data and involvement in analysis has been critical. We even distribute hard copies of reports back into local communities where the people do not have internet access. (I am throwing around the term "local" when I should be more careful - as there are several layers up from individuals within impacted communities)
3 - No type of data is perfect - Quant data is often lagging, surveys and polls can be subjective, content analysis can have a media bias, etc. Data triangulation is a great way to get at what is really going on. If various sets of data say the same thing, then one assumes higher accuracy.
4 - Data layering is great for creating visualizations of data that can't be combined. I would love to see your Red Flags concept as a layer of data on top other data - so that the human rights incidences being reported can be taken into context. Additionally, I would be interested in having them report beyond just active human rights abuses and include anything they feel like people should know about and don't feel will otherwise be reported.
5 - After awhile people get tired of "early warning". If they don't see any response, they will stop sending data. The mechanism must have some aspects of response associated with it. We've been lucky that a major NGO and others are actually using the data from our platform to do baseline assessments, site and issue selection, and M&E. Having our network aware that their data generation is related to humanitarian/development responses is extremely valuable.
6 - Getting the resources out to the local communities in the rural areas for them to develop their own responses is the next challenge we are working on. Figuring out how to have a small grants program with all of the issues of absorptive capacity, ability to report on use of finances, how to determine success, how to create local ownership while also maintaining and encouraging standards that will be new to the local area without a constant presence. But we think the rural areas need to own the solutions. National NGOs need to learn, as do international NGOs, that locals need to have ownership if the solution is going to be sustainable. We've actually taken this learning from community development managers of major mining companies who saw hospital after hospital that they built and were asked to build sit empty, unused, and eventually crumble. When they asked what was needed, the answer would be "a new hospital".
7 - Having layers of access to the data can be one way to make sure potential responders have access while protecting sources. Also, some people may put too much detail into their descriptions, like people's names. We always have an initial scrub of the data for protection of people before anyone can see it. Only trained network members have access to that scrubbed data. Then the data is taken to another, higher level, which is available to the public. We're able to dig into it if necessary but this has been an incentive for one to participate in the network while allowing the data to also be publicly available.

Sorry for ramble. Would be very interested in talking some time. I'm at khendry@fundforpeace.org

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi Krista!
You have given very valuable information and insight here! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I can see how sharing the information with the "local" people is an important part of the process. I would think that the more involved the "locals" are, the more empowered they will feel and be.
I have no personal first hand experience myself in these areas, so your post have given me many things to think about!

Photo of Joshua Robertson
Team

Krista, thank you SO much for sharing your insights. Sounds like the Fund for Peace has made a lot of strides in this area!

I have a couple of follow-up questions for you:

- In your opinion. which organizations or groups, specifically (i.e., by name or by type), would be interested in this kind of information?
- What would these organizations or groups need to know? Want to know?
- Are you aware of proxy measures or metrics that could, perhaps when taken together, yield insights similar to what we might get from a direct report? For example, is it possible that crop prices in an area could tell us something about whether mass conflict is present in that area? If so, is there a methodology for identifying proxies?
- In your first point, above, you said that sometimes collectors have limited access but that they do have it. Can you expand upon this? Some folks have said that there are potential conflict zones in which NO communication infrastructure exists. Do you think this is a realistic risk?

Thanks!!

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Great insights & discussion guys – keep up the collaboration!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
Team

Very useful information in particular for someone like me who has no experience in this kind of area.
Among all the incredible insights from Krista, I think it is important indeed to think of local data collectors (rather than only soldiers, diplomats). It is also crucial to keep in mind that people don't want to give (data) without receiving something back. This is something that is true in many other contexts.
Moreover, it seems indeed crucial to engage (and support) the co-creation of solutions with local communities, which not only have a better understanding of the needs but also of the constraints and possibilities. They will also be potential champions and will help implement the solutions.
Great to read about all this expert knowledge and see how it supports Joshua's idea while also raising important questions.

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

I the idea is okay; however, I would like to raise some concerns:

1)
Relying solely on well-connected U.S. Agents, Soldiers, and Diplomats limits the amount of information that can be gathered.

First, in many foreign countries, as a soldier on a military base, you must stay on the military base unless on a mission and missions do not occur all of the time. Moreover, the US lacks military presence in many countries. For instance, there is only one military base in all of Africa. The rest of the responsibility falls to the military located in Germany.

Additionally, U.S. Agents are many times on sensitive missions, which would limit their ability to report. Even with being anonymous, sending out reports can place an agent on the radar of the local country, which could ruin the mission.

As for diplomats, there are some locations that are absent of US diplomats. For example, Somalia, the entire diplomatic mission to that country is run out of Nairobi, Kenya. Madagascar is a country where we recently ceased diplomatic missions and there is not a full time US military presence there either.
Furthermore, all of these individuals normally have fairly heavy work schedules that will limit the amount of time they can spend on creating detailed reports.

2)

Expecting highly visible companies like Coca Cola to get involved is ambitious for a couple of reasons. First, a company may want to help, but considered their positions in the local economy they will likely attempt to remain neutral. For example, as seen in Google’s operations in China, Google honored the Chinese government’s requirement to restrict web access to the Chinese people, in spite of its open opposition to the restriction of information, in order to continue operating. If the issue is generated from the government, then a company taking sides against that government would surely become a target; not something a company wants to do. Whether that is right is another issue. L

Lastly, many of the multinational corporations’ distribution networks often rely on third-party local subcontractors. Basically, what this does is limits the larger organizations ability to assist. What’s more, local companies may not want to be involved due to fears of retribution or it is even possible that some of these businesses may be ran by relative of members of the government or the government itself.

How can these issues be mitigated or resolved?

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Michael, you raise some important risks, and I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your feedback :)

While several of my examples used US-based companies/NGOs and US governmental agencies, I never intended to restrict the pool of potential participants to only those from America. I think that by diversifying and seeking the participation of organizations and individuals from other countries, we could reduce the risk that all potential flag-raisers are expelled if the US government's relationship with a country sours.

Another way to mitigate this risk is by noting not just the reports that do come out of a particular country, but also those that don't. Two other concepts ('Beacon' and 'Knowing by Numbers') provide blueprints for how unexpected, significant drops or changes in data coming from an area can be nearly as informative as the reports that do.

As the OpenIDEO team mentioned below, a third way to mitigate the risk you've raised is to track proxy measures and metrics (e.g., crop prices) that can give us insight about what's going on in an area when direct reports are unreliable or absent.

Your point about visible companies potentially being reluctant to participate is also well-taken. I think this can be mitigated two ways: 1. By incentivizing the organizations to participate (e.g., Kiran's idea to position it as a way to exercise social responsibility, shaming those who don't participate by publishing a prestigious list of companies that do, etc.). 2. By simultaneously targeting the individual employees themselves and reassuring them that reports remain anonymous. That way, even if Coca-Cola the company doesn't participate, Coca-Cola employees still can. I think this also partially addresses the sub-contractor issue you brought up. These sub-contractor employees still qualify as potentially better connected than locals (by virtue of their ties to the Coca-Cola mothership), and, by soliciting their participation as individuals, we may still get them :)

What do you think of these potential mitigations? I could use your help further mitigating the risks you've raised. Do you have any ideas for doing so?

BTW, sorry for the slow reply, I've been traveling and out of town the last few weeks.

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DeletedUser

One thing about the Shaming companies idea. If you publish a list with the names of the "prestigious companies" that are participating, in effect you are creating a "Target these companies first" list for the local governments. Essentially, you are advertising who your participants are so that the hostile parties or governments can target these groups to either force them out or commit violence against them to force them to stop participating. It will nullify the positive involvement. OPSEC or Operational Security should be considered when looking at some of these mitigation options because it does not effectively solve a problem of preventing atrocity if all it does is add to the pool of targets or shift the target to another group.

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Richard, you make a really good point; I completely overlooked that potential side-effect. I know that companies' PR departments often trumpet their organizations' Social Responsibility initiatives. Do you think this is one initiative that, even if done to be more responsible, companies would want to keep completely quiet (for the reasons you've mentioned)?

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Let's focus a little on information and data needs, and let's start with these two questions:
- Who is a potential user/consumer of the information that would come from hard-to-access areas via Red Flag?
- What questions would they be hoping to answer by looking at the data?

For example, maybe the U.N. is a potential consumer of the information coming from Flag Raisers' reports, and maybe, for a potentially developing atrocity, they want to know scope (How many people might be affected?), who is involved (Do perpetrators share a trait(s)? Do victims?), etc.

Think in terms of a reporter's W questions (Who, What, Where, Why, When, How). The more details the better! Thanks!!

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Two more questions :)

- What, specifically, would need to be measured to answer the questions?
- How would it be collected?

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I think there is a wide range of users that could see value in the data, depending on the data being collected. It could be health, violence, etc. related. I don't think we'd have a problem IDing users.

I think the questions they would be seeking answers for would be in the ballpark of: Where do we need to apply our resources to have the most impact? Where do we already have resources, but may need more?

How would the information be collected? I could see outposts stationed in refugee camps or medical units collecting the necessary information from the refugees/patients. We could validate the information by providing "train the trainer" type of training to the people being deployed in these areas. That way we could be assured that the information was gathered by responsible hands.

We could also provide "packets" to any area that makes a request for one. This would allow for a jump-start on the process before we could get there or at least a starting point for fledgling operations that may not have their feet wet yet. We could also post videos online and utilize educational platforms to deliver the information to areas that have access to those sorts of things.

A good partner for this may be some of the MOOCs that are popping up in the distance education arenas.

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David, thanks for the response (and sorry for my slow reply)!

I like the idea of having a presence in refuge camps. What kind of information do you think we could get from the folks in these camps and how would we use it? Would getting information from them at this stage be too 'after the fact' (i.e., if there's a refugee camp that we know about, does that mean it's too late to 'prevent' the atrocity)?

Can you also talk a little more about these packets you mentioned? What would be in them and how would they work?

Thanks!

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I think the toll free text/calls are feasible in places where people have cell phones and internet/telecom networks.

However how do you apply your idea where cellphones, telecom, internet, websites do not exist or hard to access?

In some of these conflict zones, here is very little infrastructure, so how do you implement your red flag idea?.

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Masato, thanks for your feedback! Your point is well-taken. This idea focuses on connectors who may still retain connectivity, even in rough places and tough situations. Further, from what I understand, SOME SMS or cell phone capability/infrastructure is available in many of even the poorest places. When unavailable, though, I think there may be proxy metrics that can yield similar information. I'm just not sure what the proxies would be. Also, I think that monitoring sudden changes in communication coming from an area may tell us a lot. Please see my response to Michael Fish for more on this.

Do you have any ideas for how to further mitigate these risks? Interested in your thoughts!

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DeletedUser

These are some great ideas.
When I read the words "raise the red flag", my mind went literal. I envisioned a totally portable, immediately inflating red "weather balloon". If it went up high enough, away from the ground conflict quickly, then reached altitude above climactic obscurations, a satellite could pick up the symbol printed on the balloon (trained recognition?) and alert.
The "balloons" could be buried or held locally, by each family or neighborhood to be raised or released in time of crisis. Satellites could provide steady surveillance. Plus, what a cool art project? I can envision groups of community members gathering to stitch together lighter-than-air parachute materials into beautiful red-and-white pattern kite/balloons.

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Christina, I like the idea of a Flag that could be Raised completely independent of the status of the area's technology infrastructure. A balloon might be one possibility! I also like it's simplicity. Anyone else have ideas for Flags that are this simple yet, if Raised, could provide useful data that could be combined with data gathered by other modes?

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DeletedUser

Thought that this article might be of interest. It helps to highlight some of the issues that may arise with your concept. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/bolivia-president-expels-us-govt-aid-agency-19082045#.UYJxxspOPVI

How will your concept address the issue of a government expelling the very people your concept relies on to gather and discriminate information?

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DeletedUser

This article helps to highlight exactly what I was saying in a previous post. Many times the US Agents, Military, and Diplomats are not of any help due to the many restrictions that can arise. One major problem is when a country like Bolivia decides to expel these very people from the country. What help are they going to be when they are not even allowed in?

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Thanks for sharing the article, Alicia! Very informative. I discussed some potential mitigations to the risks it raises in a response to Michael's feedback. I'd be interested in your thoughts and any ideas you have for further mitigation!

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Hi Joshua, a group of collaborators interested in organizing meetups locally in each region they live in met up and discussed your idea. They really liked how your idea could be combined with the idea from the Beacon to look for lower network traffic and how this could be embedded in organizations already working in the area. The example could be that NGOs working on conflict issues (or other groups) could do daily reports to each other and mining / aggregating those to see when there's a fall out of information could be great indications of problems. We dug your idea and wanted to add our thoughts.

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Hey Nathan, thanks for your thoughts! I think doing something similar to the Beacon concept makes a lot of sense. I've been struggling to figure out how the Red Flag concept might work when government shuts down communication or expels potential Flag Raisers, and noting sudden drops in usage might help do the trick. Thanks!

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Probably a long shot, but anyone in Chicago and interested in meeting up to collaborate on this concept? If so, email me at josh.d.robertson@gmail.com

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Revisiting my old post a month or so back.

While setting up outposts in many areas is one option. I had also indicated about the potential of combining the CSR initiatives of companies to various UN or other initiatives.

Could existing locations of various NGO's, retail outlets of companies, and local stores can double up as outposts. Would reduce upfront costs to set them up from scratch. Besides chances of such outposts being attacked will be less as they belong to a large corps or NGOs.
Again nothing is a given but at least there will be redundancy.

Once we have identified such a network of outposts, maybe we could then think of the various mobile based technology solutions to gather distress data from local users. As many of you have mentioned, an app-based solution is one way to go.

I am wondering if a dedicated "distress" button should become standard in all phones? I am sure such dedicated buttons are more valuable than Facebook buttons :) in conflict/remote locations. And all carriers should collect, collate and transfer to one central repository where signals from different locations(carriers) could be analyzed and relevant signal maps created and relayed back to regions in danger along with relays to local mobiles users in that region.

Will continue to do some more thinking. Look forward to hearing all of your feedback.

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Kiran, thanks for following up! I really like the idea of using existing locations as outposts, where possible. Maybe I'm missing something, but I can't see any downside to doing that!

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DeletedUser

Joshua,
I love this idea! I believe this might be the way to go. I do think it is important to involve the locals more. Maybe develop "neighborhood watch" groups that consist of individuals within the communities. I think that it is important to help empower the victims and let them know that they are a part of the solution and that they have backup.
Fantastic idea Joshua! I look forward to seeing this idea evolve!

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Hi Joshua, Amanda. It's a fantastic concept that seems to be growing very fast. Hope you get the chance to refine it further and build on some of the other contributions. I think this one just now from Landon might help:

http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/international-witness-iwitness-usaid-humanity-united-genocide-prevention-mitigation-initiative/#c-6ade43d99e0afad4a612126ac4860341

I'm with Amanda in that I see the strength of using 'connectors', but also hope the idea can be taken advantage of by locals on the ground too. Landon has some great thoughts on both training and the technology that can be used.

Hope you guys can brew up something special together!

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Thanks for the feedback, Amanda and James! And sorry for the delayed reply!

Amanda, thanks for pushing to include locals more. I think you're right that, just because this concept primarily leverages networks that have one foot in the area and one foot in the outside world, it should overlook local folks (many of whom are, themselves, connected).

James, I took a look at the concept to which you linked. Thanks for noting the opportunity to leverage some of its compenents. Thinking through it now, but if anything in particular stood out to you, please let me know :) Thanks!

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DeletedUser

Hi Joshua!
Sorry I have not been very active lately.
I wanted to mention one other thing about using religious groups. Most missionary groups are good and are truly trying to help the local people. Unfortunately, there are some religious groups that go to these ares with hidden agendas, and try to force their ideas on the local people. I just think that the groups that are involved in this must be properly looked at.
Once agian, I think that teaching the locals that certain harmful behavior by governments and other large groups are not acceptable and should not be tolerated. Getting to know the local people and thier stories are key to effectively helping.

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Thanks, Amanda! I agree that we may need to screen organizations prior to admitting them. I think it should be pretty rare, though, that an organization isn't allowed to participate. There are probably only a handful of organizations in the world with which NO ONE disagrees about anything (not enough of them to get sufficient coverage/data, anway). Not saying whether I agree, but a lot of people think, for example, that corporations, the U.S. Government, etc. are immoral in some way or another. Does that mean that we can't leverage their unique positioning and connectedness in these places for this one purpose? I think it may be possible to enlist the help of individuals from these organizations for the common good, yet still remain neutral toward the missions of the organizations of which they are a part.

Plus, these organizations don't really need us as much as we need them :)

I really like the dialogue, and, again, I think you're right that some screening probably makes sense! Just not sure how to develop criteria that everyone would agree on and that wouldn't exclude so many organizations that our concept doesn't work.

Interested in your thoughts...

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DeletedUser

I agree with what you are saying. I just wanted to bring it up. I think that an organization would have to be pretty bad to be excluded, but it is just something to be aware of.
Have you considered implementing some of the other concepts into your idea? One that I really like is the enabler card idea. I think that is a great way to spread awareness utilizing a few different languages and graphics.
I will continue to brainstorm. I am really happy to be a part of this project.

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Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Idea!

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Joshua, I think Raise a Flag has a lot of potential due to the involvement of connectors and a wide variety of tools available. My questions and I am offering a few thoughts are:

- first, how to analyze the information in a systematic and understandable way, as I can only imagine there would be tons of data coming in all at once. My though is that since a lot of the tools you have mentioned are different digital devices (or even entry at an outpost), what if each entry is assigned an ID, which then create a dot on Google map, like an IP address. In this way, the map can show density of dots in certain area which Raise a Flag.
- secondly, what would we do with these data, how do we warn and give two ways communication back to the reporter of the incident. More importantly, how can organization's workers distribute warning information and prevent abusive events before it happens. Similar to an earthquake or tornado warning, there maybe lists that people can sign up to receive alerts, or independent radio station with these info.
- thirdly, training of organization workers. I think Raise a Flag should make sure they are independent and has proper training, since in a lot of hard-hit areas, there are much corruption.

I hope these thoughts trigger some other ideas for you as you continue to shape this concept. I will continue to follow your post since I think it has a lot of potential.

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Thu Do, I appreciate your thoughts! I love the idea of of assigning each entry a unique ID and 'pinning' it to a google map. That would be a very simple way to create a 'heat map' of human rights violations. This would be easy if the submission mode is smartphone, as the app could give the reporter the open to utilize GPS. It would be a bit trickier if the submission mode is phone call (landline) or, especially, text message. I suppose that if the submission mode is phone call, the automated voice greeting could instruct callers to include the location of the incident in their description. For text messages, I suppose the instructions to include location would have to be provided well before the incident, during enrollment or when potential reporters become aware of the Red Flag service. Maybe the outposts can provide potential reporters cards with instructions and tips for making a report if they see something. What do you think?

I hadn't really thought of making the service two-way (i.e., providing updates BACK to reporters). I think the focus of the concept is getting reliable information from the area out, to the rest of the world. Where possible, though, information back to the reporters and the rest of the area is a good idea. To Shannon's point, if there are Red Flag outposts in the troubled area, they could serve as one means by which messages get back. Radio could be one option here (I love Karoline's People's Radio concept: http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/people-s-radio/). Runners are another. If reporters have the luxury of a smartphone or internet, its a little bit easier (push notifications). If submission happens by phone, maybe callers can opt in to automatic call-backs or something. This makes me think of an important feature (which is related to both your first and second point). Analytics can play a role in both identifying potential atrocities and in determining the Red Flag organization's subsequent response. For example, maybe if the frequency of reports per square mile per hour exceeds some threshold, the Red Flag organization declares a crisis and increased communication back to reporters or back to the affected area is triggered. Definitely interested in feedback from you or others on this!

Your last point is important. I'm envisioning two components to the organization. There's the centralized org, which would be responsible for overall governance, quality control, coordination, and analysis. Interestingly, I'm not sure if the centralized org's staff need to be located in the same geographic place, or if the organization could be virtual. I'd probably prefer having everyone located in the same place, but what do others think? The second component of the Red Flag organization is the network of outposts. This, to me, is where your point about training and mitigating the risk of corruption is most important. If the staff in an outpost were all non-natives, that might reduce the risk of corruption. However, a staff of outsiders may have less credibility with locals. Maybe a mix makes the most sense?? Either way, recruiting the right people is very important.

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Just saw that Arjan had a similar idea to use cards to raise awareness and instruction: http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/enabler-cards/

Nice one, Arjan!

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Hi Joshua,

I am glad we can continue to brainstorm and move this concept forward.

For the first question of how to gather info for a heat map, I think we can all agree that IP address is the solution for internet-connected device (I.e entry through Red Flag website/app) or devices with GPS. For phone call and text message, I think about tracking system that 911 utilizes. I think your idea about making instructions available to users are not only necessary but also critical, for example at outpost at a community space which I plan to discuss more below. However, in my experience in creating user path, the more steps in instruction involved, the less participation we will get, especially in emergency situations. That is why I think it is important to use automatically locator as some of the above. I hope we can get more input from our community here.

I agree the two ways communication is not part if the initial concept and might distract us from the task at hand. But wouldn't it be nice to prevent than react? :)

Community space as the center of training:
A character of human society is trading and the existence of the bazaar, market. Here is also the connecting point for traders from different areas, the gossip hub, the community gathering. Market locations are determined on the density and need of the people around them and are not usually controlled by the local government. It is in these markets that I think we should install outpost, instruction, facilitator...It might not be a great data entry point (installed app or mailbox) because of the exposure but is an excellent training/ information distribution for how to get access to all the tools.

I hope this note will spark some thoughts.

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Thanks for moving the idea farther! For some reason, I wasn't notified that you'd posted another reply and only just spotted it!

I think you're spot on about the need to automate as much of the collection of a particular report's data as possible (using GPS, IP, etc.). The easier we can make it for Flag Raisers to report without having to remember a bunch of steps, the better!

Your thoughts about locating outposts in a community space got me thinking about the potential pros/cons of an outpost's physical visibility and prominence. As I see it, pros include the symbolism (communicates that the area is protected, per Rui's recent comment), presence (being seen as a valued partner, per Meena's post a while back), awareness (getting the word out, recruiting potential Flag Raisers), and positioning (as you said, community centers serve as a hub of information flow). A big con might be the fact that, in the more closed countries (the ones that also happen to be where Red Flag could be most valuable), authoritarian governments might prohibit an organization like Red Flag from having a physical presence. An outpost in the town's center square or market would be crying out for officials to shut it down. Might it then make more sense for an outpost to be 'underground' (i.e., less visible, perhaps more virtual)? But, if underground, does it lose its ability to generate awareness, recruit Flag Raisers, etc.? Interested in your feedback!

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Joshua,

This directly relates to the question " How will you keep the people who use your service safe?" Yes it would be ideal if everyone has a smart phone and know how to operate a minisite but my concern is that we might be working with very under-developed area with not much exposure or access to new technology. I think in reference, Dan's Hope idea of using trader and merchant (http://www.openideo.com/open/usaid-humanity-united/ideas/courier-trader-network/) might be a good way to use people power to drive information traffic.

You are right about if this market place with all kiosk / outpost be very visible to the threatening source, it will be terminated. We should bring it 'underground' , maybe build up with youth group and let them be the forefront owner who will go back to report news to their families. The reason why I mention youth group is because I always believe the generation who adapt the fastest and who protect what belongs to them the most is young adults. That way, all virtual skills such as texting internet searching, twitter hashtag, etc are already learnt and ready to implement. But then maybe it is not a good idea to risk the lives of such young people.

What do you think?

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Congrats on being shortlisted for our Atrocity Prevention Challenge, Joshua!

Our challenge sponsors loved how your idea tapped into existing networks. One area to consider as you keep refining is how giving proxy information like crop prices or other relevant tidbits the organisation tracks could help. Which proxies could be most promising?

Read more on how to get involved with prototyping and refinement: http://bit.ly/oi_refine And here's some tips on prototyping specifically for this challenge: http://bit.ly/endatrocity-proto Ready, steady, refine!

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Thanks so much! Really looking forward to more refinement and collaboration!

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This is a great idea. I just tweeted at the Red Cross & Coca-Cola to see if we can find out if they're doing things like this or are interested in thinking through a prototype.

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Would love to see if there's stuff like this happening and how to learn from it if anyone else wants to try and pull in some more expertise.

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Great idea reaching out to some of these organizations, Nathan! Let us know if you hear anything. Thanks also for the feedback; would love to hear more of your ideas!

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DeletedUser

Also the UN would be a great ally for Red Flag.

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Rui, totally agree that the UN would be a great ally. Not only are they one of the more connected networks (meaning members could be Flag Raisers), but they might also be one of the parties using the information coming from Flag Raisers.

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DeletedUser

Hi Guys!
Love the Idea. Using a signaling method is to me, the way to go. I would like to contribute with this.
In every town, settlement, village, or just camp, that it is protected with a Red Flagger or Red Watcher there should be a description of the fact. For example, a Red Flag as signaling that this place is protected.

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Rui, your idea reminded me of Neighborhood Watch! The neighborhood in which I lived as I child was protected by Neighborhood Watch. There were signs at both ends of the street to signal that the place was protected.

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Very interesting idea, Joshua, and a great way to integrate existing networks! By utilizing organizations which have high visibility and a strong presence in the country already, the employees and volunteers could conduct “Raise the Red Flag” work virtually undetected, while operating completely out in the open.

To build on Thu Do’s second comment, how can we utilize your “Raise the Red Flag” networks in reverse to send a red flag to civilians if they are in danger? The isolation of citizens in these countries results in them being unaware of and unable to effectively react to approaching danger. With internet and mobile access blocked, sending messages to a large population through typical channels such as smart phones, blog posts, email blasts, etc. is not always feasible.

One thought may be having “runners” – local civilians dedicated to the cause who could travel via bike, car, or even foot to warn more isolated groups. You could organize the runners out of central hubs owned by the Red Flag volunteer organizations. This way, messages would only need to be wirelessly received in a few central locations and could be pushed out by runners from there.

Another idea, posted by Stephan Kardos titled “The meaningful packaging (Messaging with packaging)”, describes using product packaging to send messages. Although this is not the fastest route, companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, and Nike could customize their labels to spread Raise the Red Flag messaging and organize the local volunteers.

Just some thoughts! I am looking forward to seeing how this concept grows.

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I really appreciate your input, Shannon! In my response to Thu Do, I mentioned that I thought your idea of utilizing outposts to get messages back out was a great one. I could see those outposts adopting a highly relational tactic of developing informal networks of volunteers for pushing messages the other direction, in the event of a crisis.

Since a key part of this concept is recruiting employees or volunteers from other well-positioned, well-connected networks, some of which are companies with supply-chains in these regions, maybe it makes sense to partner with these companies and get them to put messages on their products. I could totally see this as a way to raise awareness of Raise a Red Flag BEFORE a crisis hits (e.g., "If you see something, text 1-800-REDFLAG and be sure to describe what happened, including the location"). To your point, it would be more difficult to provide updates via this mode DURING a crisis, as it might take so long to print something on the packaging and get it distributed that the message would be late or unhelpful by the time it reached the intended audience. I guess I don't know enough about these cycle-times to say whether this would be a viable channel for updates in the midst of an atrocity. Anyone know?

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Great idea Joshua and wonderful ongoing conversations.

I like the idea of building upon connectors and creating a platform to connect them. I also love the gathering of information through multiple media (BTW I think you should also seriously consider text messaging as from what I know it seems more relevant than smart phones in some of these countries, although it might depends on the audience. Still I find the model of the bribs app powerful).

I like very much the idea of Meena to develop the eco-system by creating local conference that will create awareness and possibly creative solutions.

I think it would be great if you could develop a bit more how you are envisioning the coordinating mechanisms. I assume that there is an organization managing the process. Who would it be? who would be its members? Is it run by volunteers?

Thu Do's points are well-taken in particular on how to integrate the different sources of data, analyze them and on how to then share the data to relevant actors in the field. These questions are important questions that would help you make your idea stronger. You can probably build on some technical solutions but there will also be need for human interpretation and you need to define who would do the work.
Moreover, defining who is the audience of Red Flags will also help you refine how you want to present your data.

Looking forward to the next steps.

al

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Anne-Laure, thanks for your thoughtful feedback! The assumption in this concept is that, because they have one foot in the location and one foot in the outside world, members of the kind of organizations mentioned might, in addition to being more connected to the outside world, have access to technology that other locals do not have access to. Even so, to your point, smartphones may be rare or non-existent. Some countries may not have the infrastructure to support them; in other countries, governments may censor the internet or ban smartphones outright. I think this happened in Syria.

I began to answer your question about 'coordinating mechanisms' in my response to Thu Do, but, admittedly, this still needs a lot of fleshing out. Your assumption about a centralized organization managing the process is correct. I think this would be a non-profit organization, and, in steady-state at least, it would be composed of full-time or part-time employees. With the level of coordination and analysis (not to mention maintenance of the tools and technology) that these folks would need to do, I don't see how they could be volunteers (but maybe I'm missing something :)

I also feel like, if there were outposts in the most troubled places, their workforce would need to be, at least in part, also composed of employees of the Red Flag organization (but, in this case, 'Field' employees). I think, however, part of their strategy could be to recruit volunteers to augment their workforce, be eyes and ears, and be mouthpieces (for sending messages in the opposite direction). Maybe the volunteers are locals, which could help with local buy-in and add credibility to the outpost in that area.

I Would love your feedback or additional thoughts on this!

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Interesting concept. Just like Meena, I like the idea of working with connectors, especially those that have links to the local societies, but also to their 'home countries'.
To continue a bit on the conversation you had with Meena here, I think it can be quite easy to make the people you are talking about aware of this. I have not lived in areas like we are discussing here, but as an expat I know that people always like to stay connected and share experiences. There are in any expat-community, and I believe that the people we're talking about here fall into that category, several formal and informal networks. It's about finding them, either through the companies, or through diplomatic missions, chambers of commerce or other network.
I'm Dutch, for example, so if I would like to reach Dutch people in Sudan, I simply enter the search term 'Nederlanders in Sudan' into Google, and the first two hits (okay, not much more than those) already give me interesting insight in who to connect with.
I really think there's potential in this idea.

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Team

Oh, and maybe, you might want to take a look at this app: http://www.bribespot.com/ - it's about reporting on corruption, anonymously.

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Thanks so much for the awesome feedback, Arjan! I like that you built upon the idea by mentioning that it could potentially be targeted at not only people from these types of organizations, but also ANYONE who might be well-positioned (i.e., on the ground in hard-to-reach places) AND have connections back home or to the outside world (e.g., expats, vacationers, etc.). My question is, do you think there are expats, tourists, or vacationers in these kinds of places? I had originally thought of people from the types of organizations I mentioned, because, for different reasons, they would be there despite the danger, riskiness. Tourists and expats might not be. Hope my question makes sense :) Interested in your thoughts!

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Also, thanks for pointing to bribespot.com! After visiting the website and poking around a bit, I think there are some features that could be used in analogous ways, for our purposes. For example, I thought that the idea of asking 'users' to provide a narrative account of what they observed makes sense. But this would have to be balanced with the need to make reporting easy and the need to make analysis of many 'reports' possible. Can the right data be pulled from free-form narrative to identify themes across reports?

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There might be an option to have a combination for reporting 'fixed form' data (selected from lists) and a free-form text field. I guess with the right algorithm we can also analyse text quite well, by the way. A matter of understanding the language used and looking for words or word groups.

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Great thinking around leveraging existing connectors plus considerations of anonymity, Joshua.

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I'm also digging the notion of creating a platform which would enhance efficiencies on collecting information from respective organisations.

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Thanks for the great feedback, Meena! You articulated the idea well! Do folks think that individuals from organizations could be persuaded to use something like this? I've been thinking about how connectors would actually become aware of a platform like this and get enrolled. I would welcome thoughts from you all!

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Good question Joshua – looking forward to hearing what others think. My gut reaction is that they could be persuaded but that as part of your concept you may need to consider what would incentivise /motivate them to get involved. Excited to see what others have to say and what you all come up with!

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Was thinking about this further & was wondering whether the coordinating organisation that you are proposing might engage relevant partners through holding local conferences at main centers near contexts of atrocity. This would help them be seen as a valued partner with collaborative clout... and would also give them the opportunity to bring relevant organisations together around a local issue. Here's the article that got me thinking about this: http://partnersworldwide.org/where-we-work/news/haitian-businesses-and-ngos-collaborate-to-restore-the-economy/ The other thing that got me thinking was a comment by a friend recently that start-ups need to consider how they might nurture the eco-system in which they exist ... not just focus on their actual product or service. eg. If they're setting up a food truck specialising in local food, they may want to do something like organise / sponsor a local food art competition + public exhibition to engage their community around this topic in a way that will ignite local conversations and illicit creative community responses which spread the good word.

Hope these musings trigger further thoughts from you and others as your concept continues to take shape.

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Good thinking, Meena! I love the idea of enrollment happening locally. Local conferences could be a great way to raise awareness and get buy-in from the right folks. I think sometimes I forget that without a plan for the micro-level, a macro-level initiative may have trouble moving beyond theory.

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Leveraging existing networks and resources created by corporations and many other organizations makes great sense.

A similar post by Daniela, where she mentions about using the clout of large corporations and their advertising reach to spread the message can be an add on to this idea.

I had a longer comment on her post but would like to repeat and expand on one idea I had on her post -

Making all corporations sign up to be the eyes and ears for the various organizations of UN and other organizations. Making them commit to helping prevent and respond to crises in regions they could help. It should not be an optional thing but a mandatory requirement.

Why shouldn't this be the real CSR and not just small company initiatives they call CSR?

Maybe aligning the company CSR initiatives with the overall goal of what the various organizations UN/non-UN are trying to achieve will truly drive a more visible change in many regions. Companies could pick and choose different initiatives they want to be a part of and spend their alloted CSR budget on these collaborative initiatives.

This can have multiple benefits -
1) Progress the overall goals of the UN and its sister organizations
2) UN capital resources can be supplemented by CSR budgets of companies
3) Remove the hassle for UN of creating something from scratch
4) Since the UN has a more big picture view of challenges around the world, they could help coordinate efforts and guide the companies thus freeing the resources and capital of UN to tackle many more initiatives

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Kiran, thanks for sharing! I think you may be onto something. A couple of things, actually :) Positioning Raise a Red Flag as a way for corporations to exercise social responsibility is a good way to encourage for-profit organizations to play. To your point, instead of each corporation doing its own CSR thing, what if there were more coordination, and those that were well-positioned served as the benevolent, watchful tentacles of a centralized, peace-keeping organization (e.g., UN, the organization being proposed here, etc.).