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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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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 Raise a Red Flag!

  • 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 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: 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': 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. - 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 ( 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).
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Team (10)

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

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!"

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)


Raise a Red Flag - Program Overview


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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?

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