Community Concierge Program
Working together with an organization in Nepal, this project seeks to identify and train female leaders, who in turn provide information and guidance to other women in their community.
[Summary by the Amplify Team]
Provide a short description of your idea
Our idea is a service (and associated toolkit). It tackles the problem of information sharing and community building. It addresses the problem by creating a new role, community concierge, to inform and connect women within the community and with other communities. As part of our collaboration with Women For Human Rights we are focusing on developing a toolkit / blueprint that they can use in implementing the role in other communities (assuming our first pilot with them work). This toolkit will then be available to other organizations and communities as well.
Prototyping "Sahayogi Saathi" with Women For Human Rights, Single Women in Kathmandu, Nepal
From the research phase, we learnt that safety issues were often deeply intertwined with women’s empowerment. We found that empowering women can come through information, connections, and sense of community and financial independence. We also learnt that safety issues were related to transportation and affect the new comers in a community. What if we could think of a new role, played by women in low-income urban areas which could provide information regarding not only safe places, but also jobs, housing, and other practical issues in the community, as well as connecting women, and particularly new comers with the existing community?
Get a user's perspective on your idea.
See the experience map.
We have been working with the WHR team for several weeks and they have been great not only at giving us their perspectives but also asking women in the slum as well as different organizations (e.g. loan organization) they are working with to confirm the validity of our idea and various assumptions.
1. At the initial meeting with the single women from the slum, we learnt that they liked the idea of having (and being) sahayogi saathi. They thought it would help other women and empower them as sahayogi saathi. They suggested to have not only widows but younger women (married or not) being trained as sahayogi saathi. This was a key insight for us but also for WHR, which usually focuses on single women. They decided to broaden the reach for this pilot. The women for the slum have been given feedback on the training module, the way to symbolize their role (in this case, they wanted a badge which we designed and are producing).
2. WHR has been very supportive of the idea. They liked our first draft of the toolkit and have been using it to select and recruit the first group of sahayogi saathi. Based on their feedback, we've developed version 2. We will keep refining.
3. Different stakeholders like the organization doing the microloan and running the Chhahari collective supported our idea of using microloan and collective as a way to make the sahayogi saathi model sustainable.
For more details on the ongoing feedback and collaboration: http://greenhousestories.com/design-tinkering-club/openideo-womenssafety-bindi-idea/
Show us what implementation might look like.
See implementation timeline attached:
version 1 shared with Women for Human Rights Team;
version 2 posted based on coordination with WHR so that the 2 timelines are aligned.
Working on updating our prototyping timeline to synch it with the WHR timeline.
Added a bindi blue print document that shows the whole process as well as the different steps at each phase (each group of bindis being trained). We shared it with WHR for feedback and approval.
Note: The toolkit v1 has been used by WHR to start recruiting bindis / sahayogi saathi and develop the training. The version 2 used their feedback and was approved by them. We will keep evolving the toolkit based on their feedback.
We also added a document on leadership and capacity building training that WHR shared with us. It is based on training they conducted in the past. It usually last 4-5 days. It will be used as a basis to develop the training for the sahayogi saathi. We also talked with WHR of maybe adding 1 or 2 days on health and sanitation (WHR has also experience in doing this kind of training). This would be the first module of training for sahayogi saathi. The second part would be handicraft training: for this first pilot, women have decided they want to learn how to make wedding shoes.
Note: the current version of our idea is merged with WHR's chhahari idea as we are currently prototyping our idea with them.
Meeting with women from Kathmandu slum and the WHR team on May 7, 2013 to discuss our idea
Meeting with women from Kathmandu slum and the WHR team on May 7, 2013 to discuss our idea
Meeting with women from Kathmandu slum and the WHR team on May 7, 2013 to discuss our idea
Some preliminary sketches that we have created for the badges.
some more badge sketches.
Latest version of the badge designed by Design Tinkering with the feedback of women in the slum and the WHR team
From the research phase, we noticed a couple of things that led us to this idea:
The bindis will be women from the community who will gather and share information, and connect people within and across the community.
- Feeling safe is often connected to being informed and to be in one's own community
- New comers (in particular migrants from rural areas) are often powerless and "at risk". E.g they are easy target for sex trade or violence.
- Providing jobs to women in low income urban areas is an important step in increasing safety and empowerment through independence.
- Developing a sense of community, shared identity is a first step to empowerment and safety
- Often women have a limited access to jobs due to the transportation issue.
- Safety issues often arise during transportation
We chose to call the concierge a bindi as it is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration. It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck. (The bindi also represents the third eye). The name would change depending on the local context. We tend to think that they could be volunteer but will be compensated for their time by being trained and having access to information. However, depending on the context, they could also receive a small salary.
In our collaboration with WHR in Kathmandu, we decided to change the name so that it is meaningful to the women in the community. Based on the feedback of the WHR team, the name will be " Sahayogi Saathi" which means something like "a helpful friend, or a supporting friend".
Let's imagine how this idea will work:
Imagine Saroji who is looking for a job. Through a local organization ( like VPUU) she got selected and trained. She has a small stand in a busy location (a central place in the neighborhood, probably close to transportation access). She has a badge to indicate that she is the concierge for the community. As a concierge, she has 2 main roles:
(Local NGOs and associations come to give her flyers and update her on new programs. They also ask her about specific needs and feedback she might have heard on previous programs.)
- Information sharing: about events in the community and in other communities: about jobs, health issues, transportation, housing, and safe (unsafe) places.
We love Vishal's idea of 2 big boxes, one for "needs" and one for "offers" where people could share and drop off notes. Along with more community volunteers/ NGO, they can consolidate and then get some help better match the groups (that's their connector role).
People tell her stories about what happened and what ways are less dangerous than others. She spreads the news about the safest ways to travel, some warnings and she can help create women’s pools.)
- Connecting: They will not only connect people within the community (in particular new comers), but but they will also integrate the information they gathered "needs" and "offers" and then consolidating them and connect people in the community to other resources, other groups and other communities.
Example 1: Shruthi changed job and her company does not offer transportation anymore (before they had a company bus). Saroji tells her that there is a group of women who leave every morning on the 5:45 bus and she could join them. In the evening, they all wait for each other. Even better, a few live in the same direction so they could walk from the bus station to their place.
Example 2: Sonal mentions to Saroji and she needs to go to an appointment in another part of the city, and is planning to take a certain route. Saroji discourages her because there have been several stories lately, even during the day.
Example 3: Durga, 17, has just arrived from a rural area. Her family told her she needed to find a job and sent her to live with her relatives. …
Saroji is going to put her in touch with the local youth club, helps her (after also involving a local association) to find a series of jobs working for families.
She also tells her about a taxi training program for women and suggests she looks into it as an option.
and make sure that she can talk with Pinky Singh who is now doing the program.
Example 4: Sowmya, 45, is chatting with Saroji, who feels overwhelmed with managing the house finance. She gives her a few tips. She also chats with her about the possibility of expanding the home cook food service, she’s also providing to a few of her neighbors. She recommends that Sowmya goes to the next entrepreneurship meeting organized in one of the after-hour home store front.
Through all these activities, Saroji empowers other women by allowing them to connect to each other, to have tips regarding traveling safely but also helps new comers to the community to become integrated.
It is also empowering her (and other bindis) by providing them jobs or augmenting current jobs. In many places in India, right next to bus stands, busy intersections and temples, there are women-run businesses (let's call it A), usually a small stand selling snacks, flowers, fruits, or vegetables. Wome engage with these businesses. You can also find women runnig small stands (B) nearby that sell tea, coffee, magazines, snacks and cigarettes. These stalls are very common but it's mostly men who engage with it.
If there were a main NGO, they could work with the local press and police to collect information and process them into one page booklets. The NGO's can also rely on their network of Bindis to collect local information. Distribution to the Bindis can be done through existing paper routes. In fact, this is already done: small busineses pay newspaper distributors a small fee to insert their flyers into the newspapers, you could reach the doorsteps and stalls in the thousands for a low cost.
The volunteers at B can then distribute them to the more approachable A s, who can either distribute the flyers to women themselves or can disseminate the information (many of them can read) to women who can't read the local language (this is a big challenge).
The existence of these women also can create a sense of safety among other people in the community as a signal that someone cares ( per "broken windows theory")
Who would become bindis?
They could be for example maids who often work only in the morning (per Aditya’s interview) and who are often already organized (p er Ashwin’s interview). We imagine that other women from community that have small stands could also be bindis. Like Rag-pickers, they know the community inside out and are already being unionized/ working with NGOs. We could leverage their existing skills, for instance vegetable vendors have really good arithmatic/ business skills.
Bindis would be women who have lived in the neighborhood for 3 years and have 3 references from people who know her; possibly go and ask around if people know her (to check how well connected, popular she is). As the program grows, it will also be based on personal connections. The bindis have to connectors and mavens.
Training for bindis:
Per Mansi’s idea, the bindis (selected among women from the community who are well-connected and trusted) who will have previously received training in various skills (accounting, getting a bank account, applying for micro-loans) will work in helping women develop their business. The training part will be a motivation we believe for the bindis. By providing some trips and helping women with basic skills (e.g. set up a bank account, how to get a microloan) as well as helping new comers (with administrative tasks, housing and job search, and connecting them with people in the community), they will empower women in their community. The Bindis would be quite like the Phone ladies for the Grameen project in Bangladesh.
How the model would work?
After thinking of several models, we still believe that a volunteering or cooperative model as suggested by Juan Gomez will work best: we will need some support to start the process, but then the bindis network / collective will be self-sustaining.
Women will volunteer. They will receive training on some basic business and leadership skills (that can be a motivation for them too). They will also train new comers in becoming volunteers, but through their entrepreneurial training they can start new small businesses or improve theirs, therefore making the model self-sustaining.
The training will include basic safety rules, but mostly training related to how to run a business and also some administrative tasks (e.g. opening a bank account, getting a cell phone). So that they can help even women who don’t necessarily have businesses but are just new to the place or need help with basic things.
They would be in a small booth providing some basic skills but also collecting and integrating information they hear on safe zones as well as on women’s pool routes / groups. They will therefore increase safety. Moreover, by connecting with Sonali’s hub idea, we could have utility stores and food places part of the bindis network and providing safety related information, becoming ambassadors/ buddies, signified by a Badge. These stores will also help expand the bindis’ network (per Molly’s suggestion). Women as they walk around of the neighborhood by seeing the badge on some stores will have a sense of increased safety.
P.S: This would not be 24 / 7. During the day until 8 pm or so…
But we will connect with the hub / ambassador or buddies. For example convenience stores and pharmacies that are open all night will have a Badge. The Bindis will provide detailed information on travel, and that coupled with the badges displayed on our ambassador’s shops will create a safe environment for travel.
Inspirations and connections with other concepts:
An inspiration for us was the phone ladies in Bangladesh supported by Grameen bank: Grameen Phone was created in 1996 and is now Bangladesh's largest mobile-phone provider, with 10 million customers - among them 260,000 "phone ladies" who provide village phone service for the poor all over the country. In the village (often the poorest) were offered the possibility to buy a phone and become a phone lady. Most of these women saw their status (economic of course, but social most of all) changed as they became a node in the communication system of their village.
(see also: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/news/2010/05/oped/Hoq-May8.shtml)
We see this concept connected to Mathieu's Women's Pools, but also potentially connected to T asha's Ambassadors Program , or Ratemybus
It is also connected to Mansi's integrator idea, Sonali's hub and Shane's after-hour home fronts
Current prototyping: We had the chance to connect with Women for Human Rights in Kathmandu, Nepal and we are currently working on a version of this idea and working with them to prototype it with 30 women in a slum of Kathmandu.
For a regular update of our collaboration with WHR, we have created a blog. You can check out all our updates here:
Explain your idea in one sentence.
Empowering women by providing them access to basic training, information, supporting them in becoming financially independent and connecting members of the community (in particular, new comers to the existing community) through the creation of a new role in the community.
What is the need you are trying to solve?
Many of the great ideas posted during the ideation phase highlight: 1) the importance of information; 2) the importance of training; and 3) the role of community as a resource and empowerment. Yet, how to connect the different resources and share the information? how to build relationships among members of sub-communities? This is what bindis would do.
Women in low-income urban areas often lack of basic information that could help become financially independent and they feel unsafe when it comes to transportation or going out of their community: The bindis will provide them basic skills and information regarding jobs, small business, administrative tasks and safe route.
Women in low-income urban areas often feel unsafe because they are isolated: the bindis will be key in developing a sense of community and access to support. They will empower women in the community by giving a sense of community and by helping them to connect with outside communities.
New comers in low-income urban areas are often more "at risk" because they don't understand their new environment and they don't have a support network. Bindis will provide them with tips about their new community and connect them to other women in the communities.
Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?
- Women in low income urban areas who can know more about safe (and unsafe) routes, can find other women taking the same route.
- Migrant women who have just arrived and don't know many (if any) people, feel unsafe and don't know where to find support and resources. These new comers will develop a sense of belonging, thus empowering them and increasing their feeling of safety.
- The bindis themselves who would probably be women looking for a job
- The empowerment part, connecting with Mansi's hub idea, would benefit the women of the entire community at large.
In the case of our prototyping effort with Women For Human Rights, Single Women Group (WHR) the women who will first benefit from our idea are the single women selected in the program (http://www.openideo.com/challenge/womens-safety/ideas/empowering-single-women-widows-of-the-slums-through-chhahari-a-safe-space) and then other women in the slum.
Ways of measuring success:
1. Number of bindis trained during the first year.
2. Demand of women asking to be trained as "bindis" / Sahayogi Saathi"
3. Informal interviews would be done in the community by the NGO developing the bindis and will keep track of the awareness about bindis and also feedback about their role. [The aim of the interviews is to check that people know about the bindis and to know if they interact with them, in which context and how they perceive them. This will provide us a measure of the engagement of bindis in the community].
4. At each event / training organized by different organizations working with bindis (in our current context, WHR, their partners and the sahayogi saathi), participants would be asked how they heard about the events: was it through the bindis? [This will allow us to know how successfully bindis disseminate information]
5. Monthly meetings will take place with bindis and different partner organizations for bindis to share feedback about their experience (and receive support / mentoring when necessary) but also for them to share with the organizations the feedback they heard about current programs / trainings / events but also emerging needs and maybe potential new programs. [This will be an opportunity for the organization to see how much information the bindis can collect and disseminate.]
6. Bindis themselves will be interviewed at the end of their volunteering period to see if they feel more empowered. Their enthusiasm in getting other women becoming bindis might also be a good indicator. We will also see if they are able to find a job or develop their own business after volunteering. We are also thinking that some might become interested in helping the organization develop bindis and maybe join them in a training capacity.
7. Eventually, all women should end up being trained as bindis and only giving back a few hours / month... we will have succeeded when there is no more need for bindis! :-)
Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?
As a student club, we are planning to develop a toolkit / blue print based on our collaboration with WHR (and possibly another NGO) that can then be used by organizations in the field. It will also include learnings / case studies from our prototyping effort.
The tool kit will be provided for free.
To start developing the bindi role, there will need to be an organization working with a community. The toolkit will provide it with main steps and a number of resources and how to find, train and develop bindis, as well as different models (to make the role sustainable). We envision that bindis should mentor next generation so that at the end it would be a self-sustaining co-op model. The older, more experienced Bindis will eventually become the managers and the hub by creating jobs and skills will become self-sustaining.
Where should this idea be implemented?
Any low-income urban areas
We are planning to start prototyping it with Women For Human Rights as part of their project of Chhahari. Chhahari (in Nepali, a safe place of shade of solidarity) with single women in the slums in Kathmandu.
Bindis will be "Sahayogi Saathi" which means in Nepali helpful friend.
Also if you know of "bindis" in your community, please share with us some of your insights and who are these information-providers and connectors, and continually do this for their communities without any official title? Why do they do what they do? This will help us a lot to refine our idea.
How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?
We have started collaborating with the WHR team in Kathmandu. After discussion with people in the ground, they are willing to start testing the idea with a group of about 15 women and then expand it to other communities if this work.
They are planning a meeting with single women in the slum by the end of next week / early the week after to discuss with them their needs and the incentives needed to become a "Sahayogi Saathi".
Currently, our model would be that the "Sahayogi Saathi" would be volunteering a few hours and will get in exchange training and access to resources (through their role). We are also exploring different models sustainability models such as a collective or a micro-loan. The Women For Human Rights team is interested by these options too as the women will work on handicraft and there will be a space, so we could set up a collective and being part of the collective will imply giving a few hours back as a Sahayogi saathi. As WHR is working with a microloan organization, we are going to see if being Sahayogi saathi could not count as a "reference" when getting a loan. WHR is also interested in exploring the idea.
We agreed with Women For Human Rights that for this first pilot, they will be in charge of developing the training and training the sahayogi saathis. We will design a "badge" (the nature of this symbolic recognition has to be brainstormed with the women and team in the field) and a blue print for finding, training and developing a sustainable model that could be used in other communities and potentially by other organizations. This will be only a draft that will be refined as we are piloting the idea.
What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?
See experience map and description of the scenarios in the body of the idea (easier as we had several scenarios).
Based on our collaboration with WHR:
Where: in the slum when women and girls see a sahayogi saathi with a badge or in the Chhahari space where the sahayogi saathi will be meeting / selling their craft.
When: any time they need support, girls and women should feel comfortable reaching out to a sahayogi saathi; when they meet one and they hear from her new information about programs and opportunities (for loan, training, work, etc.)
Benefits: learning about programs they can learn new skills (e.g. handicraft) or knowledge (incl. sex health workshops by Bhaktapur Youth Club); learning how to start a bank account, manage administrative issues; connecting with other women as well as organizations that can provide them support.