Helping women to challenge government performance in South Africa
“Democracy cannot truly deliver for all of its citizens if half of the population remains underrepresented in the political arena” —National Democratic Institute
Cellphone ownership in South Africa – PEW Research Centre Survey 2014
South Africa’s next general election
May 2015 End date
In South Africa, citizen voice is fragmented. Although local and national civic groups are active in pushing for better delivery of public services, they often exclude those most affected by poverty, in particular black women from poor urban and rural areas.
At the same time, through childcare responsibility, women are arguably most engaged with health, education and sanitation services. Their exclusion means that civic and social movements often ignore input from those the best placed to identify local problems and solutions.
Amandla.mobi provides an information platform that allows ordinary people - and in particular marginalised black women - to monitor government performance.
Multilingual campaigns are crafted around issues that have been identified by the Amandla Mobi user group. These campaigns are loaded onto the Amandla.mobi platform so that anyone can join the campaign from their mobile phone. The platform is accessible through a mobile site and mxit, the most popular messaging platform in South Africa, which works on both smart and dumb phones, providing low cost, local language ways to engage.
Once a campaign is up and running, the team works closely with government and activist networks to build a constructive dialogue and support a positive cycle of accountability, rather than a name-and-shame culture.
Amandla.mobi is an independent, community advocacy organization that runs mobile campaigns to engage marginalized citizens in governance.
Since launching in 2014, amandla.mobi has run eight citizen campaigns connecting over 10,000 South Africans with decision makers.
The campaign platform is also accessible to other local and national CSOs who wish to leverage mobile phones to run their campaigns.
By charging fees to these CSOs and collecting donations from citizen users, amandla.mobi seeks to generate revenue that would make the project financially sustainable.
If you want to scale, go where you audience already is: the team were clear about using platforms that were already popular - Mixit, WhatsApp and SMS - and adapted their model to fit the tech their audience already used
"If you have to train people to use your tech platform, then you’re in a danger zone" - Paul Mason, Amandla.mobi.
Sustainability requires community building: whether getting local volunteers to spread information in face to face meetings, or sourcing volunteer translators to ensure their communications include as many language groups as possible, Amandla.mobi has consistently and deliberately built a community of followers - without them, the project simply could not work; with them, the project has huge potential for sustainability.
Knowing your audience extends to the government 'audience' too: just as civil society often make the mistake of viewing government as one single body, rather than a group of people, power dynamics and partnerships, projects need to show government that not all NGOs and civil society groups are the same.
Amandla.mobi has built relationships with several government departments where they want to affect change, and differentiate themselves by making sure members send positive messages when change happens - building a more constructive relationship between government departments and the citizens they represent.