Mobile Voices: A Mobile, Open Source, Popular Communication Platform for First-Generation Immigrants in Los Angeles

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Mobile Voices: A Mobile, Open Source, Popular Communication Platform for First-Generation Immigrants in Los Angeles

United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Mobile Voices appropriates technology to create power in marginalized communities and participate in the digital public sphere.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

"Digital media and learning" invokes "digital natives" who have grown up with computers, broadband internet, and high-end mobile phones. Mobile Voices speaks to a different group: marginalized communities who lack access to digital technology but would like to transform their own realities and participate meaningfully in the digital realm. Low-wage immigrant workers and community members are left voiceless in many of the most important debates of our times: immigration reform, health care, poverty, housing rights, juvenile justice system, the economic crisis, among other topics. These communities are among those most affected by policy decisions, but are too often completely excluded from the debate. Furthermore, day laborers in Los Angeles (and elsewhere) are frequently represented in the media, often negatively, they are almost never the architects of their own stories. A key aspect of the Mobile Voices project is empowering workers to voice their own narratives about themselves and their community.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Mobile Voices is a popular communication platform that helps low-wage immigrants in Los Angeles gain increased media and technology skills for community building and public participation by using mobile phones to create, share, and reflect on stories about their lives and communities. As participants use cell phones to depict their lives, share ideas and information, and comment on each other's work, they learn to be citizen journalists creating community media. This digital media is also a source for a printed community newspaper, thereby fostering further opportunities for self-representation and reflection. Through participating in Mobile Voices, immigrant families learn to choose an appropriate phone and plan for their budget and needs; to navigate the various features of the phone, including SMS, MMS, and camera; and to use an online platform that heightens and creates community as members post, share, and comment on their digital content. They are drawn to learning computer use, as they want to edit the stories they sent from their phone. Participatory learning is achieved as workers join together in both formal and informal sessions that involve hands-on learning of phone functionalities, computer keyboards, basic Internet skills, and social software. An open source platform is a crucial element of Mobile Voices because participants in the project have direct input into software development and user interface design, and because the software we develop becomes available to others who might wish to use it.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

IDEPSCA's Popular Education methodology coupled with Mobile Voices' complementary popular communication approach is helping to build a process of reflection, dialogue, and action within immigrant worker communities and to develop alternative, community-based media outlets in Los Angeles County. IDEPSCA incorporates Mobile Voices as a popular communication vehicle to bridge the technological gap that continues to marginalize the immigrant community. It creates a space for immigrant workers to share their stories, learn about their rights, counteract negative stories that are written about them, document human rights abuses as well as to highlight their own humanity. For example, IDEPSCA's families participate in various conferences, marches, and actions to raise awareness about discriminatory anti-immigration policies and rhetoric. Through the Mobile Voices platform, supporters have used their cell phones to take photos, audio, and video recordings at these different events, upload them to the Mobile Voices website, and then spread the word about the mobilization to their friends, family, and communities.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Mobile Voices promotes peer-to-peer learning. The Mobile Voices model is designed from top to bottom to be easily replicable, and to be shared, modified, and used by others. Our workshop curriculum and training materials will be made freely available under a creative commons license; our content management system and other software we develop are all licensed under the GPL as Free and Open Source Software, and our code is available for download at code.vozmob.net; the stories published on the Mobile Voices site are all licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike-Noncommercial. In addition, the Mobile Voices project has already begun to offer hands-on training, workshops, and software customization support to other community based organizations interested in replicating our model.
About You
Organization:
Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California
About You
First Name

Pedro Joel

Last Name

Espinosa

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California

Organization Country

, CA

Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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Innovation
Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Established (you've got demonstrated success)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

Co-founding members Amanda Garcés and Sasha Constanza-Schock both come from a popular communication background and Mobile Voices was created out of an ongoing, two-year effort to use Communication for Social Change methodology to analyze the political, technical, and organizing needs of innovative multiethnic media projects controlled by low-wage immigrant workers in Los Angeles. This participatory communication project has been focused on, first, strengthening internal, intragroup, and external communication channels among Los Angeles' low-wage immigrant populations, second, developing specific and appropriate technology solutions in this context, and third, carefully documenting the research process and the tools developed in order to make them available to others for adaptation and local re-use. Our project team's initial research, supported by the SSRC's Small Collaborative Grants program in 2007, mapped the communication ecology of low-wage immigrant worker organizations in LA and, through interviews, surveys, and a participatory production workshop, identified audio (radio and
CD) and mobile phones as the two most important communication tools for the community partners.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

IDEPSCA's Popular Education methodology coupled with Mobile Voices' complementary popular communication approach is helping to build a process of reflection, dialogue, and action within immigrant worker communities and to develop alternative, community-based media outlets in Los Angeles County and across the United States. To create community change, IDEPSCA has partnered with several organizations to document and circulate the crucial education, organizing, and advocacy work happening in Southern California. Our partner organizations already include the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the Southern California Library, Youth Justice Coalition, and we are in the process of creating partnerships with the Vermont Workers Solidarity Project, Conexion Comunitaria, Media Lieteracy Project, Unidad Latina en Accion, Media Mobilizing Project and East Los Angeles Community Corporation.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

The Mobile Voices model is designed from top to bottom to be easily replicable, and to be shared, modified, and used by others. Our workshop curriculum and training materials will be made freely available under a creative commons license; our content management system and other software we develop are all licensed under the GPL as Free and Open Source Software, and our code is available for download at code.vozmob.net; the stories published on the Mobile Voices site are all licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike-Noncommercial. In addition, the Mobile Voices project has already begun to offer hands-on training, workshops, and software customization support to other community based organizations interested in replicating our model.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Participating workers will help Mobile Voices grow and also expand to other organizations across the Los Angeles region.

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Technology: upgrade our codebase to Drupal 7; develop an install profile to facilitate adoption of our code by other organizatio

Task 2

Organizing: extend the funding for our community organizer beyond 2011, in order to continue project growth and integration with

Task 3

Training: complete our popular communication curriculum, provide hands-on workshops both internally and for other community base

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Participating workers will help Mobile Voices grow and also expand to other organizations across the United States.

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Upgrade our codebase to Drupal 8; develop an install profile to facilitate adoption of our code by other organizations; improve

Task 2

Organizing: extend the funding for our community organizer beyond 2012, in order to continue project growth and integration with

Task 3

Training: our popular communication curriculum will be used to provide hands-on workshops both internally and for other communit

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001 - 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Sustainability
Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Non-profit

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

One major setback to the project could be a lack of participation; if this occurs we need to develop strategies for recruiting new members as we evaluate obstacles to participation. We would have to ascertain whether waning participation is due to lack of interest, time, or understanding. Another potential obstacle is resistance to technological appropriation and innovation. A main focus of this collaborative effort is to open avenues of digital participation for individuals who might have low levels of technological literacy. In order to keep the project truly participatory, we must ensure that all tools are intuitive, user-friendly, accessible, and affordable.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

The fastest-growing means for accessing news and information is the mobile device. Fifty-six percent of all mobile device users, and 47 percent of the population, now use them to get local news via an Internet connection. Over the next decade mobile media will be the primary means of accesing information and the Mobile Voices platform promotes the appropiration of technology by marginalized communities to consume less and instead start creating their own media.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

We are living within one of the most difficult economic and fundraising climates so it is difficult to advance our work if we solely depend on foundation grants. That is why we expect that our innovative model will continue to attract interest from private foundations, public media initiatives, and some private sector firms, as it has in the past. At the same time, we will be moving to implement earned income strategies, for example through training and software installation and customization, as well as grassroots fundraising activities, in order to reduce our dependence on grants.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Mobile Voices will be moving to implement earned income strategies, for example through training and software installation and customization, as well as grassroots fundraising activities, in order to reduce our dependence on grants.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have shared the VozMob tools and platform with the Los Angeles Community Action Network. Through workshops based in IDEPSCA's popular education approach workshops have been co-lead by all Mobile Voices members where we also share multi-cultural experiences. Thanks to our affiliations and partnerships VozMob now hosts a wide selection of stories ranging from stories about work and labor created from IDEPSCA’s Job Centers to stories about demanding justice and equality for youth of color.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

The Popular Communication Team (PCT), a group of volunteer day laborers and household workers devoted to using popular communication for social change, has been involved in conceptualizing and piloting the platform, and now produces a continuous stream of multimedia content. Recently, the team has started teaching others in and outside of their communities how to use it, building the local storytelling and information-sharing network.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

Mobile Voices embraces a notion of participatory learning shaped by Paolo Freire's concept of education as a transformative endeavor, where reflection, action, and dialogue produce shared understanding as well as individual and collective transformation. Mobile Voices brings together day laborers, popular communication practitioners, university researchers, and open source software developers in the design and deployment of a low-cost, mobile, multimedia platform that promotes everyday sharing and dialogue. Mobile Voices facilitates participatory learning from across different collaborators and supportive spaces.

Summary
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Mobile Voices is a platform for marginalized communities in Los Angeles to create stories about their lives using cell phones.