Explain what the "innovation" is about, e.g., is it the idea and/or the model you use to accomplish the idea, or your understanding of the target population, etc.?
Dintshang is truly an innovative concept, combining a social networking site with a portal to connect youth to health services. Through Dintshang, which translates to “What’s Happening” in slang Setswana, youth can find local and international celebrity and entertainment news, but see it presented in a meaningful way, addressing topics like alcohol and drug abuse, sexual health, cultural issues and gender identity through posted stories. The Dintshang platform will include a website and mobile phone applications, where youth can speak freely on stigmatized topics that they face daily but have little opportunity to discuss. Open-ended questions, posted with each news story, will give youth the chance to interact, while survey questions will offer a snapshot of how participants feel about a topic, giving everyone a way to share their voice. The site will be moderated and users may opt to be anonymous. To further encourage participation, users will earn points every time they logon, comment and participate, earning them access to song downloads and ringtones.
After brining up sensitive topics, Dintshang takes the next step, presenting youth with a tool to find local health and support resources to deal with issues they are facing. A range of services (including health care, career counseling, relationship support, and help with drug or alcohol abuse) will be available and sorted by type and location, enabling youth to find help in a central site. Dintshang not only empowers youth to think critically about their own lives, but gives them a way to turn concern to action.
Describe how your innovation model is distinct from any other organization in your field?
Dintshang brings insightful messages to youth through a channel that these youth are comfortable with and using regularly. Youth know the kind of heated discussions that can take place over Facebook and Twitter and they also hear or read about a wide array of celebrity gossip about supposed “role models”. Where other organizations might see this behavior and think of it as a distraction from learning important life skills or even a reinforcement of negative messages, PING has chosen to combine these activities and explore their positive potential. With proper guidance and a connection to resources, these habits can be a starting point for behavior change. PING’s nature as youth-led organization has earned us a reputation for creating innovations that others lack the vision to realize.
What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?
PING has partnered with local telecommunications company Mascom and the Ministries of Health and Education. PING’s partnership with Mascom offers technological support and funding for SMS and data costs for the mobile phone platforms (Dintshang access will be free) and publicity. Collaboration with government ensures project sustainability and greater access to youth through schools and government projects than by simply working with non-profit partners. Dintshang will also offer advertising space to ensure long-term sustainability beyond donor funding and to involve local businesses looking to connect with youth while supporting a socially responsible cause. Organizationally, PING’s young staff will manage and run Dintshang for their peers, ensuring that the site stays relevant.
How do you make sure you constantly innovate in light of (potential) external challenges, or your growth plan?
PING realizes that innovation requires risk, and works with government, the for-profit sector and CSOs to ensure that our projects have a variety of experts' input. PING’s for-profit sister entity, Develo, was launched with the intent to make the most of these relationships, providing mobile applications for emerging markets that allow telecoms to provide value added services to both end users and local government Innovation in capacity building is built into our organizational activities, as PING runs a youth mentorship program and is beginning a club at the University of Botswana, both with the goal of connecting with the next generation of technology experts, helping them further their career training and offering the brightest positions as PING staff.