Part 3: Initial Messaging Feedback

April 4, 2013

 

Throughout the election week, SNA-K collected both solicited feedback (via our large network of partner organizations, outreach workers, and their observations as well as feedback they received from the community) and unsolicited feedback through our office line and SMS platform.

All feedback (quotes from the general public, observable impact, and feedback from partners) is tracked in relation to specific messages and actions taken. SNA-K keeps this information in a database, which will be fully analyzed in the months after the election process is completed.

In this report, we have included a snapshot of the types of solicited and unsolicited feedback SNA-K received from partners and subscribers during the March 4th elections week.

 

Dandora

During and following the elections, SNA-K sent messages and helped flag security concerns in Dandora to the NSC. Dandora was one of the areas that experienced the most tensions and incidents in the days leading up to and following the elections. On election day, youths supporting a particular political party overwhelmed police in Phase 4 to prevent voting. This was brought under control by backup security, and SNA-K sent a message.

Feedback from residents included comments that, the message “helped to calm down the situation” and “was sent at the right time,” because, according to partners “they think the whole world was watching Dandora. Everyone knew what was happening.”

 

Following a second message, our Dandora co-ordinator summarized feedback from eight outreach workers in the area. They said: “the message helped to maintain calm, reminds us of our community, makes us be united, shows someone thinks about Dandora, reminds us to be peaceful all the times, and thanks for reacting and responding to our concerns.”

 

Burnt Forest & Kariobangi North

Our area Co-ordinator for both Burnt Forest and Kariobangi North reported similar feedback from both places.

In one case, a community partner said: “The message had a real impact. People stopped and were looking at their phones. They were gathered in groups and talking about politics.”

He noted that the community was congratulating SNA-K members on their work and that the messages had a particularly big impact in Kariobangi North where they helped to break up negative groupings.

He noted that based on the feedback he received, people were saying that, “the IEBC has their own ways of doing this – and they may not trust them but getting a peace message from us will give them a reaffirmation of the situation.”

Many community members requested additional messages.

 

Korogocho

The highlights of the messaging feedback from Korogocho are as follows:

– “The messages make people think otherwise if they wanted to do something wrong.”

– “Updated people with the information which made people to be calm.”

– “The messages helped keep people calm.”

 

Eldoret

On March 11th, Eldoret partners wrote to SNA-K, saying:

“We are grateful for the good messages we have been receiving from SNA-K. Continue with the good job,” and “Viva SNAK for coming up with such a unique way of preaching peace through mobile technology. Keep up!”

SNA-K also received quotes from community members:

“We are grateful cos the messages are totally free of charge, not as we thought when being subscribed to the system.”

This quote shows the importance of building trust and credibility when it comes to SMS and technology-based services. Another person noted:

“I went to the interior and Kapsoya, and they are complaining not to be receiving messages. Kindly do some outreach there.”

This shows that a demand was created for SNA-K messaging in additional areas.

On March 6th, an SNA-K subscriber called the SNA-K office line, saying:

“Rumours circulated in the morning almost brought commotion, that the election kit had been spoilt, and people would vote the second time. People were worried. Rumours spread so fast, but when asked how they got info those spreading rumours disappeared and calm returned. We are getting messages from SNA-K and forwarding to all in our phonebooks. I am proud of what Sisi ni Amani is doing. We need to celebrate you after elections. There is a big effect, and the stickers are all over so we are asking people to not bring propaganda here because this is amani zone.”

This message shows the importance of messaging that is directed towards the spread of rumours and how people interact with information that they receive during emotionally tense periods.

 

Narok County

Narok County was a main focal point for SNA-K, with the area experiencing tensions throughout the voting process. In particular, reports from Ololulunga of high tension came in from polling day, and through the tallying process. In response to the pre-election messages sent with voter education information, the SNA-K office line received calls from Ololulunga subscribers, saying:

“We are generally peaceful and hope to vote peacefully tomorrow. Continue sending these messages. Ni poa sana.”

On March 5th, after chaos at a polling station over tallying, an SNA-K subscriber called Samuel, called and said:

“There has been calm in Ololulunga and I would like to thank you for informing the police who came to the area so quickly and for the message you sent that helped to maintain calm. I can now go home happy after my tallying center has finished its job peacefully Thank you Sisi Ni Amani.”

SNA-K’s Coordinator for Mulot, Sogoo, and Sagamian, Pastor Wilson Mosonik, received phone calls and thank you messages from the areas he was co-ordinating.

On March 5th, a man named Joel from Rongena, called Mosonik to thank him for the messages saying that the area has historically always had problems during elections, and that this time, the messages brought peace and have been a topic of discussion. Further, during the tallying where tensions were rising, he would show people the message about maintaining calm and he said it really helped. He wanted to say thank you.

This feedback shows the potential for messages on peoples’ phones to become a tool that they can use in their own peace efforts.

Community members from Sogoo and Sagamian told Mosonik that the messages were helpful and that they recognized that SNA-K has really worked hard and that they appreciated the messages. They said that the messages helped bring peace in the areas and that if anyone was about to bring up a dispute they would be shown the messages from SNA-K.

.Again this shows the need to further understand how messages can become a tool for the people who receive them to talk more openly and with more credibility about peace.

In Transmara, also in Narok County, a subscriber called the office line on March 9th to say:

“Thanks so much for your wonderful messages. At least you gave us something to look up to and helped us maintain peace…Kudos.” Further, we received a call on March 10th letting us know that the messages were very helpful and that the messages were being discussed during a morning mass at church that morning.

 

Sotik/Sotik-Borabu Border

SNA-K received a lot of feedback is Sotik, specifically around the Sotik/Borabu border.

On March 5th, a subscriber called Barimen living on the Sotik Borabu border told Pastor Mosonik, the area coordinator, that he was happy that the SMS came in right before and during the elections and “helped maintain calm even when the electronic registers were not working.” He thanked SNA-K for bringing peace to the border.

This and other feedback show that SMS, if used well, can be a tool to encourage patience in particular and help people wait out scenarios that could otherwise lead to rumors and tensions. On March 6th, a subscriber called Langat wrote to the office line to say:

“Its been a long stretch towards the finishing line of 2013 elections, On behalf of Sotik district I wish to thank SNA-K for tireless work of reminding the residents importance of maintaining peace.”

 

General

Finally, as a nice piece of general feedback, SNA-K also received a message to the SMS number 22762 which, translated to English, read:

“Thank you SNA-K educating me through your messages and for helping me maintain peace. Mine is to say that God bless you because your organization is like a church.”


 

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Lessons Learned

March 26, 2013

Throughout the course of our elections-based messaging, several key takeaways, lessons learned, and questions for the future became clear. These included:

  1. As the days went on, it became clear that there are certain situations in which messages cannot or should not be used. While this issue has arisen previously and we have set guidelines to deal with this, new situations came to light during the week and deepened our understandings of these situations. These highlighted the importance of establishing clear guidelines based on our prior research and our new election-time experience going forward. These guidelines should outline instances and occasions when a message is not or might not be appropriate, and how to go about making that judgment call. Below are some examples of situations where messaging could in fact contribute to insecurity, rather than alleviate it.
    1. High-Risk Message: This is the first and most important situation where messages should not be sent, as it deals with the danger for a message to cause alarm or worsen situations on the ground. These are messages that would be sent to an entire area, even if the issue is localized, and could cause alarm. This category also includes messages that would be sent out after a certain time at night, which again risks causing alarm. SNA-K was careful to avoid sending messages that had the potential to worsen or aggravate a situation. In cases where the concerns were geographically very isolated; or, where uncertainty was caused by thieves/common criminals taking advantage of the situation; or, finally, when an incident occurred late in the evening, SNA-K alerted security and continued to monitor the situation instead of sending a message. We noted that where people saw that we would report incidents and/or the potential for violence to security agencies, it also increased the reputation of SNA-K and the SMS. This represents an important factor for future exploration through research.
    2. Annoyance Factor: In order to create maximum impact from the messages, it is important that they are not sent so frequently as to become an annoyance. This includes reading the general mood. Tallying went on for days, and people became exhausted from hearing about the election. SNA-K was vigilant about not sending too many messages asking people to be patient, and instead, at one point sent all subscribers a message commending them and letting them know they were appreciated. We suspected that any more messages asking people to continue to stay patient was likely to backfire, and prompt people to unsubscribe or to disregard our messages.
    3. Organizational/Perceptions Risk: As situations evolve, it is important to be very, very, careful about being perceived to be partisan. In the coming days/weeks as the court cases are decided, this becomes even more important. One example is that after the results were announced, it was necessary to send a 160-character message to urge people to celebrate or react responsibly, without seeming to favor either side. As communities become more and more polarized in the coming days ahead of the court judgment, being sensitive about this type of dual targeting for multiple groups at the same time will become even more critical.
  2. Some amount of silence is crucial. In order for the messages to have an impact, they need to arrive at the right time, when people are most likely to pay attention to them. In extreme cases, messages need to be able to interrupt disruptive activity, including spreading of rumors. This involves understanding and calculating the limited social capital and airtime that SNA-K has as an organization to get people to pay attention to us. Messages cannot be sent out every time there is tension; instead, they should be used strategically so as to have maximum impact.
  3. Targeting is Key. People responded very well to messages that included the name of the place they were located. This personalised the messages and added to the sense that they were not alone, and their areas were being watched. In the future, as platforms become more sophisticated, it might make sense to have functionality whereby there is a “fill-in-the-blank field” for location, for example, “let us keep peace [location]” and the field would automatically be filled in from the database. This would hasten the process of message sending.
  4. Messages in combination with on-the-ground work and effective collaboration with relevant institutions is key. Our work throughout the election process showed the importance of combining messaging with on the ground work. This was demonstrated by the situations in which messages were not appropriate, but which SNA-K was able to report to relevant institutions such as the NSC for rapid response. This helped both to mitigate conflict and to increase SNA-K’s reputation in the target communities. One medium or approach is never going to be effective for every possible situation – it is important to have an awareness of appropriate responses to specific situations, and to work closely with partners and relevant institutions to help ensure that there is a relevant response to each issue that arises.

We hope that this blog post can serve as a starting point for conversations around the nuances of messaging about peace and using text messages as a medium. Our next blog in this three-part series will share some of the raw feedback we received with regards to our messaging around the March 4th elections.



Reflection on the Kenyan Context

January 20, 2012

Happy 2012 from Sisi ni Amani – Kenya! We have some exciting updates on our programming this year, so please stay tuned for a blog post on our plans for the year.

One of the most exciting components of the new year is our collaboration with PeaceTxt.  As SNA-K launches this international collaboration, we wanted to take the time to reflect on the importance of this initiative in the Kenyan context.

In 2007, Kenya held a disputed presidential election, which resulted in widespread protests followed by violence throughout the country. The violence pitted ethnic communities against one another, and led to over 1,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) throughout the country.  While Kenyan elections have historically been marred by violence, the 2002 elections (which brought democracy after many years of dictatorship) were peaceful, and the 2007 elections led to months of violence and displacement at a larger scale than ever before. The damage and distrust created by the 2007-2008 post election violence has yet to be healed in many Kenyan communities. 

Within the next year and a half, Kenya will hold its next general election, the biggest election ever to be held in sub-Saharan Africa (the election date is yet to be definitively confirmed). The election is the first to take place under the country’s new Constitution, which was ratified by a peaceful referendum in August, 2010. While the Constitution and the approaching elections hold promise for increased checks and balances and opportunities for civic engagement, the election carries with it a risk of future violence.

The Constitution changes the structure of the country’s government and internal boundaries, creating a system of counties and changing the borders of constituencies. This has caused some tension over how boundaries will be divided. The Constitution also changes electoral positions, and many individuals at the grassroots do not understand how the new structure of government will work, or even which positions they will be voting for.

Additional factors add to the potential for tensions and violence. Six alleged suspects of the post-election violence, two of whom are expected to run for the presidency in the next Presidential Election and are the main political leaders representing two major ethnic communities in Kenya, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court, and had initial hearings to judge if their cases will proceed to trial. The response of Kenyan politicians and the suspects themselves has created tensions between political parties.

The country still has high numbers of internally displaced persons who have yet to be resettled after the 2007-2008 post-election violence. The resettlement of IDPs is a contentious issue, as many continue to suffer in camps and resettlement plans threaten to inflame existing land conflicts between ethnic communities.

Despite resistance to ICC trials, the Kenyan justice system has been criticized for a lack of will and ability to try local cases of violence adequately. International leaders recently warned that the next elections will be “make or break” for Kenya at a conference in Nairobi.

Finally, it is important to note that tensions continued after the 2007-2008 violence stopped. In late 2009, BBC reported on an “ethnic arms race” in which communities were re-arming in preparation for the 2012 elections in the volatile Rift Valley. This means that many communities within the Rift Valley rearmed and still possess the weapons that they armed with.

SNA-K was founded in response to the events of 2007-2008, and the potential for future violence and the use of mobile technology to create a foundation for, plan, and help spread the post-election violence. During the 2007-2008 violence, mobile phones – specifically SMS – were used to spread rumors and fear and to organize weapons distribution and attacks. Violent actors were extremely effective at using these widely proliferated technologies, while peace actors were neither well prepared nor able to leverage these technologies to the same effect.

Since July 2010, SNA-K has worked to understand and implement programming that utilizes mobile phones, and specifically SMS, to help build peace, collaboration, and conflict resilience in Kenyan communities. We have built a subscriber base of over 10,000 individuals in our target communities, and implemented civic education, civic engagement, and peace promotion programming.

As we move towards Kenya’s next election, we can’t think of a more exciting partnership than the one we have just launched with PeaceTXT – a unique collaborative project of PopTech, CeaseFire, Medic Mobile, Ushahidi, and the Praekelt Foundation. The partnership supports our work here in Kenya to reach more people and more communities, while CeaseFire’s proven approach and successful methodology will add a new level of training and expertise for our local teams.

Most of all, we are excited to help create best practices on the implementation of SMS-based programming for peace promotion and violence prevention, and to incorporate these lessons into PeaceTXT International’s model, enabling the work we are doing here in Kenya to inform efforts on a larger scale.