Social media that help grow communities

Social media that help grow communities from the inside out

In the last month, the team at African Commons has developed two proposals for innovative use of new media tools to serve different communities in South Africa.

The first is called The Jozi Learning Network – a project using mobile phones to connect people who want to learn with people who want to teach. A mixture between meetup.com for the mobile phone and the Japanese Shibuya University Network, The Jozi Learning Network will enable people to flag subjects that they’re willing to teach or wanting to learn, scheduling informal and formal learning sessions, and also organising local learning events where we advertise for new ‘teachers’ and learning concepts. In a country with scarce skills, mobile can have great potential to connect the vast majority of this country who have something to learn/teach – and to build a learning network that is self-reliant and independent.

Another local project, The Humm is a citizen journalism platform for South African theatre – enabling audiences to gain access to user-generated theatre reviews via mobile phones and the web. The Humm aims to break current monopolies in theatrical review in favour of audience-driven perspectives, thereby building a communication system between audiences and theatre producers that is more genuine, more democratic and that favors innovation in South African theatre. Other than myself and African Commons editor, Rebecca Kahn, We also have the fabulous James Cairns working with us on this project, as well as film director, David Hickson, most famous for directing the film Beat the Drum.

Both these projects are aimed at showing how social media and citizen journalism tools can be developed and managed in a way that emphasises community participation and independence, and works with communities of practice to develop their own solutions to problems, recognising that problem-solving expertise needs to be local to be truly effective. There are very few projects in Africa that marry the organising power of new technology with principles for community development. We think that there is incredible expertise in South Africa and that the African Commons is a great org to facilitate and steer this expertise towards achieving goals that we can all benefit from – whether it’s a better skilled citizenry or a connected theatre community.

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