Aidbrella spreading over Finnish development organizations

Last week I was invited to join Titta in a meeting in Kepa to discuss about Aidbrella, a new “facebook” for developmental NGOs. Knowing well the good and the bad sides of social media, I was interested to hear more.

Thursday afternoon, representatives of a dozen Finnish NGOs, working in the developmental field, gathered together in Kepa‘s office to discuss about Aidbrella. The beta version of the tool is currently under final improvements, but we were already allowed to try out how it works by attaching our projects to the service with short descriptions and pinning them on a world map. In addition to these features, the first version of Aidbrella will enable also news feeds and messages – just like Facebook. As both Manondroala project and Dodo’s Tany Maitso have been involved in product development from the very beginning, we are truly looking forward to start trialling the service in a couple of weeks.

Preview to the first version of Aidbrella (source: http://www.aidbrella.org/)

Preview to the first version of Aidbrella (source: http://www.aidbrella.org/)

In addition to the first glances on the use of the new tool, the meeting involved a short history of Aidbrella, presentations of three organizations about their involvement in the project, and some serious brainstorming about possibilities in NGO collaboration.

Aidbrella was born as Ilona Mooney‘s thesis work in Aalto university and it has since been developing slowly with help of voluntary work and a couple of grants. The idea of a platform for sharing information between different NGOs originates to Mooney’s participation in a stove project in Kenya, where getting to know other actors in the area was difficult if not impossible. It turned out that eagerness of different projects to do good was even irritating some locals, as the targets were overlapping or even contradictory, and no one seemed to be familiar with “the big picture”. The ideas of transparency and effective collaboration mentioned in Paris Declaration and Istanbul Protocol, were clearly not working very well.

Need for more effective communication has been recognized also in Huussi ry, Global Dry Toilet Association of Finland, and the two Finnish development projects in Madagascar, Manondroala and Tany Maitso. Sari Huhtanen from Huussi ry, gave a short talk about the great need for sanitary improvements in developing countries which is of course not possible to be met by Huussi alone. Aidbrella could be one way for sharing Huussi’s expertise on sanitary solutions to other organizations. When it comes to Madagascar, there are some dozens of different development projects going on in certain areas. Just like in Kenya, more communication and complementarity is required to improve the  reliability of development work for the locals.

Angela Tarimy and Ilona Mooney In Ranomafana during Mooneys visit to Madagascar in 2011.

Angela Tarimy and Ilona Mooney In Ranomafana during Mooneys visit to Madagascar in 2011.

Aidbrella has not been developed with help of Finnish collaborators only. In 2011, Mooney visited Madagascar, meeting several partners of Manondroala and Tany Maitso to learn from their experiences and to see what kind of features would be especially useful for their needs. The Malagasy coordinator of Manondroala, Angela Tarimy, facilitated Mooney’s visit and got excited about the possibilities of Aidbrella.

In the end of the meeting, it was clear that all participating organizations agree there is a great need for more effective collaboration and information sharing. Aidbrella, with many easily adoptable features familiar from Facebook, would offer a flexible, simplistic and attractive way to share information and communicate. It would also offer a completely new kind of resource for project design, as the need or oversupply of actions in different areas would be clearly visible from the very beginning.

There are of course some challenges in the project as well, such as determining what kind of features best advantage the goals, finding ways to finance the product development and  keeping the service vital in a long run. But all projects have this kind of challenges, and I’m really impressed about how insistently Aidbrella has been developed despite of limited resources. Mooney and her team has truly devoted themselves to Aidbrella, and I’m looking forward to see how it gets adopted.

-Kaisa, intern in Manondroala project

More information about Aidbrella can be found here.

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