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Two weeks later and after a series of follow-up emails, IOM, UNHCR and the ICRC, agreed to participate in a two-days development workshop in Geneva in the course of the month of October. As planned we’ll use this opportunity to elicit their specific needs and requirements so we can develop PI’s technology in a subsequent phase with their users’ needs and requirements at heart.

The results of this workshop will be fed back to all the participants for comments, and once finalized, they will be integrated in a comprehensive requirements analysis, together with the requirements of our other partners, Amnesty International, Free Press Unlimited and the Liberia Peacebuilding Office. The elicitation of the latter’s requirements will be delayed, however, until the Ebola outbreak in the region has been brought under control.

Lessons learned:

  • Use every opportunity to pitch your project to interested parties and if you sense traction, ask them to organize a formal meeting with their organization.This is exactly what I did on my first night in Geneva when I was invited for drinks with OHCHR colleagues. While sharing a beer I asked to be introduced to those in the crowd who may be interested to hear about PI, pitched the idea, told them I was in town and still had some time at hand to come and present the project to their organization. I took their emails, followed up the same evening and managed to have a meeting organized two days later on my last day in town.
  • Don’t end a meeting without a firm pledge from your host to take some follow-up steps. In my case, I opened up my presentation by setting the agenda and announcing up front that I wanted to discuss next steps at the end. On one occasion, my host thanked me for the presentation, said it had been very interesting and would think about possible further engagements. Instead of walking away without any firm commitment, I distributed a draft workshop agenda and a draft letter of intent for them to consider, discussed the former in a non-binding way and walked away with them agreeing to participate in a workshop. I later followed up on their pledge by email and got it confirmed. As for the letter of intent, it’s still under consideration.

HIF is funding PI, an “Alert” winner of Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention. PI intends to automate the collection of relevant human rights and humanitarian information from hard to access areas and verify it using crowd-sourcing and “dumb” mobile phones. Once developed PI will address many of the shortcomings of current documentation initiatives using crowd-sourcing: lack of relevant and quality information, no or limited assessment of the reliability of the sources and the credibility of the collected information, reliance on the Internet, lack of feedback loops and limited empowerment of those reporting information. To solve these problems, PI will makes use of low cost GSM technology (e.g. SMS, USSD and voice) to establish a conversation with victims and witnesses of an incident to collect and guarantee relevant and quality information.

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