Changing the world with millions of missed calls.By The Rules
Project URL: kickstarter.com/projects/therules/crowdring-a-mobile-organising-tool
Project Twitter: @crowdring
In 2011, Indian social justice activist Anna Hazare was leading a campaign to pass an anti-corruption bill in the Indian government. Though the bill had been tabled for years, politicians were stalling its passage into law and Hazare knew he needed to put on the pressure to open the blockage.
He was using SMS – asking the public to send a text in support of the campaign. He got 80,000. Hazare decided he needed more. So he asked people to join the movement by sending a missed call to the campaign’s local numbers. In just two weeks he had received over 35 million missed calls: a 437-fold increase from the original text campaign.
Hazare’s approach is a brilliant example of frugal, low-cost innovation at scale. “Beeping”, “flashing”, “fishing” as they are popularly called in different parts of the world are phone calls that are intentionally dropped. This way the call can be logged by a recipient but the caller does not incur a cost. And the campaigners then have hundreds of thousands of phone numbers to connect with, gold dust for any campaign.
Anna’s success inspired /The Rules (/TR), a global campaigning organisation focused on mobilising citizens in the global south to address the root causes of inequality and poverty. /TR partnered with Purpose, a leading incubator for social movements and campaigning technology, and ThoughtWorks, a global tech development company, to create /Crowdring.
/Crowdring allows any citizen with a first generation handset to register a missed-call to a provided number. The incoming numbers are captured; campaigners can see where activity is coming from in real time and then send mass text messages at no cost to the user (as incoming texts are free). This is essentially the most democratic tool for citizen engagement as it only requires a first generation mobile handset, there is no need for internet access or expensive hardware, the barrier-to-action is extremely low (i.e. placing a call), mobile access is pretty evenly split between men and women in these regions, and most importantly, there are no fees to the user.
The /Crowdring platform integrates a number of features including data aggregation, list cutting, and a cost-effective way to purchase local numbers through pre-negotiated deals globally, in order to help replicate and scale the tool.
The /Crowdring platform received funding for development and testing through a successful Kickstarter campaign in March 2013. It has now been tested in three key markets – Brazil, India and Kenya. /TR just ran a successful campaign in East Africa for tax justice where it received over 70,000 calls and helped overturn a regressive anti-poor tax.
Image courtesy of /Crowdring
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014