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A New Window to See the Unseen Changes

September 18th, 2014 by Posted in Resilience

Shamema Akther Shamme and Quynh Trang McGrath

How do we measure change? We quantify it: we take out the ruler and punch the numbers in a calculator. However, this approach can sometimes overlook important aspects of social change and focuses on large, quantifiable, collective change. Oxfam has launched a new initiative that hopes to see change through a new lens – a much more personal and individual perspective.

A 55 year old woman living in a rural area dreams about traveling abroad someday; a girl with a young child, recently divorced, has happily affirmed independence from marriage; a group of women in a community band together to protect a girl from early marriage, boldly protesting, exclaiming “do you know who we are?”.

These three scenes are but a glimpse into the pilot results of Oxfam’s new proposal: “Transformational Change through Digital Tech and Touch”, operating under the REE-CALL Project (Resilience Through Economic Empowerment, Climate Adaption, Leadership and Learning).  The project, which was launched in April 2012, aims to instigate social change through economic empowerment, developing women leadership, and creating livelihood options. REE-CALL continues to build resilience in communities with projects situated all over Bangladesh.

The new technology sparks interest as Women huddle around with excitements . Photo: Abir Abdullah/Oxfam

The new technology sparks interest as Women huddle around with excitements . Photo: Abir Abdullah/Oxfam

Rural women now begin to share inspiring stories of their own or of others in their community using technology, connecting women throughout the country. 26 tablets with 3G internet connection have been distributed to different communities in 16 different districts of the country in an initiative that seeks to collect data from ground zero. Local women were taught how to share pictures, quotes, stories, and videos on social media in a training that took place from the 19th-20th of August.

The creation of this online community unites the women, allowing them to view others’ personal challenges or success stories, and interact with them and comment on them. Women are asked to share what makes them feel powerful or a narrative of a motivational woman in her community. This hopes not only to initiate and encourage change by bringing together women that may otherwise feel isolated by their actions, but also to track the change.

This initiative aims to test an approach that will allow women’s voices and perspectives on change to be documented, analyzed and integrated into project management and learning. It asks the women of Bangladesh for first-hand accounts on experiencing change and response to programs in REE-CALL. Rather than analysing changes in income, business, and other quantitative surveys, Transformational Change through Digital Tech and Touch tracks changes at the personal level.

Shooting a group photo where Oxfam's Chief Executive, Asia Regional Director, Country Director are seen along with partners and communities.  Photo: Abir Abdullah

Shooting a group photo with the tab where Oxfam’s Chief Executive, Asia Regional Director, Country Director are seen along with the partners and communities. Photo: Abir Abdullah

Oxfam partners in the districts will help in the implementation and facilitate and monitor the upload of data. At the end of the pilot phase (first two months), all the data uploaded will be pulled together and analysed. Significant and recurring themes, overall tone and response to the projects, and trends will be noted. The analyst’s feedback will be used to draw conclusions on how is change perceived and to see if conversations across communities make a significant difference.

Though still in its early phases, Oxfam is optimistic that “this intervention will open a new window to hear the voices of some of the communities Oxfam works with more effectively, more sincerely, and more passionately, and will also complement the existing analysis“– Shamema Akther Shamme, Oxfam

  1. One Response to “A New Window to See the Unseen Changes”

  2. By Mohammad Abdul Khaleque on Sep 19, 2014

    Amazing initiative! Supposed to be very effective as data input will be done right from grass root and acquaintance with a tech stuff like ‘Tab’ will upgrade the communities’ uptake towards a different dimension.

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