PDF CEE 2019: Good Collaboration Hurts
Part 4 of the summary of Personal Democracy Forum CEE 2019: In Whom We Trust. Scroll down for the links to other parts of the summary.
Collaboration Kills Competition
This session began with the speech of Lukas Mocek from Luftdaten about the ingredients of creating and developing good collaboration in civic tech actions. Building up on the history of Luftdaten smog sensors, which from the goal of installing 300 smog sensors in Stuttgart, Germany grew to the global grass root civic network of 8 000 sensors, Lukas pointed to most important elements:
- Start with real needs (your needs). Luftdaten works because citizens wanted to build a mechanism for their friends and family. The initial goal was 300 sensors (as 300 warriors). Followed by a lot of research on possible solutions and a successful crowdfunding campaign, the team created sensors, API and a database; they also opened the data and visualized all the information on the map. And it turned out that this was an effective response to the needs of many more people, also abroad. In Poland, for example, the network grew to 300 sensors much quicker (in 7 months) and it has been a success.
- Bring together people with different perspectives. All backgrounds and all ages. Find the harmony to work together in diversity. That creates a real civic community, allows us to figure out people we don’t know and is a great learning curve for everyone. Plus the dynamic of the network allows that others learn about our work and start doing it on their own. In the case of Luftdaten the map shows people near you that you can connect to.
- Code unites. All around the globe people can contribute to it, independently of the language and cultural differences. Luftdaten team integrated a lot of improvements suggested by developers worldwide.
- Be ready for a long journey. When you see the goal you want to reach, go for it! Start doing it. But also remember that it is a long walk. You need resources and companions. What doesn’t kill you – makes you stronger; teams which went through some struggle are much stronger and closer to their goal. Hard decisions need to be taken at the beginning: what’s your tech, comms strategy, fundraising.
- Tools evolve. Use a wide toolkit. Often you need to use something different at the beginning rather than on later stages.
- The team’s needs evolve and they have to be taken into account. People who started groups, when there was nothing around, operated in the void. Every stage needs a different skill set. The need that comes later is to pass the leadership to other people. This might be tricky and needs a slightly different skill set. It is a constant transition. 8 000 sensors send data every 2.5 minute now. With the scale, however, comes responsibility and it makes including all perspectives hard.
- Some elements are hot like fire and some burn like fire. It’s still a volunteer project, everybody is engaged and brings something to the table. Build on the curiosity on the each individual. This dynamic makes this project sustainable in the long term. You have to manage people expectations. Communication is very important in such beehive environment. (Who do you talk to? Who is the leader?) Some big organizations and official institutions don’t understand it. They are like big dinosaurs not seeing us – the bees. But collectively we can build disruptive solutions. And we are all invited to this journey. Luftdaten is currently growing in 50+ countries around the world.
How to Do Good and Not Win a Million Enemies Along the Way
In the second speech, Oleg Naumenko, independent PM and Media Consultant for NGOs, used a top down approach to bring us towards the idea of “How to Do Good and Not Win a Million Enemies Along the Way” focusing on 3 main elements: why collaboration really matters, how to collaborate well and smartly, and how to ensure that collaboration fuels the success of our project? Collective decision making takes lot of time. The larger the project, the more complicated the problems around collaboration. Competition might fuel conflicts. How do we usually tackle it?
- Ensure the quality and effectiveness of your solution;
- Bring Innovation and tailored approach, no need reinvent the wheel;
- Sustainability and value for money: can your success be tangible, can it be preserved long term, even when the funding ends?
However, if we look slightly beyond that, good collaboration is an ethical issue. How do we ensure that we do no harm or operate on expense of others but help other initiatives already taking place (we do not operate in the vacuum)?
Smart collaboration might include specialization – we are always part of some bigger environments/networks, and we can take that into account, team up and specialize. S-M-A-R-T metric: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound – let’s check our projects again against those criteria.
- Audience Analysis: use focus groups, in-depth interviews, institutional observation, quantitative surveys and social media analysis to learn about CEE audience and be able to prove that our idea is relevant and is going to help. Yes, it is basic but we can still see plenty of projects not taking that into account. Example: attempts to increase the level of trust in Afghanistan by putting more officers in uniforms on the streets which have been counter-effective and increased the level of fear within the local community;
- A population-centric design at the hyper local level: specific products for relevant audience. Adapt it for the local context, build it with people and foster organic growth instead of imposing your will on them. This way it can also flourish in the local community when you are gone;
- Foster collaboration and networking between sectors and groups. You are an external player, therefore it is often much easier to kick off networking across i.e. media and start-up sectors or to facilitate intergroup dialogue.
In a nutshell, the basic ingredients to win friends, money and long term impact are:
- Transparent and open communication
- Nuanced research and local solutions
- Co-creation with local audiences
Words Can Hurt: How Hate Speech Becomes Hate Crime and How to Prevent it
“Words Can Hurt: How Hate Speech Becomes Hate Crime and How to Prevent it” – the talk delivered by Marie Heřmanová from Anthropictures & Lucia Jamrišková from #somtu. Marie has a researcher background and she volunteered in Croatia in a refugee camp. In 2015 she started working in Czech Refugee Help – a grassroot movement organizing Czech volunteers working with immigrants on the Balkan Route. Marie was a spokesperson of the organization, advocating in the media. Consequently, hate speech became an everyday experience for her, to the point of live threats sent to her private phone number. Marie considered leaving social media but as a journalist, she needs them in her everyday work.
Lucia is a member of initiative #Somtu, created to counterbalance hate speech. This initiative started in Sweden, but now it is active in Germany, UK, USA, Australia, India, and other countries. In all of these countries, the problem is the same – a lot of hate speech, mostly on social media like Facebook. Members of the initiative search the internet for hateful comments and send supporting messages and leave positive comments for the victims of hate speech. As 10 years ago the problem of hate speech didn’t exist, we are now looking for a solution within the scope of its source. They reached out to Facebook and Google representatives, and because there are 8 000 people involved in this initiative in Slovakia alone, they do listen. Representatives from #Somtu have recently met in Brussels with a Facebook representative.
Hate speech starts online but if you don’t do counteract online, it also spreads offline. One example is the first Czech Republic terrorist – Jaromír Balda. He’s a 70 year-old pensioner who was surrounded online only by hate speech, without enough information to counter it. He felt threatened and committed a (luckily unsuccessful) terrorist attack becoming a victim of hate speech and a terrorist at the same time. Another extremely sad example is Mayor Paweł Adamowicz. And that’s the result what happens when we don’t stop it.
The questions is: what can we do? The first option the speakers offered was a very easy action.
- When you see that somebody is under attack, send a supportive message. It can save lives!
- Promote the problem of hate speech. Like a social media group, share an article. This can increase the possibility that the government or a tech company will do something about it.
Some politicians and journalists legitimize hate speech and it is their responsibility to deal with it and to stop it. It is also the responsibility of each and every one of us – when we see and we don’t engage against it, we are also legitimizing it. The more of us there are, the more likely we are going to create the real change!
Support hashtags: #somtu #cihbinhier #jsemtady #jagärhär #iamhere
As Anna Kuliberda added: It is our every hour choice: scroll mindlessly or Scroll Mindfulnessly.
DIY Toolkit for Accountable Politics
Sergejus Muravjovas from Transparency International Lithuania presented us a “DIY Toolkit for Accountable Politics”, with the focus on lobbying & transparency in politics. And he started with… sex. Because lobbying is a bit like sex in the USSR – officially, no one was having it and no one talked about it. In the democratic society we often pretend lobbying is not there while the average time of the lobbying act takes 78 minutes and it is everyday reality for almost all politicians. We want our parliamentarians to meet with people, i.e. to make informed decisions. A good politician is an active and accountable politician. It is healthy as long as there is equal access to politicians. And our laws often don’t capture the act of lobbying. They offer no incentives to report lobbying (what was discussed). It creates fertile ground for corruption.
Transparency is a habit: to get a habit one starts with small actions. There are a lot of fears and taboos around lobbying and studies show that lobbying most often happens behind the closed doors. Love concrete, measurable and achievable goals: in 2017 Transparency International Lithuania aimed at making the first step towards transparency by launching a platform allowing MPs to easily report meeting with lobbyists. It failed miserably – the number of users was very small, the only positive element was that a couple of active politicians forced changes to the current website so it’s easier to upload minutes. But the TI team accepted that and looked for the minimum viable product. They checked official website counting who MPs are meeting. It was spring 2017 and 45 MPs reported 475 meetings. So the TI team used it to boost the myth that politicians are not meeting with lobbyists. They did stats around it: what parties are transparent about, what groups they meet, what different fractions look like, etc. The topic went mainstream and got a lot of media attention. People got interested, media started posing harder questions. The TI team received broad support and it helped a lot. It also triggered public discussion about the definition of lobbying and the need to report it, join efforts with unions, ask them to report lobbying from their side etc. Within 2 years the number of parliamentarians declaring meetings doubled (82 MPs in autumn 2018), and those numbers increased significantly.
It’s about incentives & achievable goals, however do-it-yourself in politics is DIY, too. Due to the media interest, politicians were provided with clear incentives and achievable goals. We can offer the standard and make sure we are there to support, but in the end it is a politician who is accountable and it is his/her choice to engage into being accountable or not. In the next chapter of this story, TI continued advocacy on lobbying and monitoring the trend. More and more MPs published their agenda and minutes on their websites and the Parliament started publishing a lot of open data.
In conclusion, small steps taken by a lot of people can create a lot of opportunities. A meaningful change happens only when we work together. Neutral trust happens when we work together.
How Can Artificial Intelligence Help Us Overcome Evil with Good?
This thematic stream was concluded by the interactive introduction of Samurai Labs’ new co-worker – James Walker. It was the first life presentation of this AI-driven algorithm and it went smoothless. Michał Wroczyński and Gniewosz Leliwa explained the idea behind the “online samurais”, able to scan the internet in search of hate speech and react to it with positive communication. The audience could witness how the algorithm automatically reacts to hate speech expressed in an online discussion on one of the public forums. This situation has been slightly prepared to ensure that no one would be harmed – the person attacked with hate speech is one of the Samurai Labs engineers (paid trolls can buy true accounts and so can we – buy them for a good cause). The rest was real and in real-time. Both in the case of the intrusive comment written by Gniewosz and in the case of a comment written by a volunteer from the audience, the algorithm replied quickly and adequately. What we could also observe is how challenging it might be to write nasty comments to someone in front of the entire audience.
The algorithm positive narrative is not aimed to persuade someone who is keen to use hate speech online. Samurai detects violence and reacts before the damage is done. It is aimed at breaking the circle of hate and violence before it even starts. Very often “regular”, not extreme, internet users get involved into hostile discussions, spinning the level of aggression with every other comment. And those “regular” users constitute most of the internet crowd. The goal of James Walker is to positively and gently “walk someone out” of the emotionally and verbally aggressive state before it turns into hate speech and online violence. He works as a positive troll, doing kindfull interventions. Isn’t it naive? According to the first researches, James can make a difference. Fun fact – other bots don’t believe James is a bot.
Conclusion: free speech without violence is possible. And the time to stop hate speech with the use of AI has already come.
April 4-5, 2019, Gdańsk, Poland
*to be continued
Text by: Matylda Szyrle
Editing by: Marta Skotnicka