How Frontline gave a voice to marginalized communities in Colombia

This is a guest post written by Camilo Mantilla for Frontline. 

BACKGROUND

In late 2015, my organization was tasked with immersing ourselves in a remote, historically violent, and complex environment, located in the department of Boyaca, in Central Colombia. We guided and assisted new actors and stakeholders in the region to engage, understand, and communicate with communities that are remotely embedded in the eastern fringes of the Andean mountain range.

Communities in the area historically subsisted around artisanal and irregular gemstone mining and trade. They also endured 30 years of a violent conflict known as the “Green Wars,” fought between local families and mine owners. The people in these communities were caught in the middle, and had to live through hardships, while being continuously marginalized by the mining industry that fueled the conflict.

In 1990, a peace was brokered between the actors of the war. However, the communities living around the mines continued to be subject to traditional social and economic dynamics. Forgotten by the State, they had to uphold peace and tranquility by themselves. West Boyaca lacked inclusive governance, strong state presence and basic infrastructure and services.

The region slowly began to welcome new actors and stakeholders, including my organization. This was an opportunity to create new social and economic dynamics and to build business, governance and community participation for the region. It brought us a step closer to bridging the gap between the growing interest of communities, new business and industry actors, for more sustainable investments and agendas, which led to improved social and environmental aspirations.

WHERE FRONTLINE CAME IN

As part of a broader engagement and community relation strategy, we used Frontline with local residents to help new actors engage, learn, and interact with the residents that lacked the means to have their concerns heard. Frontline allowed us to open non-traditional communication channels for different communities in a part of the country with very low connectivity.

With Frontline, we engaged with and learned about a complex environment, its inhabitants, and the local dynamics at play. Together with the community, we were able to communicate transparently and to better identify and assess their needs. We crowd sourced people’s voices and opinions, and despite our limited capacity to cover the entire area, to find several things. One of them striking, and contrary to traditional assessments, showed us that people wanted help for small businesses, help for women heads of households, and the elderly. 

Some people even invited us into their homes via Frontline!

Through Frontline and our direct engagement with the people of West Boyaca, we saw that more than half of those we worked with and surveyed had a positive perception towards new economic actors in the region. This new practice was giving people a voice and changing local social and economical dynamics. We were listening and learning about their views and opinions on several matters covering local development, investment, community projects, livelihoods, the environment, and social issues.

In approximately 2 months, we reached some 2,800 people living in 27 hamlets across 2 municipalities with limited connectivity and with few roads fit for vehicles.

"Frontline was the most efficient way to reach them, given that the majority of the population and households have at least one mobile phone and rely on a mobile-cellular network."

SMS technology was the most effective path we could take. We were receiving approximately 30 to 35 text messages daily with an average response time of 3 to 4 days, making it transparent and effective.

HOW WE USED FRONTLINE

We managed Frontline remotely out of different cities in Colombia, using a laptop computer (it broke down a few times, but fortunately Frontline didn’t!). We would check Frontline on a daily basis, send weekly messages, and depending on the campaign, we would use periodic messaging to broadcast public service announcements, invitations to town hall meetings, request feedback or inform on events, local initiatives and procurement opportunities, giving everyone the opportunity to participate.

"Frontline is a great tool for reaching broad and diverse audiences in challenging places."

It makes communicating easy simple and cost efficient. It forces people and organizations to be clear, concise, creative, and accurate when communicating. Frontline is a great example on how to maximize an organizations capacity and resources to conduct complex tasks while communicating with their audience accurately when used properly. Multilateral and government organizations should use this tool for a lot of their endeavors; it’s accurate, it creates accountability and transparency, while giving more people opportunities to share their voice. Benefits from using frontline are infinite and if put to good use it reaps a lot of rewards, especially knowledge by broadening outreach.

 

From the Frontline (Team)

Hello! It's been too long! We've been heads-down on some big improvements to make Frontline more powerful, accessible, and easy to use. There's a bunch of exciting stuff to cover - but the first, and most important thing, is that we'd love to reconnect. If you're thinking about using messaging, or it's been a while since you've looked at Frontline - shoot us an e-mail. We'd love to reconnect, hear about your work and challenges, and see if there are things we can build better together. 

Here's some of the better we've been working on: 

Frontline for Free! 

We've made our free trial into a freemium tier of our web-hosted Frontline platform. With up to 250 interactions per month free, we're making sure that our best tools are available to the groups that need them most. We're also creating a bit more space to try out what works, A/B test different approaches, and experiment in a safe, cost-free environment. Give it a try, it's free!

Industries! 

Some of the hardest parts of getting started with messaging isn't building activities, it's figuring out which activities to build. We spend all our time working with partners to answer those questions - and now we're releasing tailored versions of the platform so you don't have to. Just like with Frontline for Free, you can start with the bundles we've built - try them in your work, and THEN figure out what works for your team. We're going to continue to update and improve these industry offerings, and plan to offer new industries regularly. For now, we're starting with some of our most popular offerings - Radio, Campaigns, Education - and introducing CoWorking! 

A new website! 

You're already here, but take a look around. Are there things you'd like to see that you don't? Questions you have that we're not answering? As with all the technology we build, this is the first version, and we're sure there'll be lots to improve along the way. Let us know if you have suggestions at info@frontlinesms.com! We love the input.

These are the big changes, but there's a lot happening under the hood, too. We've introduced easy-to-use message scheduling, dramatically increased our throughput (to millions!), and made it substantially easier to customize and visualize our messaging activities. Still have questions? Ask! We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Finally, if you're reading this, chances are you've helped us grow into the self-sustaining, social impact product company that we are today - and we're overdue for a thank you. Just today, we learned that users we didn't even know about are connecting lost and orphan children to their families in Ethiopia and DRC using Frontline. These are the kinds of stories that inspire us and the kind of better we've seen thousands of you build with messaging. If you've got a story, an idea, or solution you think we can help build better, let us know! 

\o/

 

What to expect here at Frontline

What to expect here at Frontline

Frontline turned 10 years old over last week! As we recover from all the Halloween candy and birthday cake in Nairobi, I wanted to take a moment and tell you a little bit about what has changed at Frontline, and what hasn’t. Over the last decade, we’ve changed leadership, structure, and product – but what hasn’t changed is our values. Here are 5 of our favorites:  

The Big 1-O

The Big 1-O

Today Frontline turns 10 years old! And we've come a long way. Frontline started as a way to make communication easier, using SMS as a way to reach everyone quickly and efficiently. We were founded on the idea that increasing access + efficiency = impact, and that's what we've done ever since. Frontline's most powerful stories come from meaningful, two-way engagement that's owned and controlled by the user. 

Build a Better Campaign

Build a Better Campaign

90% of all SMS are read within 3 minutes of being received. In the last few days of a campaign, getting your message seen by the right people is key. What can you do to make sure the people who are going to support you show up to the polling station on the day?

The Radio Star Strikes Back

The Radio Star Strikes Back

More than 95% of the world’s population uses radio, making it the most popular communication technology in the world. Radio stations and DJs have also been some of Frontline’s earliest and most inspirational users, taking on climate change advocacycoordinating responses during emergenciesamplifying voices for peace during conflict, and bringing communities together

Frontline Powered by APIs

Frontline Powered by APIs

Here at Frontline, we recognize that each user has specific needs, operating on a wide variety of platforms. That’s why, over the last decade, we’ve tried to makeFrontline as configurable as possible to meet these needs, wherever you are. With our new APIs, you can push messages and information in and out of FrontlineCloud – letting you keep data where it’s most useful to you. To get things started, we’ve preconfigured an integration into one of our favourite digital campaigning and management platforms, Nationbuilder. You can use Nationbuilder and Frontline together to RSVP to events and to update contact records inside your nation.

Running an SMS Quiz for 1000s of users with Frontline

Running an SMS Quiz for 1000s of users with Frontline

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Technology Volunteerism for Social Good; How we made Frontline easier to use

Technology Volunteerism for Social Good; How we made Frontline easier to use

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Frontline Honored by Nominet 100 2014

Frontline Honored by Nominet 100 2014

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FrontlineCloud is one year old today!

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As the latest iteration of the Frontline product suite celebrates its first birthday, now seems the perfect time to sit back with a cupcake and reflect on the successes – and challenges – of the past twelve months.

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How we made FrontlineSync

This year we deployed our Android SMS gateway app — FrontlineSync — to public beta. We decided to build FrontlineSync to make it easier for our users to connect the power of FrontlineSMS to the GSM network. Connecting to the mobile network can be a barrier to users, so we wanted to build a resilient and easy to use platform that would work everywhere.

Frontline at Nine

Frontline at Nine

For a technology product, a 9th birthday is no small feat. It’s an even bigger feat for a technology non-profit. So, it's taken a lot of deliberation, but it’s time to announce something we’ve been working on for a while: Frontline is becoming a business.

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to create a conflict Early Warning System

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to create a conflict Early Warning System

After successfully using FrontlineSMS in the Tomorrow is a New Day (TND) project to monitor and improve radio dramas in the Niger Delta, SFCG Nigeria chose to use the platform in a completely different capacity in Jos, a city in Northern Nigeria.  SFCG Nigeria is part of Search for Common Ground, one of the first and largest conflict resolution focused NGOs. 

FrontlineSMS transforms Community Radio in Malawi

FrontlineSMS transforms Community Radio in Malawi

Nkhotakota Community Radio Station, along Lake Malawi, is a Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) recognized broadcaster and has been in operation for eleven years. More than 500,000 people live within our coverage area- transmissions reach Nkhotakota and Ntchisi districts and parts of Nkhatabay, Salima, Dowa, Mzimbaand Kasungu.

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to Improve Radio Dramas

SFCG Nigeria uses FrontlineSMS to Improve Radio Dramas

SFCG Nigeria is part of Search for Common Ground, one of the first and largest conflict resolution focused NGOs.  To support the reconciliation and reintegration of ex-militants in the Niger Delta, the Tomorrow is a New Day (TND) project was implemented with the support of the European Union from December 2011- June 2013.  The project was carried out with five local partners,[1] who were instrumental in SFCG Nigeria’s ability to work directly with seven local communities in the Delta.

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Legal aid in the United States is broken. Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the country's primary funder of legal aid organizations, estimates that about half of eligible clients are turned away from the organizations it funds, and about eighty percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans remain unmet.

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