FrontlineSMS has recently appointed Florence Scialom into the role of Community Support Coordinator, to focus on connecting and supporting the dynamic global community of those using our software. Here, Florence shares what drew her to work at FrontlineSMS, and outlines the plans she has for her new role.
“Inevitably, many small and innovative start-ups are at first strongly tied to the identity of their founder. When I first heard of FrontlineSMS, in late 2009, it was to me synonymous with Ken Banks. Ken wrote the original software back in 2005, and then established FrontlineSMS as a project under the umbrella of kiwanja.net.
When Ken explains the creation of FrontlineSMS, he provides some refreshingly open insights about how to innovate successfully. He not only admits, but celebrates the fact that he does not have all the answers about the potential of FrontlineSMS, and the ways it can be used. Ken created FrontlineSMS to serve the needs of non-profit organisations that require interactive communication on a mass scale in areas without internet access. He reasoned that if this tool could be helpful, people would find their own ways to use it.
And use it they have. Downloads of the software are now pushing the 13,000 mark, and people are making use of it in every continent; for election monitoring, health information, market price updates and much, much more. FrontlineSMS is an appropriate technology purposefully aimed at the grassroots non-profit community. Yet it does not dictate to that community what the technology should be used for. This approach is one of the reasons why many non-profit projects across the world are making use of the tool. It was also this user focused ethos that attracted me to working at FrontlineSMS.
The FrontlineSMS story has evolved rapidly in the year and a half that has passed since I first encountered it. FrontlineSMS itself has long been a familiar organisation to many working in mobile for social change space, but it is now reaching an increasingly wide audience through the hard work of our expanded team. There are now nine members of FrontlineSMS staff based across the UK, the US and Kenya, and the team are taking Ken’s original vision in new and exciting directions. In the coming year there are plans afoot to update the core software platform, expand our consultancy services to find new sustainable streams of income, and build up FrontlineSMS’s exciting range of sector specific sister organisations.
Amongst all this change the FrontlineSMS team is fully aware that it’s vital to maintain a focus on the user community; those using our software on the ground that have made FrontlineSMS a success story thus far. This is where my new role as Community Support Coordinator fits in.
There is already a strong base of support available for FrontlineSMS users, including our community forum and many user resources. I would like to approach supporting users in a way that acknowledges that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience in the community itself. For example, I will be asking users to become ‘FrontlineSMS Heroes’ by volunteering to provide support to each other on our user forum. I plan to build the community by engaging users to become more interactive and supportive of each other.
I will also be working to solicit more guest blog posts and in depth case studies from users. Offering FrontlineSMS as a free, open source download has proved a successful way to help many non-profits, but it is accompanied by challenges. There are certainly many cases of the software having a positive impact on people’s lives which the FrontlineSMS team and other users are thus far unaware of. I am looking forward to exploring new use cases, and helping to represent the variety of ways the software can be used to the wider community.
FrontlineSMS has a broad and rich user community. I have mentioned just a few of the ways I plan to support this community, and I am looking forward to building on this through relationships with the innovative and inspiring FrontlineSMS users across the world."
If you would like to get in touch with Florence about contributing a guest blog post or case study, or just generally to introduce yourself she would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org