The Power of Conversation

When I talk to people about my project for the first time, I can see their eyebrows raise in a combination of interest and speculation. I, more than anyone, know how large of an undertaking the project seems to be. However, what gives this project life is the tremendous amount of support I have received for my project. In early 2012, I presented my project idea at the Mason School’s Social Entrepreneurship Conference where I was able to gain valuable visibility. Through this conference and the tremendous generosity of donors at the business school, I now have more resources and funding available for my project on top of the Charles Center Scholarship.

A couple of days ago, I was approved to be a part of the International Crisis Mappers Network.  As part of the network, I have been able to connect with dozens of experts and field workers. Members of OCHA, the UN, and the Red Cross, specifically, have reached out and showed interest or forwarded their support. However one of the most important connections I have made exists in Patrick Meier and other members of the Ushahidi Team. My project was inspired by Mr. Meier’s incredible work during the Haiti earthquake. In the past few weeks I have completely submerged myself in reports, interviews, case studies, and anything I can get my hands on about the Ushahidi Haiti Project. Suffice to say, I was completely shocked (and starstruck) when Mr. Meier sent me an email saying that he was more than willing to speak with me about his work. These conversations have refueled the passion that for awhile was becoming strained under the grandeur and complexity of my project. I was able to reaffirm to myself  and others that this project was not only critical but that it is possible.

I recently spoke with an officer at the Computer Programmer’s Union in the Philippines who has agreed to develop the system. While I have had offers from other developers in Switzerland and the US, it is important for me that the system be as “Filipino as possible” in order to ensure that the system accurately reflects the preferences and capabilities of the Philippine landscape. That being said, I will be in continuous contact will all these valuable resources as I intend to make this system as advanced and comprehensive as it can possibly be. Given the tremendous amount of support and faith this project has received, I feel that that is only fair. The next few weeks will be filled with speaking with developers, experts, humanitarians, and relief workers in ensuring that the competencies of the system match the needs of the stakeholders.

In speaking with one of the Defense officers of the Philippines, he told me that the country would draw great value from this project if I could see this through but warned me of the difficulty I had before me. While I wholeheartedly believe him, these past couple of weeks have reaffirmed the support of those around me, my commitment to this endeavor, and my unwavering faith in the power of conversation.


  1. afogata says:

    I think his project of yours is really fascinating and extremely applicable to the real world. I lived in the Philippines for 3 years and have seen first hand the chaos that can result from natural disasters such as typhoons. It is smart to approach the issue of effective communication through the cell phone industry. Cellphones and “minutes” are much more accessible to the average Filipino person, and if I remember correctly they were very cheap, so almost everyone had one. Having lived there and experiencing the culture, I am very curious to see how the development of this project goes. Good luck!