As I reflect on the amazing team retreat the Ushahidi team had last week, I’m inspired and thankful that we have come this far.
Most of all, I’m grateful that this group of incredible individuals work so well together, that I see each of them supporting the others, bringing each other joy (the team has not lost its sense of humor) and adding to the building blocks of service to our community. The tenets of Innovation, Openness and Community continue to guide the Ushahidi organization, and if there’s a thread that connects this group of misfits from all over the world, it’s ‘initiative’: all the people on this team are the type of people who, when they see a problem, have to do something about it.
Growth and change can be daunting. But what I’m finding so refreshing is that the growth spurt Ushahidi has experienced in the last 3 years is not only needed, but is in a direction that will continue to take Ushahidi from strength to strength. I cannot wait for you to meet the additions to the team, each of whom bring such expertise, passion and brilliance.
The breadth of work is expanding too: Ushahidi is no longer just a platform for Crowdsourcing, but has grown into a full-service organization that provides expertise on crowdsourcing and mobile tools for data collection, visualization and mapping. It’s also evolving into a data company, with initiatives that will continue to have impacts in the humanitarian tech space, cities and open data.
Much like our earliest works and our recent venture with the BRCK, Ushahidi is coming back to a place where our goal is to inspire and empower. With a global community of users, we’ve been committed to providing support and responding to feedback. While that will continue to be a necessity, we’re also recommitting ourselves to telling better stories about the end results of our work: not just what could be done, but what has been done and what we are learning along the way. There are so many amazing stories from so many incredible projects by so many innovative people, that we’re excited to make sure that we’re making time to listen and help bring those stories to the surface, and not be so heads-down in the code. (Ushahidi shipped a lot in 2013).
There’s a business model in what Ushahidi does. With the leadership and support of our Board of Directors, and our strategy to expand our business development team over the last 3 years, Ushahidi is in a much better position when it comes to sustainability. We still have some distance to cover to be fully sustainable, but our general trajectory is inline with our strategy.
There’s increased attention to “big data”, the incorporation of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, micro-tasking methodologies, better access to open data, to geospatial data and satellite imagery, sensors and drones — we’re keeping an eye on all of these things, and incorporating them with our products. More importantly, there’s a need to help turn that data into information, to craft smarter campaigns around it, to understand the who and the why beyond how much capital is required to process ever-increasing volumes of input. More companies and organizations are coming into this space, and we welcome these new partners and the opportunities to share ideas and work on initiatives together. Where I believe Ushahidi will stand out is that we are an organisation with almost a decade of experience on these topics, and that brings tremendous value.
Aligning for The Future
In upcoming posts by the team, we will be sharing more from what we are calling ‘The Ushaverse’, the major components of which are:
Operations – How we organize ourselves, our board, and the flow that keeps us humming, introducing important additions to our team, and as always, strategy.
Products – The software and hardware we make, e.g. Version 3.0, Crowdmap, Ping App, SMSSync etc.
Initiatives – The partnerships like Making All Voices Count, Resilience Responsiveness Initiative, External Projects and more.
The key commitment that Ushahidi is refocusing on is engagement with you, our community, our partners, volunteers, mappers and champions: join us as we continue the journey of sharing our journey. You’ll be hearing more from everyone on our team, starting with our CTO David Kobia on engagement and community, Nat Manning on Strategy and Business, Rob Baker on Operations and more stories across the gamut of our Ushaverse. We have some exciting initiatives with Rockefeller Foundation to tell you about, and most importantly more work in the data space that we’ve been cooking up with an exciting retinue of technology partners.
More soon from The team that is Q.
* Many thanks to Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Center in Italy for the incredible support to help us wrap brains around our work, plan the work ahead and most of all to reconnect, recommit.