How can we help people in crisis situations to communicate better? To look out for each other and to check if their colleagues, their friends and their loved ones are safe? This is the mission behind Ushadidi’s latest tool, TenFour.
Ushahidi, which translates to “testimony” in Swahili, is a social enterprise, first founded to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2008. Since then, Ushahidi’s tools have given a voice to those in need, from the Syrian conflict and earthquakes in Nepal, to mapping media freedom in Europe. It’s latest tool TenFour was born in 2013, when terrorists attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. After people struggled to make contact with loved ones in the mall, Ushahidi recognized the need for a fast, centralized method of checking in on team members in critical situations. Instead of checking across multiple communication channels to contact each team member individually, TenFour is a single tool to send and receive simple communications to check in as a group: “Are you OK? Do you need help? Can you help?”
In Spring 2018, this was the starting point for Designit’s collaboration with the TenFour team. We met over video conferencing to learn and discuss the many requirements and constraints the team was working with. After an initial research phase with current users on the phone and over Skype, we butted against the dilemma of designing for crisis: These tools are installed to hopefully never be used. Regular research methods like observing user behavior or diary studies are simply not an option. We started to rephrase the challenge:
“How might we involve a larger group of creators to contribute to TenFour, work directly with us on generating feature ideas, and form a community that engages with the issue of crisis communication in a broader and ongoing way?”
When we found out that TenFour was designed in Adobe XD, the idea of a joint event between Ushahidi, Adobe and Designit was born. Adobe is partners with our friends at Wipro, who use Adobe XD themselves. And here at Designit we’ve been teaming up with Adobe for a while to host creative jams in collaboration with social impact organizations just like Ushahidi.
We held our first TenFour Design Jam in Berlin in Summer 2018, bringing together creative minds from the community, and putting them into an immersive crisis scenario around their hometown. In groups they tackled the crisis from different angles: Some of the concepts centered around improving already existing features, like communicating not only with friends and team members, but also authorities and rescue forces. Others took on new identified challenges like peer-to-peer communication in situations without data coverage. With Ushahidi experts and Designit coaches there to help and bounce ideas off, the teams were able to create fully interactive prototypes in Adobe XD by the end of the day.
This one event is just the start. TenFour, like all Ushahidi software, is an open source technology. Together with Adobe and the TenFour team, we’re investigating how designers all over the world can contribute more easily and directly to these kinds of projects. We want to repeat these events to create a community of like-minded creatives to participate in improving TenFour — exploring better ways to communicate during a crisis and help their communities best.