By Leroy Maisiri
I was recently asked to be a part of a regional Capacity Strengthening Course for Social Accountability Monitoring for Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health (SAM4YSRH) as a MobiSAM facilitator. The overall goal was to contribute in the making of the SAM4YSRH Champions who would be capacitated and equipped to cascade and train other SAM champions at a national level and implement SAM4YSRH actions effectively in the six pilot countries.
An intensive jam-packed training week like this one reminded me of the massive foundation needed to build on for a successful launch of a digital citizen engagement mobile application like MobiSAM. There is a dangerous assumption that normally presents itself as logic when speaking about Information Communicative Technologies. This dangerous assumption is that the mobile app will most likely “perform the miracle” and do all the work. I felt relieved at the end of the week when there was consensus that the bulk of the work lay on the SAM4YSRH champions. While all my presentations touched on the value of understanding existing communicative ecologies in the pilot countries (through a Baseline Study and Strategy Formulation process by the SAM champions), I placed even greater emphasis on the required pillars to build a successful digital citizen engagement application.
This is fundamentally understanding that this project, both at a local context but also at a regional level will be an emergent learning process. It is will also require the SAM champions to focus on building foundations through community engagement and capacity building, identifying key actors, and a good representation of civil society and local government.
So for me during a project like this the most exciting times will be the work done in the next few months, the collection of data through the baseline survey, multi-stakeholder meetings, the sensitization happening across the region around SRH and the actual project, and lastly the key strategy formulation workshop. These are necessary and key steps to take before the actual technology is introduced. MobiSAM is just a tool, which can only be effective given the right context for citizen engagement and social accountability monitoring is established.
Building the capacity of key SAM champions with a shared goals towards social accountability is fundamental – they are the true advocates for change in their community, and for effective engagement with government. A brief summary video of the Regional Capacity Strengthening Course held in September 2018 is available.