In the global debate on foreign aid’s effectiveness, the most crucial voice is also the one most notably absent: the voice of aid recipients. What Went Wrong? is a participatory journalism project and mobile survey through which Kenyans can report on foreign aid in their own communities.
While estimates of aid money sent to Africa since the 1940’s reach as high as $1 trillion, the impact remains hotly contested. In this ongoing debate, the most crucial voice is also the one most notably absent: the voice of the beneficiary. What Went Wrong? is an attempt to prioritize the concerns of beneficiaries by placing their voices at the forefront of this dialogue.
In partnership with Echo Mobile, we are creating an interactive voice response survey for citizens to call in and report on aid projects in their area. This reporting system will be accompanied by ongoing radio programs to continue the conversation and update our network of reporters.
Using Echo Mobile’s platform, radio hosts will pose questions to the audience of her morning radio program (after describing the What Went Wrong? project), for example, “Does anyone want to report on incomplete aid projects that you’ve seen? Maybe something you pass every day on your drive to work, or see every time you visit your family up country?” Listeners can then call in to the system and leave a brief voicemail (or text in a brief story) that hosts can immediately select, play back on the program, and discuss live on air. Radio partners will also be promoting the call-in number to their social media following.
At the same time, the Echo Mobile system will call back users of the system with a brief survey so that we can gather more specific data and follow up on interesting cases.
Our team of journalists at What Went Wrong? and radio partners will investigate those cases, in some cases visiting them in person for in-depth reporting. As soon as we have some verifiable information, we will Tweet responses (including the original survey voicemail file) and tag any NGOs we’ve found to be involved, asking for their response to the situation, while also contacting them for additional background information.
As we find more about select cases, radio hosts will revisit these on the air (even while she promotes further use of the call-in system). Her radio shows will be edited into brief podcasts suitable both for social media and for distribution via mobile on the Echo platform, so that citizens who have used the mobile system can be kept informed of our work.
In the long term, we will map our case studies on our map-based website, designed to display these complex stories in an easily digestible way, while also allowing the viewer to diver deeper into in-depth case studies comprised of written stories, video, photo, and data visualization.
The radio show accomplishes regular, local engagement with these issues; publication in international media brings these issues to the attention of an audience based where the NGOs and donors are also based; and compiling data on our site allows journalists, aid workers, etc., to investigate and learn from these stories further.