UPsouth

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UPsouth - A primer on how cities can connect with their citizens to build resilient communities and strengthen smart city initiatives.
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Team Members Itsnoon Pacific
Point of Contact Priti Ambani
Participating Municipalities Auckland Council / The Southern Initiative (TSI), New Zealand
Status Implemented
Website
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Description

UPsouth a technology platform that supports Auckland Council connect with young citizens and empower them to become civic entrepreneurs. The Southern Initiative (TSI) is a place-based initiative in South Auckland, New Zealand, that aims to create a prosperous, resilient area where communities thrive. To deliver on its mission, TSI wanted a way to engage with young people in South Auckland. Itsnoon’s civic empowerment platform ‘UPsouth’ enabled young people, of Māori, Pasifika and other ethnic backgrounds, aged 15-24, generate thousands of thoughts, ideas and commentary on important local issues while earning micropayments for their contributions.

Challenges

  • TSI’s role is to champion, stimulate and enable community and social innovation in South Auckland. The population of South Auckland is younger than the rest of Auckland. The success of these young people in terms of education, skills, employment and community participation will shape the future of South Auckland and Auckland.
  • South Auckland is ethnically very diverse and many South Aucklanders have not shared in Auckland’s economic growth and prosperity. Some people feel they have been left behind by successive economic and social reforms, automation, globalisation and other impacts on the labour market
  • How can South Auckland move towards inclusive economic growth and a long-term commitment to developing human capital that are crucial for its transformation?

Solutions

UPsouth is an online platform for young people to express their creativity, share ideas and earn money for their input in response to call-ups from government, companies and organisations seeking community input to various challenges. It’s a new way of developing and nurturing a network of young people who lead together and support one another’s development in both an entrepreneurial and altruistic way. Civil bodies and relevant organisations sponsor questions on UPsouth that help connect citizens to their cities. Examples of “calls” are:

1) If you had the power to end child poverty what would you do? 2) What do you love about your city? 3) Do you control your device or does your device control you?

Participation on UPsouth is designed to encourage the ‘new’ way of working - collaboration, critical thinking, creative thinking and honing communication skills. Participants practice reflection on the question, apply it to their unique circumstances, think of responses, ideas and suggestions while expressing themselves via text, video, music, art or other creations. The youth earns micropayments as acknowledgement for showing up while practicing key 21st century skills.

Major Requirements

We developed the project with the following considerations

  • Partnership between Itsnoon (technology company) and TSI (Auckland Council) was key. This leveraged a tried and tested technology platform for community engagement and applied it to a place-based initiative that was willing to try an innovative solution not tried before in New Zealand.
  • The Council’s involvement also open doors to a number of Council -controlled organisations sponsoring “calls” on UPsouth and encouraged them to explore a different approach to hear from a section of the population (young people) that doesn’t normally engage with government and civic bodies.
  • The partnership also leveraged the expertise of the Itsnoon team in not only delivering a robust technology platform but also their experience in 1)activating and building the community, 2) understanding social engagement 3)designing ‘calls’ to better connect with the audience 4)gleaning insights from the participation that would be meaningful to Auckland Council and TSI.
  • The platform also benefited from community activation at the grassroots and the Council’s partnerships with high schools and colleges.
  • Connection to banking API in New Zealand to ensure frictionless payments with low transaction costs.

Performance Targets

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Measurement Methods

UPsouth aims to enable meaningful dialogue among young people, get them to reflect on their lives, opportunities, skills and their cities. Prior to UPsouth there was no other way for Auckland Council to reach this audience. We are looking a mix of qualitative and quantitative indicators that will tell us how the platform is doing

  • Interest in sponsoring and raising new calls
  • Number of responses for each call
  • Number of complex responses like videos, audio, creations, art
  • Interactions among participants, collaboration
  • Partnerships with public and private sector
  • Interest from teachers to incorporate UPsouth participation within their classrooms.
  • Tracking individual stories and successes, through testimonials.
  • Number of calls on the platform. Over 30+ calls have be sponsored on UPsouth and thousands of pieces of unique content have been uploaded.
  • Quality of uploads and contributions have grown, evident through thought provoking responses, creative content like video, music, poetry etc and maturity in using digital tools to formulate responses (design tools, video editing etc)
  • Testimonials, interviews and feedback from teachers who have used different ‘calls’ as part of their classroom engagement. For eg. an art class in Otara used the ‘design your drains’ call up as a class activity to come up with creative designs to go on drain covers to discourage dumping.
  • Interest and feedback from council organisations who were impressed / eager /surprised to hear from a demographic they rarely hear from.

Standards, Replicability, Scalability, and Sustainability

Itsnoon’s technology solution has now been further developed to scale. the technology offer now includes SAAS models for a variety of uses cases, primarily

  • Cities
  • Causes and
  • Business Innovation.

Community engagement can incentivised through micropayments, digital currency or other social incentives. Calls or Questions can be supported / raised with as little as $10 and anyone on the community (in addition to parent sponsors of the platform) can raise and sponsor calls) creating network effects on the platform and sustained engagement.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Itsnoon’s technology platform is built on AWS infrastructure and has passed all AWS compliance requirements that includes several security capabilities and services to increase privacy and control network access. These include: Network firewalls that are built in, web application firewall capabilities and fully encrypted database

Impacts

Examples of outputs from UPsouth:

  • New Products: The participants on Upsouth regularly create art, poems, haikus, and other contributions that feature around the city - at art festivals, on government buildings and other areas.
  • Economy: Through various calls on Upsouth approximated NZ$40K was distributed directly to the community as acknowledgements for their contributions and reflections. Many youngsters from the community used these earnings to start micro-businesses and pursue their talents.
  • Reinvestment: Taxes were directed back to the community to enable a better governance model and citizens receive incentives to contribute to improve governance.
  • Knowledge: Local Boards were impacted and influenced on their decision making process by to the voices of youngsters that don't even vote or never had their voices represented on a variety of public decisions like the trash collection, environment, child poverty, job creation and many others.

Our societies thrive when our citizens are engaged and are thriving. The UPsouth platform is supporting the local government to

  • Better connect with its citizens
  • Understand what really matters to them
  • Gain community insights and opinions on key issues
  • Help the community find innovative solutions to its own challenges

On the other hand, the platform supports young people to

  • have a voice and reflect on their circumstances
  • practice a new way to think, present solutions, collaborate and learn by doing --- while earning micropayments
  • learn to create with digital skills and practice the future of work
  • experience entrepreneurial thinking (micro ventures) and practice financial literacy

Demonstration/Deployment

Our proposed exhibit will include a demonstration of the fully functional / deployed UPsouth platform with, key features, learnings, testimonials and impact.