ORGANIZATION NAME: The Sentinel Project
LOCATION: Kenya, Africa
“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” -R. Buckminster Fuller
SUMMARY: The Sentinel Project has developed Una Hakika: a hybrid of communications technology, social insight, and beneficial use of social media. The project leverages both online and offline “informational architecture” to de-escalate conflict in regions where misinformation can lead to violence or genocide. Interethnic and inter-communal violence is often dramatically exacerbated by inflammatory rumors. The Una Hakika pilot project quickly and effectively uses all available communication tools–including village councils, mobile phones, radio, print, and one-on-one conversation–to defuse conflict between the Pokomo farmers and the Orma herders in the Tana Delta of Kenya. Sentinel is now rolling out another pilot project, in Myanmar/Burma, to show that their approach can be replicated in a radically different context, halfway around the world.
The Sentinel Project has committed to tackle the problem of misinformation at the largest scale, monitoring flashpoints of conflict and violence globally and then carefully crafting systems to monitor and address misinformation at the village level. Their local approach is rigorous, involving detailed socio-cultural, historical, political, and economic analyses. In situations where political parties and various stakeholders use media outlets to foment misinformation, the use of a multi-level approach – radio, phones, councils, elders, community organizing – to empower citizens to sort through rumors real-time is especially timely and globally applicable. Importantly, once the information infrastructure designed by the Sentinel Project is in place, it can be citizen-run and adapted for various audiences. The approach can also be extended for effective management of information during disaster relief efforts, political campaigns, terrorist attacks, disease outbreaks, and economic panics. During an era of growing instability, the Sentinel Project’s work in this critical domain has the potential to become a widely adopted model in many parts of the world.
PROBLEM SPACE: During 2012 and 2013 violent clashes between two of the main ethnic groups in Tana Delta,Kenya, Pokomo farmers and Orma herders, resulted in the death of about 170 people and displaced as many as 40,000.One of the factors that drove the violence was misinformation. The lasting impact was fear and distrust and hatred amongst the communities in the region. Rumours continued after the violence either deliberately to stir up trouble to continue the animosity or from a misunderstanding. The lack of any local media in the area also drove rumours since there was no way to verify the rumours. This initiative seeks to address the problem of rumours in the region and in Mynmar as well as to bring peace by ensuring the communities are able to interact peacefully. The initiative also seeks to fill in the information gap in the area by being an information management system.
SOLUTION: Una Hakika-an information system that monitors and counters the spread of harmful rumours and misinformation which prevents citizens from leading well-informed, secure, peaceful lives and enjoying full civic participation