A few weeks ago, we held our first training session with the Durban Answers Brain’s Trust. The purpose of this training was to introduce some of the more technical aspects of the Durban Answers project and to pick their brains on ways to identify specific user groups and develop specialized content for these groups. Here is what we discussed:
Information Architecture and Lifecycle Map: When we developed the design guide for Durban Answers, one of the critical components of this was creating the information architecture (IA) or in other words “how information gets captured, by whom, for whom, how does it travel, and where does it end up?” It was important for us to discuss the IA with the Brain’s Trust members for them to understand how answers will come to them to be edited, curated and verified. For example, Brain’s Trust members wouldn’t edit answers that haven’t already gone through an editing process — we don’t want them correcting spelling errors, we want them engaging with the content. The IA was a good display of where they sit in the content generating, processing and publishing process.
Style Guide: In order to ensure quality answers, we are developing a Durban Answers style guide that will be used to ensure each answer follows certain guidelines and standards. This includes how answers should be written, what information should and shouldn’t be included, and how different answers are formatted. Each article (answer) must adhere to a standard style guide. For now, we are relying on the Honolulu Answers’ style guide (slightly adapted) and will continue to develop this style guide as we go along. We took a bit of time going over the style guide so the Brain’s Trust members could help us identify any major areas that needed to be added or changed in the style guide.
After this discussion, it was time to kick off some of the activities we had planned.
A bit of a backstory to these activities: We recently were recipients of the Open Data Institute (ODI) Mini-Grant programme where we received a small grant towards Durban Answers. In addition to the grant, we also get paired up with a mentor to guide us and act as a sounding board. Our mentor is Tin Geber, a specialist in creative project design for human rights and transparency organisations, with a focus on appropriate technology and human systems. Tin advised us to try and focus our content generating efforts on smaller subpopulations and build robust and comprehensive content around specific use-cases. We thought the Brain’s Trust members might be a useful group of people to help us identify some of these potential subpopulations and think through how to best prioritise and access these subpopulations. Tin helped us think through interesting activities to draw out some of these ideas in our training session. Here is what we did:
Process Mapping: In this activity, we identified various processes that have breakdowns or inefficiencies. Through doing this, we prioritised processes that need immediate attention, and we then worked to unpack these challenges further to understand more deeply the interconnectedness of different process challenges.
Persona Building: As mentioned, we were advised to focus on smaller subpopulations or local processes and develop content around these as an initial starting point in contrast to developing a little bit of content on a lot of different topics. The profiling activity helped us to identify some of these potential subpopulations, generate some questions and answers around them, and create an action plan for hosting further cycles with them.
This is how the persona activity worked:
First, we defined what we meant by persona:
What does “persona” mean?
“A user persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. A persona is generally based on user research and incorporates the needs, goals, and observed behaviour patterns of your target audience.”
Then we explained the activity:
Then we had the group working together on their personas with a worksheet to fill in the right information. I created this worksheet myself but used a few different sources to understand what goes into a persona. I found this to be a really useful source and helpful in creating the worksheet
All in all, the activity was extremely fruitful. We began to understand that while we have a deep desire to bring Durban Answers to the most needy and excluded populations, we need to test the process of generating content with populations that have needs and risks, but also with access to a computer and internet. If we can get out content generating methodology down to a T, then we know we have a safe and working methodology to use to meet the needs of more vulnerable populations. I’ve been incorporating this persona building methodology into some content generating workshops with DUT, and I think there is real potential for this methodology to scale, but that’s a topic for another blog. Stay tuned!
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