The founder talks innovation, success, learning, and chasing scale at the influential community advocacy NPO.
Koketso Moeti is the founder and executive director of amandla.mobi — a non-profit community advocacy organisation that works to empower communities to raise awareness and enact change on the issues that matter most to them.
Their stated goal is to “turn every cellphone into a democracy building tool so that no matter where you live; what language you speak or what issue you care about, you can take action with others”. And their primary weapon of choice is petitions and awareness campaigns.
One of their most prominent and successful campaigns to date was the petition to stop the “virgin bursaries” (the uThukela District Municipality’s ‘Maidens Bursary Award’) which has over 17,000 signatories.
Q. To your mind, what is the most innovative thing about the amandla.mobi platform?
The creative use of technology to amplify the work of those being silenced and ignored, and to bring critical social issues to the foreground is a significant way of democratising digital tools.
Tech is not going to disappear. We need to harness it creatively to build the world we want, rather than leaving it solely to those whose only interests are profits, exploitation and worse. And this is where we are innovating, we didn’t build something new. We merely took the same tech that could’ve been used in all these other ways and used it differently. This is innovation, which is often conflated with invention.
How do you measure yourselves and campaigns? What constitutes success for a campaign?
Basically success for a campaign is having a decision-maker take a decision we want them to and implement it, like when we got eTV to broadcast ‘Miners Shot Down’. That was very clear, simple success.
We also have campaigns like when we forced the Department of Higher Education to release the ‘No Fee Varsity’ report. The initial ask of the campaign was just for the report to be released. We felt this was important and that it affirmed and strengthened the #FeesMustFall struggle that was happening at the time. [Success for a] campaign [like that] means having your first victory, and then moving the energy to a “next ask”, like implementation.
Other internal measures of success include measuring the number of people who join more than one campaign, and go up the ladder of engagement by taking more and deeper actions, such as directly contacting a decision maker; contributing to a submission; donating to a particular tactic; advising us on campaign tactics; hosting a meeting or other kind of event; attending a protest; and so on.
There are some side benefits we don’t quite measure which can also be important, like how some campaigns raise awareness about things that are often ignored, or just even put new information in the public domain.