Q&A with Co-Founder of One Economy

As many of my readers know, BT has formed a strategic community investment partnership with One Economy with a focus on digital inclusion in the community.  I have  written and posted about this partnership on several occasions.  In March of this year, One Economy launched the Net Connectors platform, which is one of the outcomes of our collaboration.  Shortly following the launch of the platform, in August they announced a video challenge competition.  I took the opportunity to sit down with one of the co-founders of One Economy, David Saunier to discuss our partnership and the competition.

Q: David, you are one of the founders of One Economy. I would imagine that the internet has moved on a long way since you first conceived of the organization.  How has that changed the services you deliver and the way you deliver them?

A: Indeed it has. I have recently been reflecting on this very fact. When we launched One Economy in 2000, we were attempting to use primarily one-way (or one-to-many) content distribution to help replace fractured or non-existent (off-line) social networks in low-income communities as a way to help folks with the basics of living life effectively. With the explosion of online social networking sites and crowd-sourcing of information, we now have an opportunity to help our users help one another, in addition to the information we can provide.

In the area of digital literacy content and training, we began by running offline programs to help train folks in the communities we work. We still operate this successful program, called Digital Connectors, but have now extended our efforts in this space to the online world, as well.

This is manifested in the partnership with we have with BT US & Canada to create our Net Connectors program which encourages young people to serve the same role of trainer as in our Digital Connectors program, but can be facilitated anywhere, anytime, without the need for a discreet on-the-ground program for the kids to join.

Q: We collaborated on Net Connectors over a year ago and launched it in February of this year.  What did you learn as you designed the platform?

A: You guys at BT inspired us with your UK Internet Rangers program. It was great fun identifying the transatlantic differences in terminology and style, but as you know, most importantly, we also decided to add big component of both video and user generated content.  Video is the media young people are using today.  In addition we have learned that our target audience doesn’t need to be told by us the best way to teach older generations. What they need from us is a framework and a forum to collaborate. Hence the user generated content.

Q: Can you explain how the new competition works?

A: It’s really easy. Each month we pick an activity and challenge young people to make a short video that teaches adults how to do that activity. The first month the challenge is searching for a You Tube video.  We will shortlist finalists based on user votes and then, a team consisting some folks from One Economy–and we hope you will join us also–will pick the winner for that month.

Q: How do you envisage the competition will impact the use of the Net Connectors platform?

A: Of course we hope it will draw more people to use the platform and provide us with some great additional materials. In addition, it gives our Digital Connectors and other young people a program which they can use to think about how to teach someone something you know about in logical steps, such as how to record a video and how to upload it.  So participating in the competition is an important learning experience in itself.

Q: My 12 year old can move around a mobile phone menu more adroitly than I can.  As adults, what do you and your colleagues at One Economy do to stay ahead of the young people who are still at school as you develop new media and programs?

A: Ha, that’s a good question. I suppose we spend a good amount of time cavorting with other folks in the field, who are at the cutting edge of Internet and mobile technologies at conferences, code-a-thons, and the like. But we also try to make a point of employing and spending time with young people who can help us keep a hand on the pulse of what’s next.

Q: Thanks David.  I have learned a lot from our partnership with One Economy and am looking forward to seeing the video entries and including some in a future blog post.

A: Thank you, Kevin. We at One Economy are very thankful for our relationship with BT US & Canada and the Net Connectors program that has resulted from that relationship. We plan on making you as proud of the Net Connectors program here in the States as you are undoubtedly proud of the Internet Rangers program in the UK.




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