I want to update everyone on the AmLab Three60 project, which was launched in May 2013. This project was led by 1%Club, our neighbour in the AmLab in Amsterdam, and involved Akvo and Text to Change as partners. It was funded with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, awarded in November 2012, as part of their Grand Challenges Explorations phase 1 programme titled “Show the World Aid is Working – Let’s Ask The Crowd”.

Three60 beta was a proof of concept that presented a way to show aid results, targeted at the general public, rather than at “development” people. The project was run in Amsterdam by Marianne Gybels (1%Club), myself and Arjen Swank (TTC).

Led by the 1%Club, it incorporated a variety of user interface ideas and looked at the available story and content feeds that our three organisations could bring together. Akvo’s principle role was to contribute content feeds, principally Akvo RSR projects and update feeds, and Akvo FLOW maps.

Last month we had final feedback on our proof of concept, which the Gates Foundation decided not to progress with further funding. We got great feedback on our positive approach, that presented a unique idea combining “really compelling concepts”, including transparency, beneficiary feedback and first person stories. On the negative side, the concept “lacked a compelling communications strategy”, and the team at Gates weren’t clear that the concept could scale rapidly to meet the needs of their partners.

I’m grateful for the energy and creative input of the AmLab team. We also all gained tremendous experience from being part of the Cannes Chimera initiative, in particular our attendance at the kick off event in Seattle (November 2012) and creative workshops during Cannes Lions Festival (June 2013).  

I want to make sure the Akvo team – and other partners who are building interactive interfaces and communications campaigns on top of Akvo tools – have access to our thinking and the approaches we took with the Three60 beta. So we’re going to keep the concept online until the middle of the summer and I will be organising a #WRAP discussion (which we will record and share) with Akvo’s design, communications, partnership and engineering staff to run through what we did and help spark ideas for what we might do next. In particular, I’m going to look at how Akvo’s communications and engineering teams might have played a role and provided input to the project team, so we could have dealt with those areas around communications and scalability where we didn’t hit the right mark. I’d also like to look at how what we did build could have been packaged and licensed in ways that would have been of more value to open source collaborators after this stage of the project ended.

Here at Akvo we’re involved in a number of new initiatives to visualise development activity online:

One is a new programme being led by our partner Zimmerman & Zimmerman to build a visualisation tool for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The concepts look great and I’ll be really excited to see how it progresses. I’m hoping the Z&Z team will share their concepts and work as it progresses, something I think we should have done with Three60, to help bring everyone along on the journey and inspire wider ideas. Because we’re an open source foundation, we can do that.

Second, we’re now working with AmLab Three60 partner Text to Change in East Africa to fuse together our Text to Change’s SMS tools with Akvo FLOW to show how they can work together. By coincidence this is funded by another grand challenge, Grand Challenges Canada, funded by the Canadian Government. There’re more on that programme here on the Text to Change website.

Meanwhile, the AmLab hub in Amsterdam continues to thrive as a place where people passionate about the potential to turn international development cooperation on its head, and propel it into a new era continues. I myself am now working from Singapore, helping Akvo’s Asian partners bring their development activity to life from the ground up. I’m grateful for the experience that Gates’ Grand Challenges Explorations programme gave to me and the AmLab Three60 team.

Frodo van Oostveen is a programme manager at Akvo, based in Singapore. Blog drafted with input from Mark Charmer.