We’re not the only ones talking about M4D and ICT4D fails! We were thrilled to learn that the Dutch Institute for Brilliant Failures (yes, it’s a real organization – devoted to highlighting the importance of experimentation and failure in progress in innovation) recently instated a new prize specifically for the development aid sector in 2010.
As it turns out, our good friends at Text To Change recently won the distinct honor of an Audience Award for their first HIV/AIDS text message quiz program in Uganda! We asked Josette de Vroeg from Text To Change’s office in the Netherlands, to explain:
Q: What is the Institute of Brilliant Failures, and what is the new Transparency Award in the Development Aid Sector?
The goal of the Institute of Brilliant Failures is to bring about a shift in the way we view failure – to promote a positive view of failure through the use of stories, film, interactive workshops, and road shows. The institute is a tribute to inventors and those who had the courage to try something different, and a way of laying down a challenge for the rest of us.
After lots of criticism on development aid the Dutch Institute of Brilliant Failures has initiated a new award for the development aid sector. The idea of this annual award is: without failure, no progress.
Time and time again history has shown us that our most valuable experiences are more likely to come from mistakes than from successes. We learn from our failures and our failures are a source of inspiration for others. In this respect failure is not only an option but failure is also necessary. The new Transparency Award in the Development Aid Sector is created to stimulate openness and transparency in this sector.
Q: Why do you think recognizing failure is important, particularly in our field of ICT and aid/development?
Recognizing failure is very important because people and organizations can learn from each other. People are afraid to be associated with failure and this blocks the learning capacity. The key is to dare to learn and innovate by interacting. We think an open dialogue regarding the complexity of development aid, well thought attempts and common failures is a requirement.
Due to the fact that TTC received this audience award a big step is made towards more openness and transparency in the development aid sector. We are very proud to win this award and will definitely participate in the competition next year. We hope more organizations will have more brilliant failures and participate than this year. We hope organizations will realize that this is not a public humiliation but an opportunity to create more success stories.
Q: Tell us, what was Text to Change’s Brilliant Failure?
TTC is a non-profit organization that allows mobile phone users in Africa to participate in text message quizzes and win prizes through interactive education and development programs. This year, 6 out of 10 people in Africa own a mobile phone. Text to Change challenges participants by sending multiple choice questions not only on health subjects but also on economic development.
Our Brilliant Failure was our first project that spread out an HIV/AIDS text message quiz in Uganda.
Nobody ever tried this before. We thought everything was taken care of, nothing could go wrong. We were focused on content, technique and our financial means, except for…the SMS code that the Ugandan government would provide us. The morning of the project’s launch we were told the SMS code was 666 and this caused a lot of commotion. 666 is the devil’s number and the involved partners were all Christians, and wanted to stop the project. Fortunately, we were able to change the SMS code into 777.
Q: What is the big lesson learned/what should we all keep in mind when designing similar projects?
No matter how well prepared you are, keep in mind that unexpected things can happen. We were so focused on all external factors that we forgot to check our own SMS code in advance. Never assume that you are in total control.