Welcome to Change Assembly!

 

Sara Farmer and I started Change Assembly in July 2012, fresh from working together in the United Nations at the Global Pulse project. While there, we established a good working rapport and realized that we shared a common vision about the challenges and opportunities in humanitarian response and international development in the Information Age. We also wanted to continue development of Hunchworks and had come to the realization, along with the Global Pulse team, that while the UN Secretariat does many things, agile software development is not one of them. We toyed with the idea of starting a non-profit, however we decided that a commercial entity would ultimately be more sustainable and would allow us the creative freedom that we longed for after working at the UN.

The last few months have been very busy. As anyone who has taken the fateful step of starting a company can tell you, the experience is at once exhilarating and exhausting. I feel we are finally coming out of the “what’s an E3/W4/I9?” phase of business development and are able to focus on getting down to the real work.

Not that we have been idle in the meantime. Here’s a taste of what we have been working on:

Hunchworks

We kicked off the current round of Hunchworks development with a design review workshop at the beginning of July focusing on the prototype feature set and the awesome P.J. Onori flew out from San Francisco to participate. We want to broaden the applicability of Hunchworks, so we decided to start over with a clean new codebase and interface. Several interesting new features emerged from the session including a social data manager (more on this and other features in the coming weeks).

At this stage, we are about 12 weeks away from beta and we have been engaging with expert communities to help us iron out the kinks and suggest improvements. We would love to have more beta testers, so if you are eager to get your hands on Hunchworks, please sign up.

Humanitarian Data

Sara has been getting her hands dirty with humanitarian data over the past few months. Initially she focused on the challenge that many were having accessing data.un.org in the absence of an API. Once she was able to work out the requisite steps to access the data, she also helped to clean and organize the data to make it easier for it to be aggregated and analyzed for broader use among humanitarian and development groups and organisations.

Sara then went to work analyzing the provenance of humanitarian crisis indicators. A lot of crisismapping comes down to persistence, capability and trust. We need to trust the people we’re working with, the systems we’re using (within sensible limits), and we need to (again within sensible limits) trust the data we’re using. Trust in the data that happens during a crisis has been talked about a lot recently. So Sara investigated the provenance of the data that goes into various humanitarian indicators published by international organizations. She found that much of the data is, well, dodgy. She then put the theory into practice joining an ACAPS deployment.

Sara has been writing about her findings on her blog and she will be publishing more here in the coming weeks.

Upcoming work

We also have a few other projects in the pipeline including a community threat mapping project in Africa, a design workshop with a UN agency, an African collaborative journalism initiative and a large-scale university deployment of Hunchworks. However all of these are still in development, so that’s about all I can say about them for the time being.

Stay tuned…

 

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