UNAIDS has launched a new project CrowdOutAIDS to harness the power ofsocial media and connect with young people to crowdsource a UNAIDS youthstrategy on HIV. We talk to Mikaela Hildebrand to find out more.
G: What is CrowdOutAIDS?
MH: CrowdOutAIDS is a collaborative project to develop new ways for UNAIDS to work with young people in the AIDS response. It is the first time the UN is collaboratively developing an actionable strategy on HIV and young people using online technologies, and voluntary offline meet-ups around the world.
Through online tools and crowdsourcing technology, CrowdOutAIDS will help young people come together to crowdsource a UNAIDS youth strategy on HIV.
The aim is to rebuild UNAIDS’ work with young people from the ground up.
G: The focus of CrowdOutAIDS is youth. Why so?
MH: Young people account for 41% of all new HIV infections among adults globally, and about 5 million young people are living with HIV.
When young people have a firm place at the decision-making table able to influence policy and programme development from start to end, and mobilize for change on some of the sensitive issues that the response to HIV touches upon, we will see a more efficient response that meets the needs of young people. Young people are also early adopters of new technology and new modes of communication which can be leveraged in the repose to HIV.
G: The website says, “UNAIDS needs a new approach”. What’s been the current approach till now and what have been its shortcomings?
MH: 30 years into the HIV epidemic the climate is shifting. Our approach has focused on working with a ‘set’ constituency, important groups that have taken a lead to deliver on AIDS. We believe it is important in moving forwards to build bridges to establish new and strategic alliances with youth networks and organization who work in related areas to reach the ambitious goals UN members stats have committed to in the UN Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS adopted by the General Assembly, in June 2011.
New communications tools also allow for a new ways of collaborating, organizing, mobilizing young people across borders; we need to leverage these new tools for a better, more informed response to AIDS.
G: How is CrowdOutAIDS reaching out to young people?
MH: CrowdOutAIDS uses social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Renren to reach out to young people. We are also using email. In addition, we are working with youth networks on the ground that have many members in their organizations as well as contacting large youth networks that we have previously not engaged with.
G: What is the UNAIDS Mandate? How do you plan to incorporate the views of so many people?
MH: UNAIDS, is an innovative partnership that leads and inspires the world in achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. UNAIDS fulfills its mission by:
- Uniting the efforts of the United Nations system, civil society, national governments, the private sector, global institutions and people living with and most affected by HIV;
- Speaking out in solidarity with the people most affected by HIV in defense of human dignity, human rights and gender equality;
- Mobilizing political, technical, scientific and financial resources and holding ourselves and others accountable for results;
- Empowering agents of change with strategic information and evidence to influence and ensure that resources are targeted where they deliver the greatest impact and bring about a prevention revolution; and
- Supporting inclusive country leadership for sustainable responses that are integral to, and integrated with, national health and development efforts.
Crowdsourcing enables UNAIDS to reach a much broader constituency though an open and transparent process, in line with the rights of young people to participate in decision-making processes that affect them.
Each of the 8 online Open Forums is staffed with a community mobilizer. Every week the community mobilizer produces a short summary report that is posted on the CrowdOutAIDS blog for community review. Based on the discussions in the Open Forums a survey will be developed where the key issues raised are ranked by the community to decide what should be included in the final document.
Based on these key priorities UNAIDS will launch an application that allows participants to submit concrete actionable ideas to be included in the strategy that corresponds to the key issues prioritized by the community. The best ideas will be voted on through the “wisdom of the crowd.”
In the final phase, a Wikipedia-like platform will be launched where elected representatives from the 8 regional forums will collaboratively write up the strategy document, live. The CrowdOutAIDS community will be able follow the drafting process in real time and comment via a chat function.
The output document, shaped as an action plan, should be in place by mid-January. UNAIDS has committed to work with young people in the AIDS response to implement this action plan with the caveat that it needs to be within the mandate of the organization.
G: How does one partner with CrowdOutAIDS?
MH: There are several ways to partner with CrowdOutAIDS: By engaging and spreading the word about the 8 online forums. By hosting an offline CrowdOutAIDS Open Forum. As a media representative, you can also join our network of CrowdOutAIDS bloggers. If you are interested in partnering with CrowdOutAIDS write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
G: Are there any offline activities planned as well?
MH: Yes, we are mobilizing a network of volunteers who can self-organize offline CrowdOutAIDS Open Forums. The purpose of these meetings is to ensure that young people who live in areas where there is low internet penetration have an opportunity to provide input to the process. However, all young people no matter where they live, are more than welcome to volunteer and take the online conversation offline and host a forum.
G: How has been the response till now?
MH: The response so far has been great with over 2500 young people signing up. Discussions are ongoing in all the regions of the world, and we are growing by the day. This is the first time the UN has used online tools for policy/strategy development, and we are excited to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks as the community grows.