EXPERIENCE DESIGN CASE STUDY: DECOLONIZE DAILY

by Gaurav Cedric Bhatnagar, 15 Aug 2017

Many conscious and concerned individuals, families and communities struggle to find effective, sustainable ways to take action that give rise to lasting justice, peace and harmony for our divided society.

To address this struggle, Decolonize Daily provides a mobile application that presents informative and simple ways to take action every day in alignment with social movements that represent generations of progressive change for a more just, peaceful and harmonious society.

 
 

The vision for the Decolonize Daily mobile application began taking shape as a short film I began in July 2016.  The short uses music and interviews with working class black and indigenous people in the Los Angeles area placed on a backdrop of video clips to address the question: as our dependence on technology increases and we aim to live beyond our planet, how can we design and use technology to inspire, create and sustain a more just, harmonious and peaceful society in the here and now?  The answer to this question depends entirely on learning from the lives and past experiences of our most marginalized and oppressed communities for they have the most to teach us about justice and peace.

 
 
 

My design approach centers around serving people and draws upon principles and practices outlined in Goal Directed Design, Ethnographic Research, Lean UX and other human-centered design processes.  To learn more about key past events, the current needs of the movements and how film and technology could best serve, I attended marches, rallies and built relationships with organizers, activists and community members.  Leaders to follow, books, documentaries and news sources all informed the design.  This research process and the 2016 presidential election resulted in the decision to shift all attention from the film to the mobile app.  Though the film raises important voices, asks challenging questions and compels viewers to action, the film would not adequately meet the needs of black and indigenous people fighting to keep their lands and relatives alive on a daily basis.

Conversations at rallies involved discussions with those new to activism looking for ways to get involved, but very uncertain how to make the most impactful and effective change.  Social media analysis revealed that millions of unique individuals were following the movements and looking for ways to take action.  An evaluation of existing online methods for taking action included daily text-based service Daily Action, various “100 Days” campaigns and the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds of social movements and organizers.  Though gaining much attention and resulting in unprecedented levels of action, online actions were shared sporadically based on current events and they often lacked the context needed to educate individuals on why they were being asked to take action and how their action would impact the larger social movements or their own communities.

 
 
 

Given the upheaval and global response to the 2016 U. S. election, there are more activists, organizers, civil servants and concerned individuals than ever looking for effective, sustainable ways to take action that gives rise to lasting justice, peace and harmony for our divided society.  Though protest and political action are on the rise, many taking this type of action are left wondering how effective it is given blatant corruption and the length of time making change through the political process takes.  With news and existing social media platforms covering mainstream stories and sharing actions sporadically, a sense of fatigue and lack of communication often breaks momentum on the path to staying focused and creating lasting change.  People turn to their communities, art, music and film to keep spirits up, learn and find inspiration when other action proves too burdensome.

Decolonize Daily brings together conscious art, music and film to educate and inspire while presenting daily actions that clearly illustrate why and how the actions fit into the past timeline and current priorities of social movements so that individuals take action knowing they are carrying movements forward, no matter how steep the road ahead may seem.  With our communication and actions coordinated at scale via Decolonize Daily, we will be able to build a humanitarian social force strong enough to make change on personal, local, state and national levels that empower each one of us to design and maintain new civic and social structures based on values of collective liberation.

 
 
 

The Decolonize Daily mobile app feels like a daily check-in with the resistance, a virtual march and rally.  Physical marches are always outside, under the sun and moon.  Organizers often share updates on the movement, key events, stories and calls to action: why and how to mobilize.  Speakers are impassioned, they strike at the heart of the matter and spark fires.  Painted signs and designed posters are hoisted.  Poetry and music are performed as people begin to move.  The app is freely and openly accessible to all, requiring no personal or social network information from anyone to use.  If they choose to do so, people can share their activity via all major social networks.

 
 
 

I begin with thumbnail sketches, storyboarding the experience with primary personas (i.e. activists at different levels of engagement, organizers, policy makers) moving through the overarching narrative broken down into specific scenarios.  Many iterations are made with more and more detail added with each pass.  Between iterations, I test the design by walking through scenarios with other designers, social media experts, social movement scholars, activists and organizers.  As decisions become clearer, the design becomes increasingly detailed using diagramming software Keynote and then Sketch.

 
 
 

Because of my experience as a software engineer, the design process is informed by a sense of technical feasibility and decisions regarding technology track with decisions related to the design.  For example, activists and organizers, two of our primary personas, use a mix of both Android and Apple mobile devices.  Using React Native, we can design, build, deploy and maintain one design that works on both platforms.  Firebase provides scalable hosting, storage and realtime database services at an affordable cost and supports writing the app in the familiar technologies of HTML, CSS and JavaScript.  Scripts and algorithms are being developed using Google Cloud Platform’s Machine Learning APIs to scan, select, filter and present actions informed by our community partners and progressive, investigative news sources as we pair the actions with related art, media and news.

 
 
 

An important and ongoing part of the work is building genuine, caring relationships with other organizers, activists and community members.  This ensures we understand one another, work together around common goals and take action to build in the same direction.  I have started a website and social presence for Decolonize Daily to build a following, share happenings with the community and create a support network to sustain our work.  A small fundraiser was coordinated through our website in April 2017 and, in June 2017, we partnered with Community Services Unlimited, a nonprofit serving South Los Angeles for wellness in body and mind since 1977, as our fiscal sponsors providing Decolonize Daily with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status.  We have multiple lines of revenue in development:

  • opt-in monthly donations to support daily content,
  • crowdfunding for specific projects,
  • providing reports for movement organizers, investigative journalists and policy-makers to draw useful insights to further the priorities of the movements while respecting the privacy of the community taking action,
  • partnering with purveyors of conscious products and services that carry movements forward while benefitting communities and the environment.

 

For more information about Decolonize Daily or to download the app, please visit decolonizedaily.org.