Atma Connect, the global tech nonprofit helping communities improve their resilience to disasters and respond to ongoing challenges, is all about enabling change from the ground up. In line with that vision, the organization, with help from partners and community leaders, added a new feature on the AtmaGo app that is already winning praise from users.
The new feature: a community room where one can “Turn discussions into actions.” That’s the tagline of the community room in Indonesia, Ruang Komunitas AtmaGo (RKA) (komunitas.atmago.com). The community room name in Puerto Rico: Espacio Comunitario Atmago (ECA) (comunidad.atmago.com).
“What we have heard from community leaders is that they need a way to document their impact, inspire and learn from others, and get more support from their own community, the government, and the resources to grow their work,” said Meena Palaniappan, Atma Connect’s CEO, in launching the new feature and describing the idea of helping community leaders become agents of change.
AtmaConnect encourages communities using AtmaGo to try out the community rooms to form and to join a community of their interest. The hope is that people and communities will be better connected to each other, especially during the pandemic where the ability to meet in person has been reduced significantly.
In the new community rooms, people can form a community, join a community, conduct discussions within a community and share activities whether they are coming up or have already occurred (activities are also directly connected as posts in the AtmaGo main site). People can also develop their community portfolio, recruiting volunteers if needed, setting measurable targets and documenting past actions. The community rooms give local changemakers a way to grow their impact and their effectiveness.
Launched on June 17, 2021, via an international Zoom meeting linking more than 90 users, some 50 communities have launched so far in RKA, while ECA has just begun. The community rooms will be developed further to enable communities to monitor their progress and actions through data and analytics, to measure achievement against target, and to interconnect between the two countries, narrowing the distance from 18,940 kilometers to a few bits and bytes.
“At Atma Connect, we are driven by and inspired by community leaders,” said Palaniappan. “During the pandemic, we saw the incredible work of community leaders in action – from sharing and growing food to organizing resources to help the less fortunate to supporting local businesses.”
The new feature evolved from ideas and brainstorming that began about a year ago on ways to enable community leaders to truly act as agents of change. To build on the idea and make it concrete, there were countless brainstorming sessions, focus group discussions and surveys with community leaders. Atma’s Development, Growth and Field Teams worked hand in hand. The Community Room Platform was first tested in Indonesia in March 2021. Two months later a similar platform was developed for Puerto Rico.
Both platforms are part of www.atmago.com and pr.atmago.com, respectively. They allow any resident to form or to join online, a community that might be of interest. The features allow a community to build its portfolio, recruit volunteers, and document its activities. “In the near future we will add a function to enable a community to monitor and to measure the impact it is having supported by data and analytics,” Aisyah Gunung, Atma Connect’s Product Manager, explained at the launch event.
“Selamat Pagi, Good Evening and Buenas Noches” — that was how the launch event started with participants joining from Indonesia, Puerto Rico and the United States. Participants included community leaders, donor organizations and friends of Atma Connect.
The event was meant to initiate dialogue and interaction between communities in the two countries. To help communities connect across languages, the event was conducted in three languages – Bahasa Indonesia, English and Spanish.
Although the community leaders were 11,000 miles away and spoke different languages, those facts did not stop participants from interacting. Among the many questions:
- “How does your community work together with the government to handle the COVID-19 situation?”
- “How do you fund your social activities?”
- “Where can we find more information about your community?”
Agustian, the founder of Komunitas Sekolah Raya, a group of volunteers focused on education, presented his community and their experiences in using RKA. “Indonesians have a saying, ‘Sour on the mountains and salts in the oceans, but they will eventually meet in a cooking pot.’ We want RKA to be our cooking pot,” he said. His community relies on volunteers and, due to the pandemic, their network was quite dormant. He’s excited that RKA could be an excellent tool to recruit more volunteers to help villages be more independent and self-sufficient.
Participants at the launch say they are highly motivated to use the community rooms and recommend them to their networks. A few of the many statements of enthusiasm included these: “This is an interesting innovation that we have been dreaming of, because it offers a broad network to other communities,” “I find this platform useful because it will help us to document our works properly, and it can become a tool for peer learning among communities,” and, not least, “Please have more online interaction events like this in the future!”