South Africa: technology is used to change the country

forgood.co.za-web

Nelson Mandela’s country is not only famous for the violences that struck this year.

South Africa is also the land hosting an important organisation aiming to help people.

This is Heartlines forgood: “A new social movement that uses technology, specifically cellphone SMS messages and the internet, to connect and mobilise people who want to change South Africa for the better

Africanews.it interviewed Claire Taylor, communications manager of Forgood.co.za, via email.

We’d like to know everything about the organisation. So when did it start?
Heartlines forgood launched at the end of April 2008.

Who had this idea?
Forgood was inspired by Dr Garth Japhet. He is a medical doctor who specialised in treating HIV and AIDS. In recognition that this work wasn’t improving people’s quality of life, Dr Japhet founded the Soul City Institute for Health and Development, becoming its CEO.
 
In 2006 Dr Japhet designed a new multi-media education project called Heartlines which aims at helping people live good values. It originally did this through 8 films about 8 values that were screened over 8 weeks. Since then, Heartlines has developed a number of programmes e.g. for schools, the youth, churches and correctional services – to help people in these groups live their values.
 
Forgood is an initiative of Heartlines – it is a new social movement that uses technology, specifically cellphone SMS messages and the internet to connect and mobilise people who want to change South Africa for the better.  Once the technology is fully developed (which will take some months), forgood will be able to connect people according their needs – geographic, language, circumstance or issue/s that they are interested in – so that can create networks for action.
 
It is based on the belief that people want to take action for good – but don’t, because they don’t know how to.  Through regular SMS messages, members are encouraged to take real action, with others (such as family and friends, social groups like soccer or book clubs or stokvel groups), to make South Africa a safer, healthier, happier and more caring country.african-mobile
 
Forgood is membership based.  Anybody can join forgood by registering at www.forgood.co.za or SMSing “GOOD” to 32197.  Members receive an action booklet when they join, and are sent regular SMS messages, to inspire a monthly action – which takes place on the first Saturday of each month.
 
The first action, which took place on 5 July, aimed at reducing crime and making South Africa a safer and more secure country.
 
Through a series of SMS messages, members were asked to:

  • Create a group of people with whom they can pledge to not do crime as well as to not tolerate crime done by others.
  • Go to their local police station at 12 noon on 5th July, where they will:
    • Get to know a local police officer
    • Find out how they can help him or her
    • Pledge not to do crime or tolerate crime by others –even small crimes, which would include encouraging members to report criminals to Primedia’s crime line and the SAPS toll free crime line.
    • Ask the police to make this pledge with them.

The second action, which takes place on 2 August is aimed at supporting recreational activities for children and youth, in recognition that recreational activities protect youth from victimization, as well as reduce crime levels.  Through SMS messages members will be asked to:

  1. Do a fun activity with a group of children they know, or who live in their area, to show that they understand how important it is for children to be active.
  2. Find an after-school care or recreational project for children or youth in their area. Ask what they can do to help

How it is sustained economically?
It relies on donor funding, the primary funder is First National Bank.  However, the aim is for it to start becoming profitable – through non intrusive advertising to members – like GOOGLE does, though we would need to develop a charter that stipulates what companies can advertise on the website – so that they support good values.
 
What are the numbers of the organisation? I.e.: how many take part, what people think of this service, what has changed for people in South Africa since the launch of Forgood?
Membership is over 20 000 people, but it grows daily.
We have had some very positive feedback from individual members. Members have also been sending us their ideas for action and news about what they are doing to make a difference in their communities.
 
How many people work for it?
The Heartlines forgood core team is 5 people, but we pull others on board as is needed.  One of the strengths of it is that it partners with different organisations, who act as ‘ambassadors’, depending on the action of the month.
 
Where is the headquarter?
In Johannesburg
 
What are the goals in the short term?
There’s recognition that we don’t want millions of people to join Forgood, at least in the short term, and that it needs to develop slowly – through word of mouth, and become a social movement as people are inspired to join and take action.
So, the short term, the goal would be to inspire and connect people by showing what actions are being taken by ordinary people – to make SA a better country.

 

Photo: futureatlas.com

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