Source: Tech Tribes, Contribution from Amjad Al-Jirawy and Ruba Al-Momani/ Matar Project (Social Innovation Incubator Participating Group)
Translated by: Hashem Al-Qudah/ Communication Officer, Tech Tribes.
Meet Amjad and Ruba, an energetic duo part of the operational team of Matar Project, a project run by a group of volunteers that helps provide audio recordings of academic books to visually disabled university students. Matar Project applied for the Social Innovation Incubator run be Tech Tribes and supported by The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) in 2018. The challenge the project faced is an operational model that was jammed and stagnant where recording, rendering and sharing audio files coming in via 300 volunteers was proving to be a strenuous task on the coordination team.
As part of their participation in the Social Innovation Incubator, the team has innovated the working system to utilize technology in a way that will boost their impact by creating a mobile application with two interfaces. The first interface is dedicated to helping registered volunteers to either audio-record or transcribe the text from selected image and text formats supported by the App. All recordings or text related to each book will auto-save on a central database in real time and will then be ready to be shared with a user in need.
The second interface of the application will be dedicated to providing the visually disabled with the option of listening to recorded audio books and text recorded by the community of volunteers. The combination of these two interfaces will result in a comprehensive and always-available electronic library of audio textbooks available to all beneficiaries.
Although believing in their newly innovated operational model, Matar Project team reported being very reluctant to give up on a model that has served them for 5 years so far; model that, albeit complicated and time and effort-consuming, was familiar and tested. Amjad expressed:
We hear the words ‘innovation’ and ‘change’ all the time, and they are framed in positive frames, pictured to be easy and straightforward. However, innovation and what it brings of change are neither easy nor comfortable- if I may put it this way. They require courage and a leap of faith. Faith in the efforts we as a team has put in the Incubator to design and structure our solution, and faith in the intensions an efforts of our mentors, supporters, and incubating organization
Ruba, being a graphic and user experience designer, was less fearful about running the new model with all its changes in operation. She has put so much effort into mirroring the best of what the old model offered its volunteers and beneficiaries into the user experience of the Mobile Application intended. She reported being anxious of whether the current volunteers and visually impaired beneficiaries will like the experience of a new work model using the application. She stated:
I do believe that we need a better more advanced model, and I’m so thankful we got the chance and the support to design such a high quality user experience and functionalities but I keep thinking how best to overcome the fear of everything new and urge our users to do the same. This is why we spent so much time designing the user experience, we want users on both interfaces to feel that their journey is easy and their needs and expectations are met.
The ultimate goal from cycles upon cycles of innovation is to arrive at disruptive change. But it is rare that we hear narratives of how this disruption is actually uncomfortable at first. As much as change is about advancement, it is surrounded by nuisances of fear of failure and doubt. These insights from Matar Project participants shed light on the importance of user-centric design methodologies, market and social research and the validation processes woven into the Social Innovation Incubator curriculum at Tech Tribes.