Community groups come together online to build support system
As the nation continues to fight the global pandemic, Social Media Matters launched `My Pincode’ project in April to connect people and communities by setting up `Open Groups’ on Facebook at a hyperlocal level. Social Media Matters is a leading NGO working towards building the capacities of communities, youth, law enforcement, and the government in encouraging the use of social media for social change. My Pincode is about local groups on Facebook to virtually connect, communicate, collaborate and create a support system for each other in their respective pincode areas. These groups bring together users, community leaders, subject matter experts, resource points and organisations at a very hyper-local level to provide immediate support, relief and share critical information.
In an attempt to bring together communities from 170 hotspots of India across 17 states (as identified by the Central Government of India in April 15, 2020) and crowdsource help, open groups have been formed and are being managed by moderators and group admins, who have been adequately trained by Social Media Matters. Each State has a Moderator and several admins who have been carefully moderating the discussions and letting users connect with each other for essential and verified information. One core principle maintained for My Pincode is posting of verified information. The volunteers, admins and moderators have all been trained in fact checking methods and verification of information so as to keep fake profiles/information away. They have also been trained on effective tips to moderate the groups on aspects such as Commenting, Approvals, Engagement, Verification, Posting and Creating Content.
What is being discussed in the groups?
- Which is the nearest clinic I can visit?
- Where can I get emergency help?
- What does the situation look like right now on the roads?
- What are the queues like at the shops?
- How much longer will supplies last?
- Are courier services working in the area?
- Which are the nearest Government and Private Testing Centres?
- Can I visit the police stations?
- Are postal services working in the area?
- How do I obtain a curfew pass?
- What is the situation at the hospitals?
- Are there any blood donor requests?
Social Media Matters will eventually extend the My Pincode to 32 States and Union Territories.
How does this work? Everyday the lead moderators (Team Social Media Matters) sift through all the groups to look for any inappropriate content that is posted/approved/queried. As soon as users post on the group, the network of admins gets activated and they look into the prime information or request made by the user. Once that is identified, the request is verified and then the network gets activated to resolve the request.
Stories start pouring in as soon as the groups become functional. These are tough times for all across the country and people are trying hard to manage the daily essentials for survival. My Pincode has now become a bridge between the providers and the ones in need. Blood Donation, Ration Supply, Repair Work, Daily Essential Information, Government Advisories - these are the highlights of My Pincode as these demands top the charts across posts made by users. But the real efforts are put into resolving the requests. Partners like Sarvahitey, Akshay Patra Foundation, Blood Bank were fundamental in their roles to look into all the requests and take immediate action.
A few case studies:
- Migrant workers in underserved areas of Gurgaon: Many migrant families are still living in Gurgaon and accessing food has been challenging for them. #MyPincode team along with Akshay Patra are tirelessly working to ensure food is made available to families of migrant workers in Gurgaon. Recently, more than 100 families were distributed ration in the slum of Sector 52A, Gurgaon.
- Shantanu Garg, Looking for Blood Donor (West Delhi): Shantanu Garg posted on the local My Pincode Community, urgently requesting for a blood donor on behalf of a friend. On receiving such a critical request, the moderators tagged all volunteers and other admins and started reaching out to other blood donor agencies. With sustained efforts they were able to arrange the donor within a few hours. There have also been other instances of such donor requests. My Pincode communities have also connected and on one instance, a blood donor was arranged within two hours of a request posted on South Delhi Group by Sajal Bhateja.