Changemaker Showcase - Empowering Communities: The Story of Reap Benefit, FOSS United & Samaaja Platform

Empowering Communities: The Inspiring Journey of Reap Benefit, FOSS United & Samaaja Platform**

In the vibrant and dynamic landscape of India, where civic and environmental challenges abound, two organizations, Reap Benefit and FOSS United, embarked on a transformative journey. United by a shared vision, they sought to empower citizens to become problem solvers and change makers within their own communities.

Reap Benefit, an organization dedicated to empowering the youth to solve local problems through data and innovation, had a dream. They envisioned a world where the youth are not just bystanders but active problem-solvers and change agents within their communities. This dream took shape in the form of the “Solve Ninja” platform, a catalyst that activated young citizens to tackle small problems that, when solved, would leave a significant positive impact on their local communities.

Parallelly, FOSS United, a non-profit foundation, was on a mission to promote and strengthen the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) ecosystem in India. Their paths intersected with Reap Benefit, and a synergistic partnership was born.

However, every journey has its hurdles. For Reap Benefit, the challenge lay in efficiently connecting volunteers and civic services with location-specific problems. They needed a robust, user-friendly platform that could effectively coordinate actions and track progress.

Enter Samaaja, the hero of our tale. Developed in collaboration with FOSS United, Samaaja is an open-source software solution designed to rapidly build location-based civic services connected with volunteer, human interactions. It was the answer to Reap Benefit’s challenge, a tool that could bring their vision to life.

In the process of crafting this narrative, we had the opportunity to converse with Gautam Prakash, the Co-Founder of Reap Benefit, and Gauthamraj Elango, Senior Program Manager at Reap Benefit

From these enlightening discussions, several ‘Aha’ moments emerged:

  1. The Power of Open Source: Both Gautam Prakash and Gautam Raj have backgrounds in open source projects. Their experiences have shown them the power of collaboration and community in creating impactful technology solutions. This realization likely played a significant role in their decision to develop Samaaja, their open-source software solution for civic services.
  2. The Intersection of Community, Technology, and Impact: Gautam Raj’s decision to join Reap Benefit was driven by his desire to find an opportunity that combined community, technology, and on-the-ground impact.
  3. The Use of Everyday Tech for Social Good: The onset of COVID-19 was a turning point for the team at Reap Benefit. They realized the power of everyday technology like WhatsApp and Google Sheets in mobilizing communities and driving action. This insight has likely influenced their approach to technology and social impact.
  4. The Role of Technology in Solving Local Problems: Gautam Prakash’s experience with Microsoft Research opened his eyes to the potential of technology to solve people’s problems. This realization seems to have been a significant factor in his decision to co-found Reap Benefit and develop technology solutions for local civic and environmental issues.

Samaaja: A Platform for Change

Samaaja is an open-source platform that enables organizations to engage and mobilize citizens to solve local problems. It is a joint contribution by FOSS United and Reap Benefit Foundation, two organizations that promote free and open source software (FOSS) and civic action respectively. Their vision is to empower citizens to become problem solvers and change makers in their communities.

One of the primary challenges faced by Reap Benefit was efficiently connecting volunteers and civic services with location-specific problems. Managing and scaling their efforts to tackle local issues required a robust, user-friendly platform that could effectively coordinate actions and track progress.

To address this challenge, Reap Benefit partnered with FOSS United to develop the Samaaja Platform. Samaaja is an open-sourcesoftware solution built on Frappe designed to rapidly build location-based civic services connected with volunteer, human interactions. It comes with essential UI and management features, and can be easily extended into web applications, external mobile apps, and systems via built-in APIs.

Samaaja: A Catalyst for Civic Engagement

Samaaja is a user-friendly, open-source web application designed to promote citizen engagement in local civic and environmental issues. It offers a comprehensive platform with built-in features like geo-maps, user authentication, and location-based report management. Samaaja, akin to WordPress in its functionality, focuses on location-based citizen-user engagement services.

The primary goal of Samaaja is to boost citizen participation at the neighborhood level by providing hyper-local data, solutions, and campaigns related to civic and environmental concerns like water, sanitation, air quality, garbage management, and local municipal schemes. By doing so, Samaaja aims to empower citizens, strengthen local communities, and increase transparency and accountability for local civic and environmental issues.

Samaaja’s platform is designed for a wide range of users, including individual citizens, citizen groups, civil society organizations, institutions, and elected representatives. The platform offers various modular ways for users to connect, engage, and collaborate on different topics, such as government schemes, information, local issues, problem-solving, and community mobilization. This flexibility allows people to work together more effectively and efficiently, contributing to better outcomes for local neighborhoods and communities.

The Impact of Samaaja

The Samaaja Platform has significantly streamlined Reap Benefit’s operations, allowing them to efficiently connect volunteers with local problems, track progress, and measure impact. The platform has also been instrumental in fostering a culture of active citizenship, with more people becoming involved in solving local issues. The Solve Ninja initiative by Reap Benefit has been particularly successful, with young citizens becoming actively engaged in identifying and solving problems in their communities.

Lessons Learned and the Path Forward

Some key takeaways and best practices that emerged from Reap Benefit’s experience with the Samaaja Platform include:

  1. Collaboration: Partnering with an organization like FOSS United, which has expertise in open-source technology, was crucial for the successful development and implementation of the Samaaja Platform.
  2. Flexibility: The open-source nature of the Samaaja Platform allows for customization and adaptation to the unique needs of Reap Benefit and its stakeholders, ensuring the technology remains relevant and effective.
  3. Community engagement: Fostering a sense of ownership and involvement among volunteers is essential for the success of a platform like Samaaja. By actively engaging volunteers in the process, Reap Benefit was able to create a tool that resonates with its users and encourages continued participation.
  4. Continuous improvement: Regularly collecting feedback and iterating on the platform ensures that it continues to evolve and adapt to the changing needs of the organization and its stakeholders.
  5. Youth Empowerment: The Solve Ninja initiative has shown that young people can be powerful agents of change in their communities when given the right tools and support. This approach has the potential to create a lasting impact on local communities and foster a new generation of active, engaged citizens.

In conclusion, the story of Reap Benefit, FOSS United, and the Samaaja Platform is a testament to the power of collaboration, open-source technology, and community engagement in driving social change. It’s a story of how technology can be harnessed to empower citizens, solve local problems, and create a more sustainable and inclusive future.

Reap Benefit is an organisation focused on addressing civic and environmental issues by empowering young people to solve local problems using data and innovation. The organisation aims to engage, equip, and support youth to take local action, enabling them to become problem-solvers and change agents in their communities. Reap Benefit has developed a platform called “Solve Ninja” that activates young citizens to solve small problems that leave a big dent on their local communities.

FOSS United is a non-profit foundation that aims at promoting and strengthening the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) ecosystem in India.