communities Experience design The country

No one should get left behind

I live in a beautiful place on the edge of the city. We’re on the edge of a forest and have a view out west over the city and to the You Yangs and the ocean beyond. Unfortunately it is also an area prone to bush fires.

We have only been there a short time and this summer have evacuated 3 times. A guy I met last night has been there a month and evacuated 3 times.

This is the reality of living in such a beautiful spot in the Australian bush. A worthy sacrifice for not living in the inner city or the bleak homogeneous suburbs.

To cope with the threat of bush fire the community has evolved networks to assist people be informed of any fires and be given time to flee or fight. This network is called the Phone Tree or Fire Tree and consists of a number of branches of residents who call each other after being informed of a threat. The tree is headed by a monitor who listens to the CFA scanner and ABC radio, and looks for dangerous weather patterns.

The tree sometimes breaks down when people are not contactable which causes some angst and frustration.

Listening to the members of the tree debate different methods for strengthening the branches it struck me that the sophistication of any technological solutions are only as good as the technical competance of the members of the community. Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are not, by themselves, a solution. SMS is not a solution. Some people do not have mobiles, some have bad reception and in the case of a crisis the network may be overloaded.

What is needed is a set of technologies appropriate for all members of the community. The early adopters, the early majority, the late majority and the luddites. No member should be penalised for not being on Twitter or having a mobile.

I do think there is an interesting solution to this problem that utilises a set of technologies with a broad reach.

Solving this problem is kind of like solving a conversion problem. There is a community or set of buyers each with a different persona, different needs wants and ideas. The job of the marketer is to persuade each member of the community to engage and to get some benefit from our product and service.

As relatively fearless adopters of new technology it is easy to leave a few behind, because “they don’t get it”. Our job needs to be to treat each buyer as an important member of our community. We owe them the respect of understanding their needs and concerns so we can address them and make them happy.

It may not be as urgent as ensuring your neighbours safety during a bushfire but it is bloody important to your bottom line.

What do you think?