#InnovMAMPU Talks: On Track Media Indonesia

In the  fourth blog in the#InnovMAMPU talks series, we spoke with On Track Media Indonesia (OTMI) who is using digital media for raising awareness about reproductive health among adolescents. OTMI aims to increase adolescent and community awareness on reproductive health through videos, mobile apps and campaign kit materials. They are also focusing on improving parenting skills of teachers and parents in Kupang City, Kupang Regency and East Nusa Tenggara.

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VIN: Could you talk about some of your early notions of innovation, and your experience of the innovation fund workshop held in October 2014? How has your understanding of innovation change over the past year?

OTMI: When we came to MAMPU workshop in October 2014, we’re still not quite sure what MAMPU considered as an innovation in this project. All we knew was that we would be working to improve our initial proposal. At the workshop we participated in various exercises that required us to rethink the issue that we were trying to tackle in a systematic manner, i.e. beginning with the identification of stakeholders, articulation of problem statement, and re-examining the hypothesis and concept solutions. The result was almost a complete change of the concept of OnTrackMedia’s campaign for reproductive health in Kupang.

After the workshop, MAMPU provided us with an opportunity and seed funding to revisit the field and validate the hypothesis formulated earlier. Of course even before the workshop, when we first sent the Expression of Interest for the Innovation Fund, we had already conducted some research on the issue. However, most of the research was conducted over telephone and interactions with organisations and individuals working on sexual rights and reproductive health in East Nusa Tenggara. We did not interact directly with our target beneficiaries at the time. When we completed the post-workshop baseline study, we discovered answers to what our target beneficiaries really need, which ultimately resulted in the 3 innovation prototypes for integrated education on sex and reproductive health.

Through the past year, we have learned that innovation is not only about coming up with a solution that is ‘different’ and ‘innovative’ – innovation is also about ensuring that these solutions truly attempt to solve problems based on what our beneficiaries need, which is achieved through continuous trial and improvement of products, or even moving on from  a solution if it does not work.

VIN:  OTMI has seized the challenge of addressing unsafe sexual practice among adolescents in Kupang. Could you talk about how user research has informed your understanding of the problem?   Could you please mention some of the pivotal insights that emerged from your research?

OTMI: Initially, our understanding of the challenge of unsafe sexual practice among adolescents was that it is caused by a lack of understanding about sex and reproductive health rights, and we planned to address the issue by providing sex education for adolescents. Then we were given the  opportunity to conduct user research to better understand the issue faced by our target beneficiaries. It was through this study that we discovered that the underlying issue was not just a matter of lack of information, but rather lack of access to the correct information. This could be attributed to the taboo and stigma surrounding sex and a lack of awareness among parents and teachers on the importance of sex education.

Based on these findings, we designed 3 prototype solutions that addressed the issue of unsafe sexual practices in a way that would raise awareness on the importance of communication, especially around reproductive health and equip both parents and teachers with the ability to do so.

VIN: Through extensive user research, OTMI identified strengthening communication between parents, teachers and students as one effective way to address unsafe practices among adolescents. How are OTMI’s three prototype solutions doing this?

OTMI: Our three prototypes aim to strengthen the communication between parents, teachers, and students through different ways. The first prototype is an integrated set of educational trainings for these target beneficiaries and involves take-home tasks that will encourage communication between adolescents and their parents or guardians, on the topic of puberty, risks of unsafe sexual practices, and self-worth. The trainings are not limited to sex and reproductive health (for adolescents and adults alike), but also tries to change the way parents and teachers view adolescents, as well as  how they view their own role as primary influencers of teenagers,. We believe that by helping them understand adolescents better and improving parents & teachers’ ability to communicate, the relationship between parents, teachers and adolescents will improve and it will create an open communication. Once this communication has been established, it can be used to build discussions not only on reproductive health but also other issues.

The second prototype is the Bacarita Sama Sama festival, an event consisting of interschool competitions, a film screening of various films on the issue of sex and reproductive health, a talk show, and entertainment from local schools and organisations in Kupang. It attempts to strengthen communication between the students and teachers through the interschool competition open to mixed teacher-student teams. . Preparing for and participating in these competitions encourages  interaction between these stakeholders, which in turn is expected to build a sense of mutual trust between them.

The third prototype utilises SMS broadcasts and a mobile phone application named ‘12+’ to provide sex education through puzzles, an F.A.Q, and a consultation feature. The application has been designed for middle-schools students, but through product testing we found that even teachers were interested in using this app and found it to be very informative. The application has been introduced to schools that participated in the Bacarita Sama Sama festival, and will be marketed not only to students but also teachers and parents, to be used as a practical source of information for basic sex education.

VIN:  What challenges did you encounter while testing prototypes with various stakeholders, especially given the sensitivity of the subject?

OTMI: Our biggest challenge in testing the prototypes came when we were implementing sex education for students in 5 middle schools in Kupang city and regency. A few teachers felt that sex education was not important for middle schools students because they were still children, that it would promote sexual behaviour/activity, and that  time would be better spent teaching. The training also required students to complete ‘homework’ with their parents, where they had to ask several questions that could be considered somewhat sensitive. For example, for the first session on Puberty, students were required to ask their parents how they felt when they first hit puberty. A few parents were reluctant to help their children, and some even scolded their children, saying that children should not be talking about such things.

These challenges were eventually overcome through better communication with all stakeholders. Teachers and parents were also given trainings on the importance of communicating with students and giving them guidance (especially on sex education), and once they began participating in the trainings, they were able to appreciate the importance of OnTrackMedia’s efforts to raise awareness on reproductive health and communication, and were much more accommodative. Many parents initially came to the trainings alone because they considered it to be just another ‘socialisation’, but after participating in the first session, they were keen on bringing their spouse to the next sessions.

VIN: Though OTMI has worked on awareness raising around a variety of social issues, how is this program different from OTMI’s other work? In what ways has your approach differed for this particular project?  

OTMI: OnTrackMedia has worked on many awareness raising initiatives, and we always begin with an assessment which maps out the issue we are trying to tackle. Once we identify the issue, we come up with ideas for approaches, and once these ideas have been translated into a fixed plan, we will continue to follow this plan even if it turns out to be less effective because we do not have the freedom to make any changes. With the Innovation Fund, we are ‘allowed’ to make mistakes and learn from them, and even completely change a prototype if we can justify the reason for this change. It has enabled us to take more risks and to be more creative in trying out different approaches to awareness-raising.

VIN: Could you please reflect on some of your learnings from the Innovation Fund program? To what extent, and in what way, will they inform OTMI’s approach to future projects?

OTMI: One of the most important lessons we learned during the course of Innovation Fund is the importance of user research. If we had not gone back to Kupang to hold a baseline study and recheck the facts on the field, then we may have missed vital key information for developing our prototypes that suites target beneficiaries needs. Besides the importance of user research at the beginning of the project, we have also seen the benefits of conducting iterative testing on our prototypes, which helped us to learn from our mistakes and improve our approach for tackling unsafe sexual practices. OnTrackMedia Indonesia plans to continue  this approach of user research in each project, and even if future donors do not give us the same opportunity to go back to the field and reassess a problem, or to continuously test and improve our prototype the way MAMPU has, we will always include user research in our plans.

VIN: You recently participated in the SIX summer school, which was one of the largest gatherings of social innovation practitioners from around the world? Could you talk a bit about the experience?  

OTMI: Participating in the SIX Summer School has been a very exciting experience for us. India is in many ways very similar to Indonesia, and through the Summer School we were able to learn more about methods used by other individuals and organisations working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and women empowerment to achieve similar goals.

We received a lot of feedback on our project, especially on the 12+ mobile app and how we can utilise social media to bring the contents of the app to a wider audience. Several other individuals and organisations have also expressed their interest in bringing 12+ to India and adjusting it to the local context. We are excited to look into these potential collaborations.

 

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