One of the things we have quickly learned at Ushahidi is that it is about more than just about creating great code/design and an easy-to-use tool — what really makes everything come together is the people; or, if I can appropriate the term, it’s about the peopleware.

By this I mean not just the team behind Ushahidi, or the wonderful volunteers who work with us, but the wider community of people using the tool…whether it is a civil society group, an election monitoring group, or the individuals who take the time to submit a report to a Ushahidi deployment.

What we are also discovering is that we need to spend as much time on “peopleware” as we do on the hardware or software. So how are we doing this? Well, I like to think about it as the three L’s: Listen, Learn (and unlearn), and Leverage.

The Three L’s

Listen — We listen in a variety of ways: We follow up with groups using the tool, we conduct surveys, we hold end-user workshops, we open up our blog to people using the tool, we keep our door open.
Learn (and unlearn) — We incorporate the feedback we get into our work. For example, 99 percent of the new features we work on are directly driven by feedback we get from end users. We always look to push the envelope if it will impact positively on our work (and sometimes even if we don’t know what the hell will happen), and we don’t stay firmly wedded to any maxims, though we do like “keep it simple.” If something doesn’t work, we are happy to toss it to the side and move on.
Leverage — We realize that our small team can only do so much. Our strength lies in making it easy for the community around us to grow and thrive, and in building a tool that helps end users accomplish their goals. So we reached out to the community to help us put together a community resources page. We encourage the work of organizations like Digital Democracy and E-moksha because they have built up expertise in helping other groups integrate Ushahidi into their work. We also try and make sure there are many happy marriages of ideas and resources from people looking to build on our work.

What lessons can you share?