Finalist Updates #4: AzuleJoe - Lessons from the past year
This has been a slightly odd post to write - along with our fellow finalists, we’re hoping that our relationship with the Inclusive Technology Prize will continue for another year, but it’s also worth looking at how far we’ve come in that time.
When we approached Nesta with our idea a year ago, we had a small web-app that was a little rickety and based around a “Hey, look what this can do!” philosophy. At the time, I’d just started working on social projects like AzuleJoe full time, and was very aware of how little I knew about the world of grants, prizes, projects and challenges.
While writing this post, I looked up our original entry form for the Nesta prize. It’s a mess - borderline incoherent, answering questions that weren’t asked and generally written by someone who had NO idea about how people who create application forms think. (In fairness, it also contained about a half dozen points that I really wish we’d included in the final business plan we’ve just submitted).
In a year of working with Nesta and Leonard Cheshire, we’ve had a wide range of successes both inside and outside the prize. The funding that Nesta provided has allowed us to produce a prototype that seemed impossible 12 months ago. More importantly the support and feedback we’ve got from Nesta has made us better at talking to funders, better at designing theories of change, and better at understanding the viewpoint of other stakeholders.
The project has grown in response. We’ve attracted volunteer developers, translators and a wide range of other support. To date, 38 separate people have made a concrete contribution to improving the system and every extra volunteer makes us more resilient, and more flexible. Our openness has paid dividends as well - when we’ve lacked the technical skill to make changes ourselves we’ve been able to offer code bounties so that other people can make the changes that we need. We’ve also been able to keep our close links with the community in a way that commercial sensitivity or a patent-led approach would never let us do. It’s absolutely clear to the community that we are about them first and foremost.
We have a long road ahead. Open source or not, we still have to take the system through medical device registration in every country that it can reach (and AzuleJoe can be used globally), we have to finish our journey from ‘idea' to 'sustainable community’, and we must continue to keep hold of the things that make this worthwhile. We’re quite looking forward to it.