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Fueling social justice with a monetization stream, for Ushahidi grassroots users — Final Grant Report

Project Update

We successfully implemented the changes to our software for Web Monetization integration and launched them in a pilot project on April 19th, 2021. We reached out to 100 of our most active deployers to invite them to participate in the pilot. We got some of them to try the integration, but unfortunately due to a different challenges that we'll detail, none completed it successfully. We plan to continue reaching out to users through direct communications and support channels, refine the implementation aspects under our control and achieve success stories.

Progress on objectives

Our project aimed to;

  • Increasing the likelihood of success for grassroots projects using Ushahidi to fight for social justice by injecting money directly into them. Many organizations that reach out to use the Ushahidi platform have little to no financial resources and rely on in-kind support or volunteers to sustain their work. Donations or revenue generated from enabling this feature would go a long way in sustaining their projects.
  • Create awareness about the Web Monetization standard amongst the Ushahidi community.
  • Sensitize users regarding licensing of content and encourage them to use appropriate licenses.

We implemented the integration with Web Monetization enclosed in a feature that enables our deployers to customize their call for donations. We hope that our deployers will be able to leverage this feature to build awareness of their work and the support they need. We also hope this will be paired with practical, seamless and safe means for the deployers to receive funds and for visitors to remit them.

In terms of creating awareness and getting users, we can represent the progress on our efforts with the following pipeline:

  • We reached out directly via email to a total number of 100 deployers.
  • 7 out of 100 deployers showed interest, 93 didn’t respond
    • 50% estimated message opening rate
  • 6 of the respondents remained engaged in communication (1 who applied via the form didn’t confirm their engagement)
  • Among the deployers who wanted to test the features, 4 were in countries supported by Uphold but the 2 were in countries blocked by Uphold and this kept changing from time to time, making it an unreliable wallet to use.
    • (2 in countries blocked by Uphold: Kenya, Philippines)
  • 2 attempted set up
    • (2 didn’t confirm their attempt)
  • 1 couldn’t go through due to sponsorship policy, donations through Uphold wallet was not allowed
  • 1 failed to locate and provide the payment pointer
  • 0 completed setup
  • 0 reported fundraising results

As for sensitizing users regarding licensing of content, we haven't yet reached consensus on a way forward that makes sense for our community. Ushahidi is deeply rooted in a culture of sharing and collaborative building. Our users usually open their deployments for crowdsourcing information in order to enhance common situation awareness on a socially relevant event. This is not to say that licensing considerations are not relevant, just that the dynamics may be different from communities where content producers seek content consumers. We will continue discussing on the nuances of licensing in this scenario and how relevant this may be to the different types of our users.

Key activities

Product design

We completed user experience preliminary studies and screen design previews for the integration of Web Monetization with our software.
We have started an additional feature in our product, centred around the concept of donations to deployers. Web monetization is the first driver for donations. This is an idea we had considered in the past, but we had been deterred by the complexity of setting up payment gateways and reimbursement methods available to global users, many of which are based on developing countries.
We found that Web Monetization technology presents an opportunity to start breaking that barrier

Deployer experience

Interested deployers are now able to enable donations on their deployment. This is hidden behind a feature flag while we are testing the first users.
Once donations are enabled, deployers can fill in content for visitors as a pitch to the deployment's mission and needs of support.

Visitor experience

As visitors land on deployments with donations set up, they may read the deployment's pitch and find instructions to get set up for Web Monetization.
We hope that the diversity and social value of the missions run by our deployers will motivate people to get their browser set up with Web Monetization, if they are not yet.

Technical implementation

Implementation specifications can be found in the following GitHub issues.

The feature now is in maintenance and improvements as we receive feedback from qualified users. The collection of issues can be found here.


We published an updated user guide with details on how users can enable the Web monetization feature and successfully set up to receive donations in their deployments. One of the deployers who was able to set up donations found it informative and easy to use.

Communications and marketing

One of our goals was to create awareness about web monetization. We have published blog posts and highlighted our work via social media and direct communication, receiving one applicant via the forms.

Blog posts include:

From our experience, we’ve noted gaps in understanding, and see a need for better education and integration of the Ushahidi community within the Web Monetization ecosystem. Our users are still struggling with understanding the value of web monetization, and how this directly applies to their projects. Therefore, we’re working on a marketing and outreach campaign to continue educating users about the importance of the feature and how it will impact their work.

In addition, we created a public form for any interested users to sign up for testing.

We see these as the first steps in what is poised to be a longer journey of technology adoption for our users. By taking these first steps we have learned the following:
There was a low percentage of respondents to our message. This may indicate that:

  1. We didn’t reach out to the right users with the right message, or ..
    • Users don’t understand monetization, or ..
    • Users don’t understand or trust this implementation of monetization, or ..
    • Users don’t feel the need for monetization.
  2. Most users that responded continued to be responsive and engaged. This indicates that our initial message was well understood by those who responded, and there is a small but well-attuned and non-negligible group of interested end-users.
  3. We weren’t able to carry through any of the users to a successful implementation. This fact points to challenges in our implementation, the technology ecosystem and level of available support.

We believe that there are two keys to unlock this technology becoming relevant for our community of grassroots activists.

The first is achieving enough success stories that can be showcased to the rest of the community so as to build trust and excitement. We want to continue supporting and educating interested users, so as to help them reach successful implementations and stories.

The second key would be a more inclusive ecosystem, as hinted in the list of challenges below.

What’s next?

We have identified the following challenges:

  • The ecosystem is quite limited for the countries where we do most of our work, making it a challenge to find wallet providers that support users on a global scale and are easily accessible by not being bound to very onerous documentary requirements.
  • People don’t quite understand how cryptocurrency works and how it would apply to their lives.
  • The setup process currently involves copying a payment pointer. Our users didn’t quite understand or perform this step as expected.
  • Many of our deployers don’t have access to credit cards and thus can’t sign up to Coil to see with their own eyes “how the loop closes” and what web monetization feels like from the perspective of the donor.
  • Some non-profit organizations are not ready for cryptocurrency donations or are unsure of how it fits their policies and reporting requirements.
  • Crafting documentation and comms for users who are not native English speakers was not in our scope and the language barrier has proved to be a source of difficulties and misunderstandings.

In response to some of these challenges, we envision these future activities:

  • Once deployers succeed in their setup, follow up regularly surveying financial results in order to monitor impact.
  • Partner with translators for the most relevant languages (given our sample of interested users) and get documentation and support materials translated.
  • Continue identifying and fixing implementation issues.
  • Continued, expanded and/or refined marketing and outreach, to increase successful adoption and understanding of web monetization among our deployer base.
  • People do not entirely trust or understand cryptocurrency. This applies to a lot of people around the globe. Cryptocurrency is not something that people use or see the need in their everyday lives. We are looking for avenues of collaboration with cryptocurrency services and experts to help bridge this gap as an organization.
  • We desire that Platform will offer its deployers access to practical and trustworthy monetization and payment systems in the future.

What community support would benefit your project?

  • It would be great if our deployers in the developing world had accessible choices of crypto wallet providers, providing service in their geographies without imposing unassailable documentation requirements. Alternatively, the approach of fiscal hosting introduced by i.e. Open Collective could be interesting to consider.
  • As another possibility, it would be great to assemble a large enough platform to approach mobile money businesses (as used by large groups of population in the developing world) with integration projects.

Top comments (2)

chrislarry profile image
Chris Lawrence

Thanks for this detailed and thoughtful report. I know that it can be hard to work with early stages technology and ecosystem, but work like yours helps to build this up. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help. @adrianhopebailie @cyberdees any insight here about alternative wallets or other ways to help solve the wallet issues they describe here?

cyberdees profile image
Desigan CHINNIAH • Edited

The challenges described on setting up a wallet in some parts of the world are certainly known.

@adrianhopebailie + @matdehaast and their team at Fynbos are taking all of this onboard as they build out the ability to help existing wallets use ILP properly (including issuing payment pointers) and help companies who may be interested in launching their own wallet along with partners we have that can handle the licensing.

Adrian and team may well want to talk to the @ushahidi team that ran the research and go through their findings in the coming weeks.