In the deep end

Nokwanda Sihlali

As the newest member of the Grassroot team, I found myself not going through the usual motions of orientation and slow acclimatisation into the company, but I was dowsed by a baptism of fire. I had not even officially assumed my role as community builder and now I had to part take in a workshop with a social movement. But more than feeling overwhelmed, I was excited.

Our objective was to reinforce and expand what early users knew and introduce the Grassroot tools to new users. For a Saturday morning we had an impressive turn out of around 35 people. There were quite a few elderly people, so I emphasized the idea that if they could send “Please-call-mes” and if they could load airtime then they shouldn't feel intimidated, as the Grassroot app is designed to be as easily understandable and as those functions.

That seemed to work nicely as a couple of people even started to work out how they could extend the tool to other parts of their lives. “Could I use the Grassroot app for my stokvel?" one asked. "I think it would be pretty useful for us when arranging our meetings”.

Our priority areas were teaching the new users how to set up their profiles; set their preferred language and create a group. To reinforce, we asked them to set up a meeting and showed them how to respond to the meeting request SMS via the Grassroot app. Some feature phones had difficulty typing letters and so it was decided to pair people so that no one was excluded. By the end, most people were comfortable and had started experimenting with the tools, particularly commenting on how easy it was to call a meeting "I just use these menus and everyone gets an SMS?" and the joining code "oh that makes it really easy to invite people into the group".

In all it was a good stepping stone to increasing use of the tools, and a great first experience on the Grassroot team.