OurBlock: Community Powered Radio


Featured Image: Adam Martin, presenting @ OurBlock

The Office of Digital & Design Innovation recently hosted a Design Challenge at the Mozilla Festival in London where for three days web makers, hackers, educators and developers came together with a goal of developing digital tools and services that will enable the public to create their own web and media experiences.

The ODDI challenge, code-named the ‘OurBlock Project’, asked festival attendees to help answer the question, ‘What does our block sound like?’ The goal was to bring together content producers, listeners, radio programmers and the open source development community to create new services that will enable individuals to come together on digital platforms to create and participate in the power and passion of neighborhood community radio.

For people around the world, community-driven radio has offered a way to share local news, culture and critical information while building engagement through a real time, collective social experience. With OurBlock, ODDI plans to re-imagine and evolve what the future of this traditional social platform can mean to emerging markets in the developing world and create opportunities for the BBG to build new partnerships with content producing partners and deepen its connection with the growing digital global audience.


At the Mozilla Festival, the OurBlock session was attended by a diverse group of people with interests in traditional and digital community radio, journalism, independent radio programming and open source software development.

With this wide range of experiences and ideas for building community radio’s digital future, the group organized itself around three areas detailed on the project’s EtherPad:

  • New Work-Flows for Audience-Driven Programming
  • A Unified Social User-Experience
  • Re-Defining ‘Community’

New work-flows focused on using the open-web and service APIs from Airtime, SoundCloud and Twilio to drive community participation and content creation. This group also stressed the need to support lo-tech solutions as well with SMS and IVR integration presenting options for communities where broadband connectivity is not always available.

The UX group emphasized the mobile experience and put a premium on building trust within the community of content contributors and among the audience of listeners to grow engagement and develop a self-sustaining network effect.

Big-Ideas-OurBlock-Community-Powered-RadioThe individuals who took on the challenge of re-defining what ‘community’ could mean in a digital society developed several ‘Big Ideas’ that stretched the existing boundaries of community and radio. Their new definition focused on shared culture, experiences and understandings as ways to expand our concepts of community and use digital platforms to reach a wider network of individuals who would share and contribute in a new form of community.  While ‘big ideas’ will continue to shape the future of the OurBlock project, the ODDI Team is focused on the work begun during the festival with other open source developers to improve the current workflow challenges facing the project. With a new feature backlog built during the session, the OurBlock project team will begin developing a new platform for creating online communities using the shared social experience of ‘radio’. Developing on open source technologies to facilitate audio commenting from community listeners and with new user interface designs to provide intuitive methods for listeners to engage with a digital community radio station, ODDI plans to release an alpha version of the OurBlock project in early 2013.

To track the project’s process or to become involved in our open source efforts, follow the ODDI OurBlock project team @thisIsOurBlock on Twitter visit us at this.IsOurBlock.org or joing our Google Group.

 [Authored by Adam Martin and Eric Pugh, Images edited by April Deibert]

The following two tabs change content below.
Adam Martin

Adam Martin

Adam Martin is the Director of Innovation for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation at the BBG. Follow him on Twitter: @adamjmartin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *