Open Door Minnesota- a mobile phone app for culturally curious Minnesotans

Nellie DeBruyn
by Nellie DeBruyn | Mar 20, 2012
| 1 Comment

Summary:

The hottest new mobile phone apps hitting the market these days use technology to help people find others in real time. Apps such as Glancee and Highlight interface with Facebook’s stored personal information about user's preferences (likes) so users with similarities can find each other when they are in close physical proximity. They operate on the assumption that the best use of technology is to pair like with like.

The same technology turned inside out can be used to connect people who are “un -like” or more to the point, culturally diverse.

Using the ubiquitous Facebook , or emerging google+ technologies, culturally curious Minnesotans can join and enter information in this Facebook/google app about their cultural heritage – religious, ethnic, political, national. When they download the companion mobile phone app, they can receive push notices when other people with a similar interest in cultural exchange are within the vicinity.

To facilitate the process, a network of local places can designate that they are committed to fostering cultural diversity – by putting a logo to the app on their door . Suggested places for exchanges are coffeeshops, libraries, community centers, bus stops. Places that have increasingly become islands of social and cultural isolation can stretch their boundaries to become places that welcome cultural dialogue.

About You

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About You

First Name

Nellie

Last Name

DeBruyn

Country

United States, MN, Dakota County

City

Mendota Heights

Innovation

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Title

Open Door Minnesota- a mobile phone app for culturally curious Minnesotans

What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community?

The hottest new mobile phone apps hitting the market these days use technology to help people find others in real time. Apps such as Glancee and Highlight interface with Facebook’s stored personal information about user's preferences (likes) so users with similarities can find each other when they are in close physical proximity. They operate on the assumption that the best use of technology is to pair like with like.
The same technology turned inside out can be used to connect people who are “un -like” or more to the point, culturally diverse.
Using the ubiquitous Facebook , or emerging google+ technologies, culturally curious Minnesotans can join and enter information in this Facebook/google app about their cultural heritage – religious, ethnic, political, national. When they download the companion mobile phone app, they can receive push notices when other people with a similar interest in cultural exchange are within the vicinity.
To facilitate the process, a network of local places can designate that they are committed to fostering cultural diversity – by putting a logo to the app on their door . Suggested places for exchanges are coffeeshops, libraries, community centers, bus stops. Places that have increasingly become islands of social and cultural isolation can stretch their boundaries to become places that welcome cultural dialogue.

Impact and Sustainability

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How will your idea have a positive impact on your community?

Like many of the MN Open ideas, the premise of the Open Door mobile phone app is that if diverse cultures are given the best opportunity to meet, and learn about each other, the community – Minnesota – will be a better place. Familiarity breeds compassion. With over 50% of the population using smart phones, and most Minnesotans having access to computers and Facebook, the community of potential users, and ideal impact is potentially huge. Even low tech citizens have an option to join in at the bricks and mortar locations that form a crucial part of the Open Door network.

Open Door will provide easy access for Minnesotans to get to know, or at learn about, all of their neighbors. To encourage usage, the app stresses cultural curiosity. It is meant to provide a non threatening nudge to interact outside our cultural comfort zone.

When the app is open or push notifications sent, a hierarchy of engagements is possible. A scrolling list with faces of nearby users and their associated cultural identity are the first step towards personalizing the abstraction of other cultures. The vague knowledge that our community is inhabited by Hmong, Sommalians, or Lutherans is replaced by an opportunity to see their images, read about them and meet them on the spot.

If the user is merely curious, they can click a button and have access to local cultural information. For example, an overview of the Hmong, the political context of their journey to Minnesota and current community profile.

If the user is interested in more personal engagement, as indicated by their settings, they can send a message to connect. Don’t feel comfortable pursuing an immediate meeting? Local bricks and mortar hosts of Open Door serve as safe places to engage in cross cultural meet-ups.

There are several potential approaches to designing the app, and it is expected that it can be achieved, in at least one platform, within funding parameters.

What do you think the lasting effect will be if your idea is implemented?

Once the Open Door app is available on the iTunes and Android market, it will be universally available throughout Minnesota and beyond. Marketing provided by MN idea open and its philanthropic partners will go a long way towards spreading the idea and usage, as will involvement with local organizations such as churches, community centers and coffee shops. It would likely be used primarily in urban areas of Minnesota but would be available throughout the state.

Users will largely determine the app’s character once it is operational. If the idea gains traction, it can easily be adapted to other states – providing more localized information about representative cultures. The cultural diversity of an area will determine the user base. For example, the Twin City’s large African and Asian population would create a different dynamic than the Native American and Latina cultures in an urban area such as Albuquerque.

Most of the work and funding for developing the APP will be up front. Monthly upkeep of a mobile phone app and associated web page/Facebook app should be modest. Revenue for keeping the app serviced can come from advertising on the app and from the bricks and mortars locations sponsoring cultural exchange and benefitting from PR and increased traffic.

Open Door can create a digital network that would last as long as mobile phone applications are a dominant part of mobile culture. The lasting effect of a community forging cultural bonds digitally has the potential to be profound.

Quoting Deepak Chopra in an interview heard on NPR this week, “ God finally said, ‘enough, I will use technology’”