Geek Speak: Jessica Fraser, producer of Mobile Movement

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      Jessica Fraser wants to connect North Americans with social entrepreneurs in developing countries. She’s one of the producers of Mobile Movement, a microfinance Web site that launched on May 26.

      Created by filmmaker and interaction designer Leba Haber Rubinoff, a Vancouver native who now lives in New York, Mobile Movement allows people to donate to and communicate with small businesses in Kenya. The project involves Vancouver’s Environmental Youth Alliance and UN-HABITAT, and has received funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Microsoft.

      Fraser, a creative producer and strategic communications professional, was born in Vancouver and lives on the West Side. She was the associate producer of the 1996 feature film Kissed and a producer of 2001’s Lilith on Top, a documentary about the Lilith Fair music festival.

      The Georgia Straight reached Fraser on her cellphone in Victoria.

      What is Mobile Movement?

      Mobile Movement is a next-generation microfinancing site, where donors and participants can communicate directly with young social entrepreneurs in the slums of Nairobi.

      How does that work?

      The youth are participating in the UN-HABITAT Urban Entrepreneurship Programme that’s being administered by Environmental Youth Alliance, which is an NGO from Vancouver. We gave them mobile phones. We gave 15 youth groups mobile phones and did media training with them—taught them how to take pictures and text message and e-mail and do video.

      So, basically, you go to the Web site. You go, “Oh, I’m interested in this Be Smart Fashion Design and the business they’re building around clothing.” You might have some questions for them. You ask them how their business works or why they’re trying to build a school for girls—tailoring school for girls. You press Send, and it goes directly to their phone. They respond to you using their phone, and it goes directly back to the Web site, and then you’re notified by e-mail or SMS that they’ve got back to you. So, you get to have an authentic relationship with them and a direct relationship with the projects you’re supporting.

      What do you do as one of the project’s producers?

      I am trying to make it all happen and get the word out there. I mean, we built the site, we went to Nairobi and worked with the youth, but it’s everything. It’s managing the whole concept, realizing it, and now trying to expand it.

      How do you think the project will improve the lives of participants in developing countries?

      Significantly. I think it’s really empowering to get to tell your own story. So, beyond the microfinancing that people will give, I think to be able to talk about your business, talk about your life, talk about your goals, and communicate with someone around the world who’s interested is really powerful in a number of levels. I think it’s expansive, and I think it’s also very powerful for people here who get to form relationships with people in another part of the world.

      Why should someone use Mobile Movement rather than other microfinance sites, like Kiva?

      Well, I think it kind of depends on the person. I think Kiva’s a great microfinance Web site. I think they’ve set the bar really high. So, I think somebody who wants to actually communicate with a project they’re interested in. That’s the only difference really. So, if someone doesn’t want to have that relationship but they want to microfinance, Kiva’s the best. For someone who’s interested in dialoguing and learning more and building relationships or having contact, this is where Mobile Movement becomes a new platform.

      What forms of mobile technology do you use regularly?

      I have an iPhone, and I text message and I e-mail and I use it as a phone and I have phone apps and do Zen puzzle games and things like that.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at




      Jul 5, 2009 at 11:23am

      very interesting and innovative idea. Like to see if this metholdogy can be expanded across other countries of third world like Thailand, Sri Lanka etc.,