What are micro-actions?

Examples of micro-actions

We define micro-actions as small, measurable (or at least verifiable) individual actions taken of one's own free will. For example:

  • find out what AIDS is
  • learn about HIV infection
  • talk to a trusted friend
  • visit a clinic
  • apply for an HIV test
  • find a support group
  • attend a support group
  • discuss protection with your partner

feedback, e.g. to community members or sponsors.

Clustering micro-actions and finding their value

Even micro-actions completed apparently at random by a young person might, in fact, be very logically sequenced according to their own life challenges and resources.

Clusters of micro-actions are very powerful when they lead to beneficial outcomes and transformations for the young person or their family and friends.  

Clusters of micro-actions undertaken by participants in mobile phone-based communities have value at both ends of the phone connection.

  • Participants can be rewarded for their efforts (In addition to the natural consequences of their actions) with money to pay for bus fares to attend clinics, payment for their participation in surveys - as for YouGOV in the UK  - or other rewards.
  • At the other end, the micro-actions are attractive to organisations when they lead to engagement with their cause and action towards their objectives. Furthermore, they are attractive to businesses that wish to trial new products and services or build brand engagement within a new market or social strata.

Verifying micro-actions

We often assume on this blog that the mobile phone is involved somehow in the micro-actions discussed. One of the reasons for this enthusiasm for the mobile phone is its contribution to verification.

  1. Some actions, such as responding to a survey of all contributing a poem are of course auto-verifying because we have the transaction record.
  2. Other  micro-actions,  such as telling a friend or recycling a bottle,  are participant verified. They have to be taken on trust.
  3. Some micro-actions, such as attending an eye test, can be independently verified. For example a code sent to a  mobile phone can be presented to the optician.

So, the weak point for verification appears to be 2.  but is it as bad as we might think? In some cases we might not really care if 5% of actions reported are imagined.  If we do, we need to design the micro action and reward system to incentivise honest reporting and study transaction history to spot misreporting.  There are some blog posts on the subject. Also, the traditional mid and end of project reviews carried out by NGOs  subject to similar verification problems.

When designed and managed effectively, it is possible to build up a body of evidence of attempted and completed micro-actions and, in some cases, their outcomes. This could be invaluable for

  • in-programme  monitoring and evaluation allowing adjustment based on findings,
  • presenting evidence to funders to trigger payment on results,  and
  • aggregating the data for wider study.

Micro-actions verified through mobile phone and web technology are immediately visible.  See some posts in this blog about how powerful that immediate feedback can be on project success.