Author: Ashley Chisholm
What NEED does this meet?
We want to build a website which connects MIXED COUPLES (mixed race, religion, caste etc.).
Mixed couples can suffer a lot of pressure to split up, especially where there are traditional expectations from family and community on one or both sides. This causes a lot of unhappiness, and destroys trust between communities at a time when young people WANT to believe in the equality they are told exists.
Our ad-hoc research has shown that most mixed couples who have suffered from these kind of prejudices had nobody to talk to and bounce ideas off. There is rarely another person in either community who has faced the same problems at all, let alone successfully. However, success stories do exist. There is also an ever growing body of distributed knowledge around the country, as more mixed couples get together.
The problem is, there is no one place where all that experience and knowledge is shared and recorded in a searchable form. There is no place where mixed couples can just meet up and chat to each other. There is certainly no interface where young people from one community can communicate with elders from another in order to increase trust and understanding.
These things are what we want to provide.
What is the APPROACH?
There is a small committee of 5 people who have been advancing this project for the last year or so.
We own the domain name, and have a good idea of what the site should offer.
We also have the /mixtogether domain on mySpace.com which will develop in tandem with the site to provide a channel for potential users .
We have recently got some graphic design courtesy of one of the hottest fusion designers in the country, but what we are really short of is the full functionality to turn a good idea into an award winning project.
We know what the back end should be able to do, but are not able to build it ourselves.
What’s distinctive about us is that we have got up and started doing something about it- we have put down a deposit of social capital, and now we’re looking for a mortgage!
We envision 3 different main types of shared activity on the site: stories, culture wikis and a forum.
These will come from people who are or have been in mixed relationships
Members would submit the stories using a form. Drop boxes would allow them to specify the nature of the mix involved in that story. For instance, you could specify the guy is a British white Christian and the girl is a British Asian Sikh, or whatever the case may be. The story has to be a maximum of 1,000 words and in that space you are encouraged to talk about the key problems you faced and how you overcame them. If it ended sadly, what would you do better or advise others in the same situation?
Other users can then search by category and pull up stories relevant to them.
We also hope to attract stories from our parents’ generation, telling us how they have made marriages (mixed or otherwise) work across the years.
The principle of reciprocity really applies to this section. Anyone who has been through the sadness of a split due to parental pressure appreciates how someone else can benefit from their experience. They may also wish to help build up public pressure against the sort of discrimination they suffered.
Those just starting out in relationships, who appreciate the difficulties ahead, will want to join in for their own and others’ benefit.
Lastly those who have overcome the problems they faced to build a successful relationship will know how much value their experiences have.
Again these would be searchable by very specific criteria. For instance you could search for eg Gujarati Hindu, Pakistani Muslim or British Church of England. Each page would contain an evolving body of information contributed by those with experience of each type of culture.
The idea is that a stranger could log on and find out what they need to know in order to survive say, a day at the partner’s parents house or a visit to a church or temple. People from the culture in question would be encouraged to check the info, correct it and add more to it, building a tangible survivor’s guide of real value.
This would be the real hub of the MixTogether community. Members could meet each other, request help and tips, post info on events which the community might enjoy and debate the issues.
What are the BENEFITS to people?
Mixtogether.org benefits mixed couples by putting them in touch with information which could literally save their relationship. We are not talking about relationship counselling, or dealing with problems that a couple may experience internally. We are talking about navigating EXTERNAL obstacles (eg from family and community) which threaten an otherwise happy relationship.
To step out of group mode for a second and speak personally, I wish that there had been something like this 8 years ago when my relationship ended due to parental pressure. I wish I had been able to call up tangible, practical advice on how to get over the brick wall I faced, conducting a secret relationship because my girlfriend’s parents would not accept us. Even just being able to talk to some other people who really knew what I was going through would have helped. Instead I had to grind through on my own, not really knowing the extent of what I was facing until it was too late.
There are bits and pieces of knowledge held by mixed couples past and present throughout the UK, but none of them are connected in a meaningful way.
Another benefit will be to those parents who are aware of their childrens’ desire to pursue a mixed relationship, and who are anxious about the proposition. For the first time they will be able to read about how others from their community have found positive solutions, or how best to approach bringing two different cultures into one occasion. They will also be able to talk directly to young people from many different communities- voicing their concerns and passing on their undoubted wisdom. A far cry from ‘You can’t be involved with [insert community] because they are all [insert stereotype]’ don’t you think?
What is the COMPETITION?
A quick search on Google (for eg ‘mixed marriage’) reveals a smattering of fairly incoherent information, varying in quality and located all over the place.
For instance there is the Northern Ireland Mixed Marriage Association (www.nimma.org.uk, top search result) which obviously deals with specifically catholic/protestant mixes and is not as broad as Mixogether in its scope. They link to the Interfaith Marriage Network (www.interfaithmarriage.org.uk) which is much closer to what might be called ‘competition’ for MixTogether.org. However, these and the other mixed relationship sites all deal with marriage issues. MixTogether.org is for young people who may not be ready for marriage but need practical advice on how to continue their relationship right now.
Mixtogether.org must win out because it is a project with really tangible results, which does not rely on the government to make things happen. In order for Westminster to even go near this subject, there would have to be endless consultation and inevitable watering down of content in order to satisfy certain well-represented minority groups.
Instead of wasting all that time and money, Mixtogether.org offers immediate, un-mediated access to first hand accounts of real experiences. It provides a very well-defined section of the population with the opportunity to help each other in a way which is self-evidently useful to them.
Rather than government legislating the way different communities should interact, Mixtogether.org connects those communities directly. It uses the power of the internet to create an active and evolving engagement between communities who will increasingly be intermarried- an achievement the government and Commission for Racial Equality can only dream about.
On top of all this, the site has a colourful, fresh design. It connects with young people in the playground and uni halls- where the real mixing takes place. It speaks the language of mixed couples perfectly because it is written by them, for them.
What BUDGETS & LOGISTICS are required?
We have already paid for the domain name and hosting for the best part of the next year. We have also managed to source a free online forum package which is tailored with the site name and has just about all the user and admin/moderator functions anyone could want- there is no need to build a bespoke forum.
This leaves the architecture of a relational database which allows members to login with a username and password and use all the areas of the site described above ie submitting and searching stories and contributing to wikis. There should be email verification of new signups so that the administrators can build up a reliable email list for communicating with members. There should also be admin-only report outputs which show the level of activity among members and the usage levels of different pages so that feedback can improve the site.
The designer would need to incorporate our existing artwork as part of the front end, but this should be relatively easy.
We estimate that for someone with the right tools and experience, the design and build of this site should take around a week’s full-time work. This translates to between £500 and £1,000. However, allowing for error in our estimate and for overruns which seem to be inevitable in project design, say the total cost is £2,000 to £3,000 (but that would need to be a top end design!)
Once constructed, the site would have low-cost scalability based on the storage cost for the amount of stories and wikis in the database.
The logistics of promoting and mononitoring the site against abuse would be handled by the committee and other volunteers. The committee want to drive usage of the site through media exposure, eg persuading celebrity mixed couples to endorse the project, and becoming the first choice of contact for the media on mixed relationship issues.
Being the winning proposal in this competition would also be a huge help in gaining the exposure and credibility we are aiming for.
Thanks for reading.