How “Missed Calls” are Mobilizing the Global South Today

The creative tactic powering #WorldVsBank

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

I remember when it was trendy to protest the World Bank. Specifically, I remember being a teenager in 2000 and attending a massive World Bank protest in Washington DC. Since then, the Bank has fallen off of the global protest radar to some extent, but this Friday, the #WorldVsBank global action will change all that.

The #WorldVsBank actions will take place in 12 cities across the globe and highlight efforts to reverse inequality and preserve land rights for traditional communities. Global anti-inequality hub and activist incubator The Rules, whose mission is to connect and empower local movements with creative forms of activism, are organizing the actions.

One of the most interesting parts of Friday’s events will be #WorldVsBank’s goal to receive over 500K missed calls in support of the actions against the Bank. What are missed calls?

Popular in the developing world, missed calls are exactly what they sound like. To save money, callers hang up the phone before the receiver takes the call, so that neither person uses any minutes. This way, the missed calls themselves can work like text messages—callers can use them to communicate messages or confirm plans. Like contacting someone with the pagers of old, the practice is referred to as “Beeping”.

In 2011, missed call campaigns were employed by Indian anti-corruption activists to demonstrate widespread support for their cause. Obviously, pen-and-ink signature petitions are limited in the number of people they can reach, but missed calls could constitute a free or low-cost, remote alternative, uniting people even across borders or in countries with limited internet access. Alnoor Ladha, the Director of The Rules, saw great potential in the practice for mobilizing citizens in the Global South. After a successful fundraising drive on Kickstarter, The Rules developed a tool called Crowdring that automatically turns missed calls into petition signatures.

The goals for missed calls during the WorldVsBank action are very ambitious. Ladha tells me via email: “The aim will be to get 500,000 to 1million people to show their support globally through missed calls. Missed calls haven’t been tried before for a global advocacy ask and this could provide some strong global-local links. We’ll text local numbers to attend local events as well.”

The World Bank is still too often a force for narrow (and sometimes brutal) policies that drain healthcare and education budgets in developing countries while catering to the desires global corporations. #WorldVsBank day aims to put the World Bank back in the spotlight and to empower voices that oppose its one-size-fits-all policies. In the process the missed call drive could open another door to making global activism easier, more efficient, and more intuitive.


When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less