Exploring the role social movements play in transparency and accountability

Posted October 6, 2015 by Tom Walker


When funders think about increasing transparency and accountability, they often look first to civil society organizations to get citizens interested in an issue, collect data or advocate to governments.

But often these organizations won’t be able to mobilise the numbers of people needed to challenge entrenched power structures. This could be for many reasons: they might lack the flexibility to respond rapidly to political opportunities, or perhaps they prioritise funding applications over grassroots community-building. In those cases, social movements – networked groups that use substantial grassroots support to challenge authorities on a particular issue – are often better at holding powerful groups accountable.

However, funders interested in supporting activities around transparency and accountability rarely provide support to social movements (financial or otherwise). Why? And are they missing something?

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How technology is used to fight impunity: our take-aways from the International Anti-Corruption Conference

Posted September 30, 2015 by Lesedi Bewlay

Last month, a group of around 1,200 anti-corruption fighters, policy makers and activists gathered in Putrajaya, Malaysia for the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC). Their focus this year was ending impunity and the engine room was invited along to form part of their Technology Hub. Interested attendees could approach technologists to ask a question, pitch an idea, figure out how to analyse a dataset or simply find out what tools may be available to use for their project. In this blog post, we want to share what we learned – interesting new projects and challenges in using tech to fight corruption.

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Retaining your ability to fight nefarious lawsuits through smart data retention

Posted September 29, 2015 by Kristin Antin

Pile of sheets (Credit: Johann Dréo)

Editor’s note: We want to thank SumofUs for commissioning this research through a partnership project.

Keeping data after projects end often involves spending time and effort to comply with legal requirements and archiving rules. Why does it matter? Imagine this scenario:

A human rights organization is collecting information about human rights abuses by the local government. The government hears about their work and wants to stop it. Rather than attack the organisation physically, which they knew would draw international attention, they decided to disrupt its work by tying them up in a nefarious legal case that included a subpoena for information on contracts from seven years ago. While the cases were all eventually thrown out, this caused harmful disruptions to the organisation’s work and forced them to spend their limited resources on lawyers’ fees. (this scenario is adapted from the case study shared in the Responsible Development Data book)

This is just one way in which opponents can hamper organizations’ activities using data retention legislation. While you may not be able to prevent your adversaries from using these kinds of tactics, you can prepare for them. By understanding the data retention laws that apply to your organization and managing your information accordingly, you can mitigate the risk that a legal request for information will harm your work. This blog post dives into the process of developing a data retention plan to ensure that your organization is holding onto (and organizing) the information it is required to keep, and destroying the information it doesn’t need.

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Harnessing tech to monitor MPs attendance and engagement in Zimbabwe

Posted September 23, 2015 by Lesedi Bewlay
Representation of the work of the Research and Advocacy Unit. Credit: Maya Richman

Representation of the work of the Research and Advocacy Unit. Credit: Maya Richman

Holding government representatives accountable in Zimbabwe is no easy task. Our Matchbox partner, The Research & Advocacy Unit (RAU) , is building a platform that will highlight MPs’ abysmal attendance in sessions and track their engagement in home constituencies using citizen generated data. They reached out to the engine room for Matchbox support in designing the platform and planning for its development. This blog post is a brief description of how we helped and what we learned.

RAU is an independent think tank that conducts advocacy and research on areas where there is little reliable information. It focuses on human rights, democracy and governance in Zimbabwe. RAU wants citizens in Zimbabwe to have access to parliamentary performance data, such as: whether members of parliament (MPs) are showing up to sessions, and if they are returning to their districts. The goal is to put MPs, who currently act with impunity, in the spotlight so they know the public is watching them.

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