We’ve been thinking a lot about what kinds of resources would best support responsible data-driven advocacy. We’re asking a lot of questions to better understand this, but assume that the most useful tools will end up being small, discrete and highly modular: checklist-like things that can help people with too much to do, to make smart decisions at specific decision points.
We’ll be gathering a bunch of allies in March to prototype some of these resources, and are starting to look at the nuts and bolts of how that would work. We had our first chance to try it out a couple of weeks ago at an Aspiration event, and it failed miserably, which was great.
Five of us rolled up our sleeves to try and build out a checklist for building a campaign website, to flag privacy and security concerns surrounding user data. We had some incredibly smart people in the group (4 of which worked directly with campaign websites) and some great use cases on which to build this, but in the end, the vast array of contexts we wanted this to be useful in were just too much. At the end of the day, we found ourselves trying to build a flow chart for threat modeling, for every campaigner in every context. It was too much for five people in 90 minutes, and it might not be feasible at all, but we left it with some good ideas about what went wrong. We were also very motivated to try this more (much more) before meeting in March.
And so we are starting something we will call Brains for Beers. When we find ourselves in the same city as our peers and allies working on these issues, we will call them up and ask them to loan us their brains in the service of building out small modular resources for responsible data in advocacy. In exchange, we will provide refreshments.
We got to test this out last week, on the sidelines of the Circumvention Tech Summit. Eva Galperin (EFF), James Vasile (Open ITP) and Lindsay Beck (NDI Tech) joined Alix and I to try and thresh out a checklist for setting up SMS monitoring programs. The beer failed terribly (it was 2 in the afternoon, so lots of coffee), but the checklisting went surprisingly well, and in the course of 90 minutes, we had something very rough, but which we might be able to build on.
You can see a sketch of what we produced here, and comments are welcome (Sean McDonald from Frontline SMS has already given some very helpful comments). It’s a pretty skeletal first run, but demonstrates the direction we want to test. We’ll do a few more of these, see where the commonalities and blockages, and then think about what is worth polishing and piloting. We’ll also be looking for more opportunities to trade beer for brains, so if you’d like to help out, or have an idea for a resource that could use this kind of test run, let us know.