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Last year, we were excited to see the FRIDA Fund publish its Principles to Guide Data and Technology. During 2018, we had the joy of supporting the organisation in identifying opportunities for a more effective and strategic use of technology and in strengthening its vision. Some of the objectives of our work together were promoting intentional and thoughtful decision making and the adoption of technology and data practices that align with FRIDA’s principles of technological development.
As part of our journey together, we conducted research wherein we spoke with most of the team members at the time – it’s been incredible to see how the organisation has grown since 2018! – and we facilitated a series of conversations where we identified and prioritized opportunities. Then, we documented what we’d co-discovered in reports for FRIDA to use internally. One of these captured the status of FRIDA’s infrastructure when we spoke (taking into account resources, documentation, capabilities, and processes) and the other presented opportunities for FRIDA’s future application of data and technology. The latter was guided by principles created from our research and our participatory sessions.
Recently, we spoke with Ledys Sanjuan, Advocacy, Communications & Tech Manager at the FRIDA Fund, to learn more about her experience collaborating with us and the ways she sees our contribution impacting the organisation.
If this kind of work sounds interesting to you – aligning your political values with your technical decision-making – reach out to us at hello[at]theengineroom.org or paola[at]theengineroom.org.
The Engine Room: In what ways did our work contribute to the outcome of the principles?
Ledys Sanjuan: To answer this question, we have to talk about where FRIDA was at that time in its communications and technology.
Although we had had certain approaches to security and technology issues, we were in a collective process of learning about digital security and how it applied to our work. I identified that the technology FRIDA selected to use was not based on any principles. That is, there was a political analysis of technology and how we, as young feminists fit in, but this analysis did not inform how we used technology as an organisation – for example, how we reviewed providers and services.
Of course, every decision regarding technology is political and that is why the review process that we did with The Engine Room helped us to reconsider the foundations of our decisions, our structures and how we think about technology. In many ways, we already had a political perspective on technology but we were not applying it. The Engine Room helped us understand, analyze and create processes to be able to carry out this broader review.
TER: How did our work contribute to the overall technology and data strategy?
LS: Something that was very valuable to us in this process was the understanding that technology is a deeply social and collective process. So, one of the biggest recommendations and conclusions was that our decision-making processes had to be clarified and that development of technology had to be based upon a structure within FRIDA, like everything else. This is how we hired our first Technology and Data Strategist and began to build structures – protocols, rules, online resources, and so on.
In the same way, The Engine Room gave us a critical map of different points and internal changes that were necessary to be able to generate and participate in the technology we want.
TER: What were the moments that had the most impact on our work together?
LS: I think that a very important moment was when [Paola] and I had a conversation when the results were already becoming clear, and we talked about revisiting work we’d already done in order to lay solid foundations. In this way, we realized that one step was to have the basics: people dedicated to the work, money earmarked for it, and security and data management rules or protocols that aligned with the visions of the feminist technology.
A second moment that was very important to me was seeing the reports and the recommendations. This work of understanding and systematizing the data helped us to start in a very intentional way, able to correct and change many things. The reports helped us to have an internal conversation as well, because they were tools that helped us instruct new people on what we were doing and also contributed to institutional memory.
TER: What was the impact of our work together, beyond what we initially thought?
LS: Beyond what we agreed upon and the project itself, the impact has been very big. We are currently in a moment of collective education and learning where we are looking at all the protocols and principles, and why a fund like FRIDA takes a political perspective of technology and data. At the same time, we are starting to build our RAD policy (Retention, Archiving, and Deletion), where we can bring more order and security to where we are storing our data. This process will also be a collective learning process where, through shared education, we will implement FRIDA’s data policy.
Next Steps: Becoming more RADical!
At The Engine Room, we are accompanying FRIDA on its way to becoming more RAD, supporting the team in its learning and implementation process. Stay tuned for more updates on this in the coming months. If this support sounds interesting to you or your organisation, reach out to paola[at]theengineroom.org.
Image from Marcello Gennari via Unsplash.