Posted 23 November, 2015 by Julia Keseru

Julia Keseru joins the engine room: you won’t believe what happens next!

We’re really excited to be welcoming Julia Keseru to the engine room as our Global Matchbox Lead. Here is a first post from her explaining what she’ll be up to as part of the team.

Three years ago I left Hungary for what turned out to be the biggest adventure in my life so far, and moved to the US. In these past few years that I spent spearheading the international work of the Sunlight Foundation, the open government space matured in ways that only emerging fields can — and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to watch and learn than the vibrant civic hacking community of Washington DC.

Today I’m taking this adventure to a different level: early next year I’ll be joining the engine room as the global lead for the organization’s Matchbox program. Joining this amazing crew (and moving back to Europe) comes as a natural next step, both personally and professionally, an opportunity that gets me excited for a number of different reasons.

Here`s a few.

1, After our work at Sunlight to create a global network and resources for transparency and accountability activists, I can hardly wait to make use of all these resources and networks — hand-in-hand with local partners. Connecting global advocacy to local activism is not at all easy, and I am pumped to be part of a team that aims to provide assistance for activists in a way that is targeted, relevant and strategic. Connecting the dots between issues, networks and approaches that are still somewhat detached from each other (e.g. freedom of information and open data, advocacy and design, policy and technology) will also be an essential part of my work.

2, With a personal history of activism that approaches transparency and technology as tools but never the end goals of social change initiatives, I’m excited to work closely with organizations that have a clear understanding of what they want to achieve with technology — be it government responsiveness, anti-corruption, empowering marginalized voices or enhancing service delivery. I’m most interested in figuring out how we can improve how transparency and human rights activists integrate data analysis, information visualizations, human centered design, storytelling and evidence-based advocacy in their work, and hope to find the most sustainable ways to build the capacity of partners to incorporate these tools strategically into their work.

3, I have also long been thinking about what works and what doesn’t work in civic technology and found that it is incredibly difficult to come up with definitive, evidence-based generalizations on how “x” type of transparency and accountability initiatives produce “y” kinds of effects in our societies. Evaluating results and documenting failures are the backbone of the engine room`s work, and I’m hoping that together we can further build and shape knowledge on how exactly these initiatives result in social change, through making our empirical findings (and others) accessible to a larger circle of activists.

+1: Finally, sharing a virtual office with people who all come from different cultures, but have the same (humble and eager) approach to social change is one of the most exciting parts of joining the engine room. More details to follow in January. Stay tuned!

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