Matchbox by The Engine Room

Matchbox is The Engine Room’s flagship support program, designed with transparency and accountability initiatives in mind. We provide support to partners in three main categories: (1) data, (2) technology, and (3) overall strategy. Our most powerful projects combine all three, with our partners tackling topics ranging from digitising politicians’ expenses, improving municipal compliance with access to information laws, monitoring petroleum exploration license sales, and many others explained in more detail below. Matchbox is operational in Latin America, Southern Africa, and the Balkans region. Read more about the pilot phase of the program in this report. If you are interested in learning more, drop Julia a line.

Current Partners

Causa Natura

The Mexican advocacy organization will work on a project that seeks to improve the management of natural resources, specifically fisheries, while increasing transparency in the sector. Their project “Pescando Datos” (“Fishing for Data”) seeks to combat corruption in Mexican fisheries by empowering fishermen and women to succeed in the system, by informing them about how the system works, and by ensuring that their rights are protected and respected.

We’ll support Causa Natura on opening, visualising and analysing data about how subsidies are allocated and how fishing rights are granted currently.

Memoria y Ciudadanía

This brand new Peruvian organisation partners with Matchbox to launch a platform that tells the story of systematic corruption in Peru over the past 30 years – and seeks to prevent further cases – through data analysis, visualizations, and storytelling tools. With the support of Matchbox, we will design and develop a platform that will house all the structured information and datasets related to these corruption cases.

Along with building this searchable database, we’ll support Memoria y Ciudadania to map the relationships between politically exposed persons, specifically those involved in past corruption cases and to develop a communications plan, and help develop a network of strategic partnerships with other advocacy organisations and media outlets

Anti-Corruption Coalition

The Anti-Corruption Coalition (ACCU) from Uganda is using messaging apps to allow citizens to report corruption and transparency violations. They are developing a safe channel where public officials can access these complaints and act upon them. The tool will also provide journalists with valuable data for their stories and investigations.

Our partnership within Matchbox includes background research on existing solutions, platform customisation, and data management support. Ultimately, we want to help ACCU develop strong and feasible strategies around data journalism, outreach, legal aid and policy reform.


The Nigerian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Advocacy and Support Initiative (MSME-ASI) applied for our support so that they can shed more light on the reality of budget allocations in Nigeria, with a special focus on funds for job creation and the financing of small businesses. They already collected a lot of information from government agencies, to verify whether funds are being allocated appropriately and to show how different agencies perform in the area.

They need Matchbox support to tell their story in the best possible way. Our team is supporting MSME-ASI with data visualisation, storytelling and data analysis, and we’re keen to work closely on the group’s engagement strategies.

Code for Sierra Leone

Code for Sierra Leone (code4salone) is a civic tech organisation that uses open source technologies to spur innovation in the public sector. The group held their first ever data bootcamp in June 2016, and during the event they started developing various different tools — out of which grew the beta version of MWash, a mobile application to map public water points in the country and to track contaminated water sites.

Throughout the Matchbox partnership, we’re working closely with Code for Sierra Leone to improve the user experience of the MWash platform, to structure, store and manage their data in the best possible ways, and to develop a sound engagement strategy so that Code for Sierra Leone can achieve real impact once the platform is ready.

PAST Partners

Institute for Public Policy Research

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) is a Namibian organisation with a mission to deliver independent, analytical, and critical research into social, political and economic issues that affect development in the country. We have been supporting IPPR to improve their data analysis and investigative skills through developing a data model and a platform that turns petroleum exploration data into usable information, and through facilitating connections between IPPR and experts.

03 Quien Compro
Quien Compro

The ¿Quién Compró? project started with individual freedom of information requests by Mexican investigative journalists for the receipts of congressmen and women. We have been supporting the group to take a closer look at how members of congress were spending public funds, through liberating, digitising and visualising the receipts of Mexican parliamentarians’ expenditures. We provided recommendations on data structure, data entry and the digitization of receipts.

06 Data Centar
Data Centar

Through the Data Centar project we’re providing support for the Serbian transparency organisation CRTA to build new ways of making government data available to the public. We helped conduct interviews and workshops to make sure we’re building what people are asking for, re-imagined and tested the entire pipeline for opening data, and developed a human-centered solution through iteration, design and development.

07 FDL
Directorio Legislativo

An Argentine organisation that promotes dialogue, transparency and access to public information within the legislative branches of government. Directorio Legislativo was looking for developing a tool that would track changes made to bills discussed in Parliament, so that people can understand what Congress was doing without having to search through piles of documents. Our team supported the project to develop the necessary needs assessment, create a wireframe for the web platform, and help with fundraising.

04 Kubatana

Kubatana is a civic and human rights advocacy organization based in Zimbabwe with a long history of using mobile communications for outreach. They asked for our help to crowdsource data collection on water availability to oversee the implementation of water rehabilitation infrastructure projects throughout the city of Harare. We worked with Kubatana to find a way to easily process their Whatsapp conversations and helped them convert the information received into usable formats.

05 NU
Ndifuna Ukwazi

Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) is a team of advocates based in Cape Town who use research and strategic litigation to campaign for justice and equality in poor and working class communities. NU sought Matchbox help to improve public service delivery and increase access to information about how local governments procure public services in South Africa. Our team worked with NU to finalize a data model for managing the contract data and developed a database to allow for investigation and analysis.


06 RAU
Research and Advocacy Unit

The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) (RAU) is a Zimbabwe think-tank that focuses on human rights, democracy and governance. The organization wanted to capture the attendance of MPs through direct engagement with citizens, document this data and share it with the general public. We helped RAU set up an efficient SMS messaging system that citizens and volunteers can use to report on MPs attendance at parliament and helped develop profiles of MPs.

Matchbox Process

Matchbox partnerships start with an application where potential partners explain the problem they are working to address and their ideas for addressing it. We then assess projects along our partner criteria and select partners we’re going to work with. We do not have the resources to provide in-depth Matchbox support to every project, but we do our best to add value to every project that applies. For selected partners, we develop a project plan and bring a team of experts together to make the project a success (this expertise is  sometimes drawn from a diverse network of experts and is sometimes from our in-house team). Finally, we help our partners implement their projects in the most effective and successful way. Read more about how the process works here.