Posted 9 January, 2014 by Christopher Wilson

Piloting civil society and technology assessments – new TechScape report

When we started carving out the engine room mandate in 2011 we had a couple of ambitious ideas. Building up a global, empirical data set on how civil society organizations anticipate, adopt and use technology was one of them. We recognized it was pie in the sky, but like so many efforts to capture the new media moment, we were pretty sure that even if we failed, we could learn a lot and produce a lot of value. So we set up a framework, mapped out some methods, and started a pilot to assess Oxfam Novib civil society partners in 8 countries.

Fast forward nearly 18 months: we haven’t failed yet, but it’s been a bumpy ride, and in terms of a global data set, we have hardly begun. What we have managed is to develop a research framework that helped a large international network understand how it’s partners are using technology, and to identify opportunities to strengthen support and maximize resources. We’re very happy about that.

The Oxfam Novib pilot produced briefs for each organization that we assessed and each country that we did assessments in. We aren’t sharing those, because they include strategic and security information that belongs within an organization’s trusted network. We have produced a final module report, however, which we are happy to share here.

TechScape Module Report:
Oxfam Novib 2012-13
Example Country Brief

This TechScape Module Report describes the context in which assessments were carried out, as well as findings and trends surfaced in assessing civil society relationships to technology in the final 7 countries. It also provides a list of recommendations for Oxfam Novib to explore actions that could be taken at the network level to strengthen partner’s capacities to use technology safely and effectively. Lastly, it describes some of the lessons we learned in conducting the project, including reflections on the demands of participatory approaches to developing methods, on using local researchers, on maximizing incentives and minimizing demands in interviews, on the importance of strong procedures for data management and controlling data quality on a regular basis, and on liaising with local partners.

You can download a copy of the Module Report here. You can also download a redacted example of a country brief with organizational briefs here.

We’re looking forward to seeing how we can iterate on this pilot. We want to make the methodology lighter and leaner and more replicable, while still delivering concrete and actionable information to networks and support organizations. And of course, there’s always the global data set. One step at a time.

Much thanks to Miriam Rau at Oxfam Novib, Marc Michaels and all of the field researchers, translators, advisors and peer reviewers who helped make this happen.

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