Earlier this year, together with the Open Society Foundations, we conducted a research project on equity and resilience in the technology and human rights ecosystem. The goal was to identify potential opportunities for realising equity through funding practices, with the aim of supporting organisations who are doing impactful work but might not have access to funding.
This research felt particularly momentous in a year when a global pandemic triggered socio-economic instability and worsened inequalities, and when major anti-racism protests sparked by ongoing systemic violence against Black people took place around the world.
In this context, we believe that strengthening civil society working with technology and human rights is a fundamental step towards ensuring protection, accountability and justice to communities everywhere.
We’ve shared quite a bit of our insights as this project progressed, especially around the role of INGOs and intermediaries, the impact of Covid-19 and the consequences of the power imbalance between funders and grantees.
We are now excited to share our full research report, with the hopes that it will contribute to a much-needed conversation around how to promote a more just and sustainable technology and human rights ecosystem. In many ways, the challenges faced by organisations working in the area of tech and human rights are similar to those existent within the nonprofit sector at large. They share the fundamental issue of power asymmetry between funders and donors and grantees.
However, while these challenges reflect the broader power dynamics inherent within philanthropy, they are exacerbated by the particular conditions of the tech and human rights field: such as the fast-paced technological changes of the last decade; the increasing number of new organisations, the scarcity of targeted resources, and the absence of established “best practices” for funding technology projects. Issues related to insufficient resources earmarked for infrastructure development and maintenance, and organisational capacity building are of particular importance.
Throughout the research report, we map the barriers faced by actors in the space, as well as practices that foster a more equitable ecosystem. By outlining some of the best practices from various philanthropic spaces (such as feminist funders and participatory grantmakers), we hope to provide some ideas and guidance around how funding institutions can make changes that are not only essential to the sustainability of this ecosystem but, in fact, doable.
You can also sign up to our Propeller Series, a weekly research digest where we share bite-sized insights from this report.
As we share our research, we invite the tech and human rights community to consider our findings and imagine how we can collectively promote a more equitable ecosystem. The report will be published on Thursday, October 1st, and we’ll host a community call from 10am-11am EDT/3pm-4pm BST. Joining us as speakers are Elizabeth Eagen from the Information Program at Open Society Foundations, Lulú Barrera from Luchadoras, and Neema Iyer from Pollicy. If you would like to participate in this conversation, drop us an email at email@example.com. We will love to hear from you!
Image credit: Li Lin via Unsplash.