Posted 4 June, 2013 by Susannah Vila

Our Collaboration with Personal Democracy Media

Update: We’re hosting a virtual skillshare for practitioners in September. Read more here.

We started the engine room to make it easier for advocates working in national contexts to make the most out of new technologies. We initially wanted to create a private online marketplace to connect new initiatives with specialized skill sets. When we brought together our founding advisors they gave us some great advice: don’t build a technology solution until you work on solving the problem manually for a while. Since then, we’ve been working in lots of different ways to understand how we can best create connections between advocacy initiatives – individual citizens, ad-hoc groups and established CSOs – and people with relevant skill sets.

In doing this work, we’ve come to understand the importance of documentation; it’s hard to facilitate smart connections if you don’t know who is working on what, where, and how it’s going. With that in mind, we’re launching a partnership with the impressive team of journalists (and connectors) at Personal Democracy Media. Over the course of the next year TechPresident’s international vertical, WeGov, and the engine room will, with the support of the Omidyar Network, be documenting what is working and what is not working for advocates focusing on transparency and accountability. We will aim to understand how, and with what tools, people are advocating for more transparent and accountable governments, and we’ll connect these practitioners with one another so that they can more easily benefit from each others’ work.

Here are some of the upcoming activities that you can start to get excited about:

Columns: Our regular column will cover things like open data (surfacing it, creating demand for it, and getting decision makers to act with it), citizen participation (how do you facilitate increased participation and how can technology help?), participatory governance (from budgeting to policy-making) and anti-corruption (the kind of corruption that prevents people from getting basic services without paying bribes and the kind that prevents citizens from knowing about it when officials pay big ones).

Virtual skill shares: We will bring practitioners together for a facilitated conversation on specific areas of work. These will be small (no more than 15 people). Our goal is to spot opportunities for adapting tactics to new contexts and support practitioners in implementing smart replications. You can sign up or suggest a topic by leaving a comment below.

Live documentation of events: In 2012 we worked with the International Anti-Corruption Conference to surface innovative tactics that were represented at their event. This was a great way to meet the people behind some of the coolest anti-corruption projects out there right now, and to learn about their challenges and successes so that we could be more prepared to broker connections that might be of use. We’ll be doing similar work for a handful of events in the next year. We’re looking for either global or regional events with a focus (directly or peripherally) on transparency and accountability. Want to suggest one? Please do.

In-depth reports in particular issue areas: We will take a deeper look at some of the trends and lessons that we surface by bringing practitioners together. We hope to continue lines of questioning begun by the projects such as the Open Development Technology Alliance, the Transparency and Accountability Initiative and the Technology for Transparency Network.

We are more than excited to begin working with WeGov’s team of reporters and editors, both because they bring new (and important) expertise to our work, and because this partnership will allow us to meet and work with a lot of great new initiatives.

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