Are you re-using digital tools?

Sacha Robehmed

At the Engine Room, one of our core goals is to support civil society to reduce digital waste. In the past, we’ve looked at how transparency and accountability initiatives in South Africa and Kenya selected digital tools, and we found that more than half built new tools from scratch. In many cases, these tools were built without looking at existing tools and faced both technical problems and a lack of uptake. 

Re-using tools in practice

Rather than immediately building new tools from scratch, researching – and potentially re-using – existing tools is advice that we and others often suggest. Though at first glance re-using a tool may sound simple, there’s surprisingly little deep exploration of the challenges (and benefits!) that arise in practice. This means that we don’t always understand what makes tool re-use succeed and what makes it fail.

We’re diving into these questions as part of a project, Digital Sparks, and are keen to hear from UK organisations about their experiences re-using digital tools to deliver services. (At this point in our research, we’re looking at ‘re-use’ as any case of an organisation using a tool for service delivery that they did not build from scratch.)

How you can help us understand tool re-use

If you are using digital tools in service delivery that your organisation did not build from scratch – such as building a tool using open source code, or customising an existing platform for a project – we’d love to hear from you! To share your experience, you can use this survey (which we don’t expect to take more than 5 minutes). 

Your examples of re-use will help us better understand the challenges and effects of re-use, as well as what is needed to re-use existing digital tools. Based on this research, we’ll be building out support for charities to make better-informed decisions about re-using digital tools. 

If you have any other questions, email Sacha at and Paola at Here’s Sacha’s PGP key and here’s Paola’s PGP key if you prefer to use encrypted mail.   

Image by Alina Grubnyak via Unsplash.


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