Finding, and asking, the important questions about tech

Barbara Paes

Last year, we launched a project to support Latin American organisations in reflecting and learning about how they use data and technology in their projects. As many organisations in the region are operating in environments where transparency, accountability and democracy are threatened, adopting a strategic approach to data and technology is an important part of creating sustainable solutions. This means that when working for social justice, civil society organisations need to be intentional about why they are applying certain approaches, how they design and implement them and which tools are most suitable for the context. Read the full series here.

We kicked off our targeted support with a series of remote conversations and an in-person workshop with Movilizatorio, a social innovation lab from Bogotá. Movilizatorio focuses on strengthening collective leadership as a means for social transformation, and their work touches on different causes, including peacebuilding, open government and Indigenous peoples leadership. In our work together, we’ve supported Movilizatorio in reflecting about their technology projects, collectively identifying opportunities to strengthen the team, crafting key processes for learning within projects, and developing a lightweight monitoring and evaluation framework for ongoing tech initiatives.

Talking about learning & sparking creativity

As a collaborative exercise, we identified Movilizatorio’s current data and technology projects and mapped out the areas in which there was room to further develop their ideas and strengthen their work. Importantly, Movilizatorio’s team self-assessed their various projects–something they didn’t have the capacity to do previously.

These conversations sparked the group’s creativity and the collective creation of new ways of improving project management. They helped Movilizatorio identify a common challenge across the organisation: creating space to retrospectively reflect and analyse certain projects, alongside day-to-day operations. Importantly, this culminated in a discussion about new methods that might strengthen their work, approaches to implementing these new methods and ideas on how to involve team members. 

Building on the reflections about internal assessment of projects, our work with Movilizatorio also ignited conversations about impact. We witnessed first-hand the difficulty of measuring the impact of projects on a regional level. Juggling place-based complexities of advocating for vulnerable populations, securing reliable internet access and navigating poor transportation infrastructure, organisations operating in challenging environments often face additional constraints when measuring their own impact.

Movilizatorio’s team identified an advantage to participating in this reflection process: zeroing in on the impact of their projects was a great opportunity to assess challenges alongside most desirable outcomes. This exercise provided a jumping-off point from which to ask important questions—for example, would incorporating a new tech tool benefit the community served by our projects? In the case of Movilizatorio, this process has been useful in understanding how to measure the impact of technology, especially in regions marked by high levels of conflict and social injustice with inconsistent internet access. 

For our purposes at The Engine Room, this workshop was an example of how civil society organisations can benefit from dedicating time to reflect on their use of data and technology. Different organisations need and use these tools differently, depending on the context in which they operate and to the type of work they do. Creating space to think about the why and how of their methods and operations allows organisations to be more intentional about using technology in their projects and more in tune with the type of impact they want to have.

We’ll be sharing our experiences supporting two other organisations, ILSB and Hiperderecho, as part of this project. If you have questions–or new ideas to share–get in touch with us at!

Illustrated by Matilde Salinas.


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