Starting data journeys & staying safe on comms tools: support trends from 2023 so far

Barbara Paes

During the first three months of this year, we had 13 partners in our Light Touch Support (LiTS) Programme! We worked with organisations and individuals based in seven countries, all of whom are doing inspiring, impactful work in sectors such as civic tech, transparency and accountability, migrants rights, peacebuilding, and reproductive justice. 

Common needs that emerged across these conversations revolved around getting started on (and maintaining) responsible data journeys, and keeping communications channels safe.

What is LiTS? LiTS partnerships offer lightweight, pro bono support to organisations and individuals with questions about using data or technology in their social justice work. In each LiTS partnership, our goal is to help our partners clarify their vision and next steps, in order to move forward independently. Learn more here.

Best practices for working with health data

One of our goals for the year has been to increase our offer of support to organisations working at the intersection of health and social justice. In these first few months of 2023, we partnered with a number of organisations working on issues related to health and who were interested in strengthening the way they currently use data, but wanted to make sure they were doing it in responsible ways. 

In particular, a trend we observed when working with these partners is that they’re keen to learn more about best practices for collecting data, how to manage the data they already have (including potentially sensitive data) and how to tell stories with it – and how to keep their communities safe while doing so, which is no simple feat. 

(If you’re working at the intersection of social justice and health and would like to get tech and data support from our team, we would love to work with you: get in touch!).

Responsible data: where to get started as a social justice organisation?

Another big theme that came up in our Light Touch Support this quarter was Responsible Data (RD). Most of our LiTS partners this quarter were looking to figure out how to get started with their responsible data journey; many had questions revolving around how to assess the potential risks and consequences of working with data.

For each LiTS partner who wanted to learn more about responsible data, we developed a set of tailored recommendations to address their questions. Some of the resources we shared most often include: 

  • General resources focused on Responsible data – including information about the RD community site and community, and tailored advice about data management practices (such as how to manage access and permissions for internal data storage).
  • Becoming RAD: a set of tipsheets on how to Retain, Archive and Dispose of data responsibly, available in English, French and Spanish.
  • Key resources such as MERL Tech’s website and Catherine d’Ignazio and Lauren Klein’s book, Data Feminism.
  • Resources and tools for data visualisation, such as Tableau Public and Data Wrapper.

We’ve also noticed the need for more resources about responsible data to be available in languages other than English. If you or your organisation don’t use English as your main language and you have thoughts about what type of resources would be useful for you, we would love to hear from you! In the meantime, our team is able to offer support in Portuguese and Spanish. Schedule a call below.

Figuring out how to communicate more securely 

Many social justice organisations we support are based in contexts where some of the most common communication channels could potentially represent a vulnerability. With government surveillance on the rise in many countries, much of our work has been focused on supporting our partners in assessing how the tools they use can impact the safety of their teams and of the communities they work with. In other words, this past quarter we spent some time looking into the tools our partners used for everyday communication, such as messaging apps, emails services, phone applications.

Our support in this area ranged from sharing specific advice based on partners’ needs (such as targeted information about which alternative, privacy-respecting tools partners could adopt) to acting as a sounding board for big-picture thinking about our partners’ digital resilience as a whole.

If you want to learn more about this, you’re welcome to reach out to us or join our community call about digital resilience and surveillance later this month. 

Get support from us!

If you’re interested in getting support from our team, you’re welcome to connect with us:

Image by Bruno Bergher via Unsplash

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