Need support to better use data & tech in your work? Matchbox can help!

Laura Guzman

At its core, The Engine Room is a support organisation – we exist to support activists and social change agents to make the most of data and technology. In practice, this means that The Engine Room supports partners in different ways, from light-touch support, to research, to in-depth support through our Matchbox partnerships.

This month, we are launching a call for new Matchbox partners in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and are looking forward to receiving your applications. Until then, read this post to learn more about how we offer in-depth support through Matchbox partnerships.

What is Matchbox?

Through Matchbox partnerships, The Engine Room provides intensive, holistic support to partners who are working on social justice issues and are interested in using data and technology strategically in their work.

During the year-long partnership we support Matchbox partners to design, manage and implement data and technology projects. However, we don’t focus on platforms, products and technical specifications. Instead, we provide holistic support that incorporates strategy, knowledge and capacity growth and holistic support for the organisation and project.

Our partners tackle topics ranging from improving the management of natural resources in Mexico and revealing transparency violations in Uganda, to understanding and improving service delivery in Sierra Leone and telling stories of corruption in Peru.

What does the partnership look like?

Every Matchbox process is different. We personalise our support to serve the needs of each partner. Our team work as sounding boards, mentors and connectors, offering each Matchbox partner feedback, guidance and other flexible support.

We walk all selected Matchbox partners through a problem definition and project planning phase. We bring in experts (from our and our partners’ networks) to support in specific areas. We encourage partners to develop their own intuition, resources, networks and knowledge. Together, we focus on data, technology and strategy.

How can being a Matchbox partner support your work?

Matchbox partnerships are partner-led, so we take our cues on how to offer support from you. We explore how data and technology might be integrated into each partner’s approach, rather than bringing our own approach. The most beneficial partnerships involve not only project support, but also incorporate strengthening the organisation, building in-house capabilities and fostering technical intuition. Regardless of the exact form it takes, we build our support so that it:

  • Builds the holistic sustainability of our partners’ organisations
  • Develops social change leaders who can continue to strategically build technology into their work
  • Creates data and technology projects that advance an organisation’s existing aims and work

In practice, this means we’ve seen partners grow to be able to better articulate their technology and data ideas, connect at local and regional levels with new partners and, ultimately, build plans for using data and tech in thoughtful ways. If this sounds like it could support your work, make sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming call for applications.

Who are our recent Matchbox partners?

As Matchbox partners, Code for Sierra Leone conducted research to understand local solutions to water service delivery challenges, and identified where technology could improve service delivery.
The Mexican organisation Causa Natura worked on a data analysis and advocacy project – Pescando Datos – that seeks to improve the allocation of subsidies for local fishermen while maintaining a sustainable ecosystem.
Japiqay, a new Peruvian organisation, launched a platform – Memoria y Ciudadania – that gathers over 2000 documents related to corruption cases to tell the story of corruption in Peru over the past 30 years.
The Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) worked on integrating civic technology as well as creating local alliances to further their advocacy work, especially within the health sector.

What’s next?

The first step to becoming a Matchbox partner is submitting an application describing the problem you are working to address and your ideas for addressing it. We will open our call for applications in August, and the application period will close at the end of September. The Matchbox program page and our blog post on selecting Matchbox partners are two resources that might be useful as you get inspired.

Keep an eye on our blog and our Twitter feed for more resources and information!

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