Supporting organisations to navigate digital transitions

Barbara Paes

Since the pandemic began, many social justice organisations and activists have increased their reliance on digital technologies, which has brought many challenges. Organisations have had to develop new ways of working, reshape programmes, support staff and communities and protect themselves against digital attacks. With support from Sigrid Rausing Trust, we are deepening our support to organisations who are going through digital transformation. 

As part of this, we invite activists, collectives and movements – particularly those who serve marginalised communities – that are facing challenges incorporating technologies in their work to reach out to us for pro bono light touch support!

Covid-19: the digital divides have deepened and social justice organisations are still facing a digital emergency

Our research on intersections of social justice and data and digital rights found that going through a digital transformation during a global pandemic has affected the workflow of civil society organisations and influenced their ability — or inability — to reach the communities they serve. During our interviews, we found that for many organisations:

  • it has been harder to engage with the communities they serve, especially migrants, refugees and the elderly from marginalised communities;
  • there have been difficulties working remotely during lockdowns, due to inequalities in access to connectivity, to digital technology and general infrastructure needed to transition to remote work; 
  • the quick transition to remote work in a resource-constrained environment acted as an obstacle to the selection of context-relevant, justice-based tech tools. 

Practitioners highlighted a lack of resources for moving their work to a remote setting or implementing responsible data practices or digital security protocols, not to mention addressing staff burnout. Across all four regions of our research, but especially in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, many examples were shared about how the lack of resources for transitioning to remote work or adopting safer digital practices negatively affected social justice organisations and their ability to respond to crises. These crises included both geopolitical ones (e.g. military occupation and government repression) and increasing digital and physical attacks on activists.

Get support from us!

In light of this digital transition, we are providing pro-bono, hands-on tech & data support to social justice groups going through digital transformations, as part of our Light Touch Support programme. If you’ve been dealing with the challenges related to digital technologies in your social justice work, we can support you. Reach out to us and schedule a call

Our support may include:

  • Redesigning or tweaking your existing workflows to better address your needs and the needs of the communities you’re working with using tech and data in effective, responsible and strategic ways, helping to adapt offline services to the online sphere or hybrid formats.
  • Responsible data: Adapting responsible data considerations to existing and new projects, and more, developing and implementing an organisational Responsible Data Policy and/or a RAD (data retention, archiving and disposal) Policy. 
  • Tool selection: Choosing tools that are aligned with your political values, learning how to adopt a justice-focused approach in selecting tools and systems for your work (such as an email server, internal communications tools, video conferencing tool, and more), making connections to open source infrastructure providers to transform operations, and developing technical intuition to better navigate the tech tools landscape.
  • Organisational security: Providing recommendations for secure digital communication and data storage considering your specific context, identifying tools that are accessible and that don’t pose privacy threats, getting guidance on digital care for activists and general capacity building around organisational security practices.

More to come!

As part of this project, we plan on sharing what we learn about navigating the challenges of digital transformation. Keep an eye on this blog if you’re interested or reach out to hello[at]theengineroom.org.

Photo by Steve Johnson via Unsplash.

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