The work ahead & extending our strategy

Laura Guzman
Paola Mosso

In 2020, we set out to update our organisational strategy. When the pandemic hit, we were only partly through the process, and were hit by a wave of urgency (and confusion and uncertainty, and glimmers of hope and solidarity). The strategy we released is of its moment – guided by both our knowledge of how technology layers upon the deep roots of injustice, and by our rapidly changing reality as the pandemic unfolded.

In the two years since, the world has continued to change and yet also remain the same in so many ways, as it so often does. 

Emerging technologies have been deployed without harm mitigation strategies, creating new forms of power asymmetries and accelerating existing structural injustices. Surveillance technologies have continued to proliferate – in some cases accelerated by Covid-19 tracing measures – and continue to be deployed against activists and movements around the world. 

Internet shutdowns and restrictions on freedom of expression are still commonplace, particularly as repressive tactics deployed in the face of progressive agitation for a more just world. Digital attacks and disinformation campaigns have continued to target rights defenders and activists across a variety of spheres of action. Under-resourced activists continue to fight for funding and capacity.  

And at the same time, civil society has continued to diversify and strengthen its approaches to using technology and data for organising, for movement-building, for creating networks of solidarity, and for spreading messages of a more accessible, vibrant and just world. We’ve seen increasing attention paid to the importance of safeguarding our data responsibly, of understanding the power within technologies, and of interacting more safely in digital spaces (especially when these extend into physical ones, too).

Along the way, we’ve drawn inspiration from partners like Albinism Umbrella, a Matchbox partner who have approached the challenge of practising data responsibility with tenacity, investing time and energy beyond their everyday responsibilities to safeguard the communities they work with; organisations like the FRIDA Fund, who seek to thread their commitment to youth-led, feminist visions of justice through their internal technology practices; allies like Uganda-based Pollicy, seeking to change tech regulations and data governance & protection laws in ways that reflect lived realities; and funders like Numuun, who are exploring alternate approaches to funding, and those like Ford Foundation, who are building on legacies in new ways. We’ve been energised by conversations held in the Responsible Data listserv; by the organisational security practitioners in our networks, who continue to make efforts towards strengthening their communities and their approaches to supporting social justice movements; by visions for justice-focused technologies; by the work of inspiring independent researchers like Timnit Gebru and her new DAIR Institute; and by the efforts of countless organisations, activists and movements around the world who are seeking to develop a counter-narrative of technology and data that is rights-respecting and justice-oriented.  

Now, nearing the end of what was the original end-date of our strategy, we’ve made the decision to extend it for another year, to the end of 2023. More than ever, we need to continue building this strong, resilient and well-networked movement of social justice activists. More than ever, the roots of millenia of injustice are coming online and shaping our digital spaces.

You can read our lightly updated strategy here: we have revisited a few sections with more learnings from two years of pandemic, updated timelines, and adjusted language around the “end” of the pandemic and the major geopolitical shifts that have happened since then. We are also working on a strategy roadmap map that links together our updated strategy, our logic model, our targets and milestones, and our monitoring/evaluation and values-aligned budgeting processes. We look forward to sharing that deep-dive for folks who are on similar journeys.

If you want to have a more in-depth dive into our projects, get to know some of the work that has been guided by our strategy so far in our 2021 Retrospective. In the second part of this series, Julia will share more about where we’re headed as an organisation and around our longer term vision for change. 

If any of it resonates with you, sparks an idea, or brings a vision you wish to share, reach out to us at hello[at]theengineroom.org. You can also find us on Twitter, and keep up with our newsletter.

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