Welcoming our new Sub-Saharan Africa partners to the Matchbox program

Julia Keseru

Today marks an important milestone in our Matchbox journey. We are thrilled to announce our three new Matchbox partners in Sub-Saharan Africa: the Anti-Corruption Coalition (ACCU) from Uganda, MSME-ASI from Nigeria, and Code for Sierra Leone (code4salone).

This post gives some insight into their projects, so you can see why we’re so excited about working with these groups.

First of all, we have an incredibly diverse mix of new partners — including civic technologists as well as hardcore advocacy experts, veterans and newcomers, large coalitions and smaller grassroots groups alike. Our excitement is doubled by the fact that throughout these new partnerships, we can get a better sense of why certain civic tech initiatives (such as corruption monitoring or water point mapping) worked or didn’t work in the past, and what we can do to perfect these ideas.

But without further ado, let’s get to know the new Matchbox bunch a bit better!

ACCU – The Anti-Corruption Coalition (Uganda)

ACCU - The Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda

ACCU is a coalition-based organisation with a mission to empower citizens in their efforts to demand more transparency and accountability from the public and private sector. The group’s primary focus is research, investigative journalism and advocacy, and they were established in 1999.

ACCU now wants to use messaging apps to allow citizens to report corruption and transparency violations, and thus improve public service delivery in Uganda. They want to do this through developing a safe channel where public officials can access these complaints and act upon them. Ideally the tool would also provide journalists with valuable data for their stories and investigations.

Just like with every Matchbox partnership, the scope and range of our support will evolve as we learn more about our partner’s vision. What we know for sure is that our partnership will kick off with a background research on existing solutions. After that, we’re planning to support ACCU with the necessary platform customisation and their data management practices, and put a special focus on responsible data handling. Ultimately, we want to help the team develop strong and feasible strategies around data journalism, outreach, legal aid and policy reform.

“Fighting corruption is not an end in itself, but a tool to improve service delivery and policies that govern our everyday lives. With the Engine Room on board, we are certain we are going in the right direction to achieve that!”

– Namunoga Joy, ACCU

MSME-ASI (Nigeria)

MSME ASI Nigeria

The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Advocacy and Support Initiative has a mission to provide small and medium enterprises in Nigeria with the necessary information they need for their smooth operation, and to ensure that laws are in favour of small businesses.

The group applied for our support so that they can shed more light on the reality of budget allocations in Nigeria, with a special focus on funds for job creation and the financing of small businesses. They already collected a lot of information from government agencies — to verify whether funds are being allocated appropriately and to show how different agencies perform in the area.

Now they need our help to tell their story in the best possible way. Our team is going to support MSME-ASI with data visualisation, storytelling and data analysis, and we’re keen to work closely on the group’s engagement strategies.

“MSME-ASI is excited that the Engine Room will provide us with much needed support in key areas of data visualisation, analysis and storytelling. This will not only enhance our work but also enable us to engage with our target audiences in a much more powerful and clearer way.”

– Okeke Celestine, MSME-ASI

Code for Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone)

Code for Sierra Leone

Code for Sierra Leone is a civic tech organisation that uses open source technologies to spur innovation in the public sector. They aim to transform civic life in Sierra Leone by increasing engagement around health, economic development, transparency and accountability.

The group held their first ever data bootcamp last June. During the event, they started developing various different tools — out of which grew the beta version of MWash, a mobile application to map public water points in the country and to track contaminated water sites. Code for Sierra Leone now wants to take the idea a bit further and use MWash to dramatically improve communication between citizens, utility providers and elected officials around water and sanitation.

Throughout the Matchbox partnership, we’re going to work closely with Code for Sierra Leone to improve the user experience of their platform, to structure, store and manage their data in the best possible ways, and to develop a sound engagement strategy so that Code for Sierra Leone can achieve real impact once the platform is ready. We’re also going to help the team research and review existing waterpoint mapping platforms and learn from the lessons of similar projects.

“We are immensely excited at the prospect of working with the Engine Room because it opens up completely new avenues for us to improve and amplify the scope of our project. Our hope is that via this partnership, we will be able to demonstrate that citizen engagement in governance is advantageous to everyone.”

– Usman Khaliq, Code for Sierra Leone.

The selection process

And how did we choose these groups?

Finding our new Matchbox partners in the region started towards the end of last year, with a call for applications from organisations who are doing outstanding work to change their worlds, and who needed support to put data and technology to use to reach their goals.

We received 100 applications from all corners of Sub-Saharan Africa and out of the 100, we had longer discussion with a dozen. With so many interesting and high quality applications to choose from, moving forward with only a few partners proved to be challenging.

If you’re interested to learn more about how we select our Matchbox partners, read this post!

Moving forward

Over the next year, we’ll be publishing regular updates on our progress, challenges we may face, and what we’re learning with our partners.

In the meantime: we love hearing about new projects. If you didn’t apply to become a Matchbox partner and you’re seeking help to improve your social change project, schedule a call with The Engine Room team here. Our virtual door is always open!

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