What does it take to fund + build a more equitable tech and human rights ecosystem?

Madeleine Maxwell

It will come as no surprise to many activists, organisations and grantmakers that there are large asymmetries of power in our community. Current funding models are seen to further entrench this imbalance, but we believe it doesn’t have to be this way. We’ve witnessed a great deal of willingness and interest on all sides to come up with better options. 

Together with Open Society Foundations (OSF), we’re embarking on a new research project to find ways of making the technology and data for human rights ecosystem more sustainable, resilient and equitable.

In this new research project, we will be exploring the challenges and barriers to funding faced by actors within the tech/data for human rights space. In parallel, we’ll also be looking for examples of innovative and equitable funding practices that could help to mitigate these challenges, as well as strategies and ways of implementing these mechanisms across this ecosystem.

Read the series:

Shifting power and funding for resilience: Thoughts on how we can achieve a more equitable tech and human rights ecosystem.
Available in English & Spanish.

Working on tech and human rights during a pandemic: what challenges are organisations facing?
Available in English & Spanish.

On power and inequity: reflections on funding and decision making for tech and human rights
Available in English.

Tipping the scales: what it takes to fund an equitable tech and human rights ecosystem.
Research report available in English & Spanish.
Research summary available in English & Spanish.

Equity as practice in research: notes on our methodology for Tipping the scales
Available in English & Spanish.

What does an equitable ecosystem look like? 

We believe that an equitable and sustainable ecosystem is one with a diversity of actors, where those whose experiences have traditionally been marginalised or ignored are brought to the forefront. We will echo this in our approach to research, prioritising the perspectives of organisations and individuals who are currently underserved by existing systems of support. We will aim for our research to be non-extractive, in order to respectfully mobilise and make the most of the knowledge and learning of those who have struggled to receive funding in the past.

We’re committed to ensuring the learning and outputs from this work are useful for a diverse range of actors across this community. We’ll be sharing insights as we go and will also look for opportunities to connect organisations and individuals who can support each other (as a way of bringing value to participants and observers on an ongoing basis). 

We’re excited to be working on these important questions and see the potential for a lot of impact within our own community and our partner organisations. We want to get outside of our own networks during this research, so please share this post if you know people who have stories, learning or questions to share. 

Got thoughts to share? Get involved

If you work in this area and you or your organisation has struggled to find funding, please get in touch. We would love to hear your story, listen to your ideas around how these systems of support could be improved and work together to address barriers that exist. 

If you are a grantmaker thinking about these questions – how to mitigate your own biases, what structural approaches there might be, or things you’ve tried in the past – we would love to learn about how you are (planning on) addressing some of these challenges and what some of the key considerations are. Drop us an email at madeleine@theengineroom.org!

Thanks for reading, and watch this space! We’ll be sharing some early insights in the next couple of months.

Photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes 


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