Can Computer Geeks and Community Activists Unite?

To most, computer geeks and democratic activists may seem like an unlikely pair but the National Democratic Institute (NDITech) has turned this odd couple into a dream team.  When you think of a computer geek it reminds most people of a timid individual that handles all of the background technical needs of an organization while democratic activists are the end users, they rely on tech tools to help implement the mission of the organization. NDITech has successfully teamed technology and democratic activists by incorporating the complex technique of computer design into user friendly and accessible advocacy tool that is easily accessible to practitioners in the humanitarian and development sector.

The Democracy Toolkit (DemTools) is a new and exciting tool to help modernize the local knowledge of communities and to provide the communities with a platform that will empower the voice of the local community, particularly women.  DemTools have already helped dozens of organizations including powering six election observations, four data visualization systems and twenty-one civic groups.  DemTools use a variety of technical outputs such as SMS messaging, emailing, and presentational platforms in order to appeal to the widest audience possible, each tool serves to compliment and support to the next, creating a wide-ranging digital resource.  With the launch of DemTools 2.0 they are slatted to do even more through webapps that allow for better documentation, usability and administrative functionality.

DemTools web apps have been developed to address the following issues:

  • ”     Civi- Civil society organizations, elected officials and political parties are most effective when they can communicate with, understand and respond to the needs of their supporters, constituents and voters. Unfortunately, many of these organizations lack the strategic communications and digital tools for effective outreach and mobilization.
  •      DKAN- Raw data, even when publicly shared, is not easily understood, and needs to be turned into data-driven stories to be useful to the public in holding institutions to account or assisting policymakers. The DKAN DemTool, developed by NuCivic, helps tackle these problems. Government organizations, journalists, policymakers or civic groups can create searchable, indexed public repositories of information compatible with open data standards. Data analysts and visual storytellers can then tap that information to create charts, graphs, maps and web pages to wrap raw numbers in powerful visualizations that illuminate meaning and have impact.
  •      Elections- As a data management platform, the Elections DemTool aggregates, manages and analyzes structured data collected through text messaging, smartphone app or phone calls from trained observers across a country. With built-in data analysis, election experts can quickly spot trends and flag potential problems while maintaining direct communication with their network of observers in the field.
  •      FixMyCommunity- FixMyCommunity then tracks the issue’s location and category and sends a report to the department or body responsible for fixing it. The tool doesn’t just send problem reports—FixMyCommunity also makes the reports visible to everyone. Anyone can see past reports, leave updates, or subscribe to alerts.
  • Issues- With the Issues DemTool, citizens have an opportunity to send their questions directly to the people who aspire to lead them. They can also expect to receive direct answers in the form of short video responses designed to be easily shared through the web or social media.
  •      Petitions- Petitions provides an easy-to-use channel for citizen ideas and government responses. Individuals can submit their ideas for critical issues that need to be addressed; their fellow citizens can formally sign the petition to endorse the issues which they support. Once the number of signers crosses a predetermined threshold, the government or managing organization is obligated to either adopt the proposal or provide a substantive response as to why not.”(DemTools)

Digital Inclusioed and utilized by the wider humanitarian and development communities, they have the potential to increase the impact and engagement of communities in becoming more active agents of change.

Kindly find below the links to other similar programs:

Imate Rijec-

Transition Monitoring Group-

Spatial Collective-

The Hunger Project Methodology White Paper

On May 26, 2016 The Hunger Project released a White Paper designed to provide policy makers with a clear, concise understanding as to how the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be achieved in rural areas via gender-focused, community-led development. (Click here to download)

The paper draws on the organization’s 30 years experience across Africa, Asia and Latin America in pioneering systematic, holistic methodologies to empower women and men to take charge of their own development. The paper has adopted the shared language of the Movement for Community-led Development, in hopes of contributing to broader policy dialogue rather than promoting the work of any one organization.

Its author, The Hunger Project’s executive Vice President John Coonrod, commented that “many organizations deeply believe in this kind of approach, but we have all used ‘in-house’ language to describe it. This has prevented policy makers from seeing these approaches as a disciplined science and has made collective advocacy almost impossible.”

Spark Microgrants Webinar

Here is the recording of our movement’s first webinar. Chloe Tomlinson and Katy Lindquist present Spark Microgrants approach to community-led development, active in Uganda and Rwanda. The presentation itself is about 25 minutes followed by 25 minutes of Q&A. Highly recommended!


A How-To on Policy Advocacy

Advocacy is not a thing to be feared. This online training tool will equip and prepare you to confidently advocate for community-led development. Whether you are a total novice, much like I was before completing the course, or have some experience in your back pocket, PATH’s training lays down a step-by-step process that can be helpful at any level of advocacy work. On-boarding and syncing to a framework such as this can help streamline partnerships and coalitions who at one time all used different processes and terms but now can communicate easily and seamlessly.

Their ten part framework will help users strategize about the best way to affect policy change by implementing PATH’s own approach to policy advocacy that focuses on informing policy making, fostering coalitions, and strengthening advocacy capacity. Composed of a pre-test, introduction, ten modules, and a post-test this training promises to help those who complete it be able to:

  • Identify the critical components of policy advocacy strategy
  • Identify policy changes to address health challenges
  • Identify tactics for influencing decision makers

As a complete novice in policy advocacy I found PATH’s step-by-step approach very helpful to get a basic understanding about the most effective way to create policy change. The program is interactive and easy to understand. The training uses a case report influenced by real events to walk you through the ten step process. Each module use examples from this case report in every step from defining your advocacy goals to brainstorming effective advocacy activities and tactics. There are interactive sessions that allow you to deeply engage with the material.  

PATH was born from the ‘belief of health equity and the power of innovation to improve health and save lives’. For more than forty years they have pioneered progress in vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, devices, and system and service innovations. Their online learning platform G3 hosts a training for ‘Policy Advocacy for Health: a course on policy advocacy strategy development’. This training is a brief, yet thorough, introduction to policy advocacy. The program focuses specifically on advocacy for health policy, but the framework provided can easily be applied to other areas of focus as well. PATH’s training provides a common language and steps for advocates to follow to achieve their policy goals.This is a great tool for complete beginners and would be a useful part of any intern orientation for policy advocacy organizations. A quick, straightforward training such as this will be useful to get teams on the same page and help broader groups speak the same language.