Working with marginalised communities on using data and technology in advocacy

by Maya GaneshDirk Slater and Beatrice Martini.

You are welcome anytime, you’re not like others who come with their own bag of potatoes

It’s with these words that the chair of Women’s Network for Unity (WNU), a sex worker collective based in Phnom Penh, thanked Maya Ganesh and Dirk Slater from Tactical Technology Collective for approaching the work with them with no assumptions or preconceived agenda, but eager to listen and develop their collaboration together.

Mutual trust and respect, real commitment to collaboration and flexibility are all essential elements to be responsibly equipped to work with a marginalised community. And they are not even enough. That’s why, together with Maya and Dirk, we decided to write about the experience as potato-less tech capacity builders, as we think it could greatly help other practitioners planning to collaborate with groups struggling to get their rights honoured and their voices heard.

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Nepal earthquake emergency: why digital humanitarian response matters and how you can help

HOTNepal Earthquake 2015. Overview of tasks and imagery coverage (screenshot taken on April 28, 5pm CEST). Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

The government of Nepal has declared a state of emergency after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country on April 25, killing more than 3,800 people (figure at the time of writing).

Material and logistic assistance is now required to help thousands of people in need, and that’s when humanitarian response comes into play.
Humanitarian response can take different shapes and come from a range of organisations and actors, including governments, the United Nations system, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement, specialists such as search-and-rescue operations – and digital humanitarians.

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Podcasting for change: a curated list

latino-usa Maria Hinojosa interviewing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for Latino USA. Picture by Christopher Soto-Chimelis.

Podcasting can be a powerful tool to reclaim representation of realities and issues and fight for justice and rights.
More about this can be read in my previous post entitled Easier, cheaper, louder: the growing power of podcasting, which explored what podcasting is today and why it matters in our effort to create a more democratic and inclusive media space.
The article featured some podcasts as tangible examples of the core topics the text was focusing on (media democratisation, representation and accessibility). But for brevity’s sake they were just a few – and there’s so much more on air.
For this reason, to answer all readers who asked for more podcast recommendations and to celebrate and share the work of many brilliant podcasters, I compiled a curated list of podcasts I listen to, love, recommend and often refer to.

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Easier, cheaper, louder: the growing power of podcasting

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.18.37 PM
Women of the Radio Listening Clubs in Seke Zimbabwe, by Calvin Dondo (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Having the freedom to talk about our experiences, opinions and struggles is extremely powerful. Our voices and stories are heard and shared. We can create alliances, communities and movements, support and strengthen each other, reclaim and protect our spaces and rights.

Knowing the media we can use to express ourselves independently, with no filters or need for permissions, is key to our freedom of expression, and technology provides tools which are becoming cheaper and easier to access everyday, such as blogs, videos and podcasts.

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The Ethics of Algorithms: notes, emerging questions and resources

Tweets relating to Ferguson after Michael Brown was shot. Map based on mentions of the city and other related key words. Via The Huffington Post.

Algorithms are ruling an ever-growing portion of our lives.
They are adopted by health insurances to assess our chances to get sick, by airlines to make our flights safer, by social media companies to attract our attention to ads, by governments to predict criminal activity.
They can guess with great accuracy a lot of things about us, such as gender, sexual orientation, race, personality type – and can also be applied to influence our political preferences, control what we do, target what we say and, in extreme cases, limit our freedom.

This is not to say that the computational algorithm model should have an evil reputation. Both algorithms and human judgement can be beneficial, malicious, biased – and even wrong. The main difference between them is that over the years (centuries) we developed a pretty good understanding of how human judgement works, while, when it comes to algorithms, we’re just starting to get to know each other.

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How to design a financial transparency strategy with a role-playing game

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 6.59.19 PMFrom Transparency International‘s Financial Jargon Buster: Illicit Financial Flows.

Grateful thanks to Lucy Chambers for the thoughtful feedback provided on this post.

When we talk about financial transparency, numbers and data are understandably what first comes to mind. But are the platforms and portals collecting all that, the real starting point of our work? And how can we make sure that a particular technology which proved successful for a project whose execution we admire, would actually fit the ecosystem we’re working with?

Sounds like our starting point before kicking off any project should actually be much more lo-fi and hands-on: an offline analysis combining our learnings from the most remarkable case studies with a well-tailored and flexible understanding of the context we’re working with.

The interest in exploring a possible answer to this need got Jean Brice Tetka (Transparency International), Jay Bhalla (Open Institute) and me together in a breakout session during the recent Follow The Money workshop.

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On data storytelling – and how to make it responsibly

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPicture from the Responsible Data Storytelling session, by Beatrice Martini (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Thanks to Nasma Ahmed, Renee Black and Sarah Moncelle for collaborating on editing this blogpost.

Stories are a key element of knowledge, and as such fuel evidence and empowerment. They can help communicate problems and challenges we might not have experienced personally, but that are key to be aware of in order to inform our understanding and agency as active members of our societies.

A compelling way to tell stories is through data. Presented as numbers, percentages and visualisations, data can transmit a message directly and sharply, often also helping going beyond misunderstandings caused by language or tone unclarity in our communication.

But are all data good (as in “not harmful”)? Is “the more the merrier” the most helpful way to work with them? Spoiler alert: no, and no.

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