How to Be an Activist Tech Capacity Builder

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Questions

  • What clients to take on
  • Inclusion in ICT
  • How to message our work (communicate why it's important)
  • Are activists alienating
  • Tech / activism intersection: when do/don't they mesh?
  • Opportunities to prevent activists from doing really stupid things vis a vis tech... but to support activists beyond that.

Discussion

  • Eliot's structures... creative commons communications...
  • X and Y axis... values + movements we support.
  • Roles: broadcast, engage, amplify.
  • Make sure your tech reflects your values.

Starting

  • Step 1? Equipping people with tech, so they can wield it themselves, while being aware of who you are (privilege, perception, etc) in coming with the tech.
  • “Never say I am an expert: I am going to leave. Build capacity. Not being in control, but being an advisor and coach to help them. Help movements to do things themselves. The less you do as a technologist the better.
    • But don't push tech down the throats of activists who don't care about diving in that deeply. That's its own problem.
  • But when activists are really doing something wrong technology-wise? How to achieve a balance of explaining and gently pushing them in a better direction.
  • Being purist vs pragmatic. (About values.)
  • Use the language of the values of the organization in discussing tech.
  • How can we stop ourselves from making the mistake of being too tech-centric … and because we are seen as the tech experts in helping a certain group, we occupy a privileged position in advising or recommending tools for doing a certain thing?
  • Activist groups often have a long history of their own work, and they are experts at other things... how to fit into that. Meet people where they are?
  • Like any good client service? You should go in and learn everything you can about them first. Understand them.
  • Use basic tools that meet the direct needs in simple ways. Appropriate tech. Lowest common denominator tool. And don't have preconceptions about tools... a proprietary solution could be someone's favorite and that's OK.
  • How to know your help is appropriate and make sense when we don't live the issues of the movements we want to support... Be careful about escalating to tools that require more than basic knowledge: meeting the needs of the organization.
  • Have an holistic approach to the overall needs of the organization.
  • Ideological software preferences vs ease of use.
  • Take the opportunity to tie the technology conversation back to the movement's values and mission. You can mention available tech options (foss vs proprietary) because they might discover something they'd like to adopt. BUT don't force it.

Last comment: "I have had a lot of common experiences, and I share your pain."

Highlights / Reflections

  • Never say I'm an expert – I'm going to learn and help others to build capacity
  • Not being in control, but being advisor and coach to help the individuals/groups you work with not to take harmful decisions
  • You don't do something for the people you work to support – you help them to do things by themselves.
  • The less you do as a technologist, the better.
  • Ask the people you work for what they want to achieve, do, learn, but don't make them do something for the sake of “empowerment”.
  • Inception (dictionary: “an act, process, or instance of beginning”): creating the context and space for people to take a (good) decision.
  • Tech-wise: meet people where they are.
  • Don't have pre-conceptions about tools: a proprietary solution could be someone's favorite (even if not your favorite) – and that's ok.
  • How to know if our help is appropriate/ makes sense when we don't live the issues of the movements we want to support?
  • People might say they are “not very knowledgeable in technology” – but they're the most knowledgeable about themselves.
  • Be careful at escalating to tools that require more-than-basic knowledge – if people will not adopt them due to their complexity, that doesn't help anyone. Ultimately, people (not tools) are the only ones who will do the actual work.
  • Have an holistic approach.
  • You can mention available tech options (FOSS vy proprietary) because they might discover something they'd like to adopt – but shouldn't enforce it.
  • Take the opportunity to tie the technology conversation back to the movement's values and mission.