How to Be an Activist Tech Capacity Builder

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  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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."