What is circuit riding

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What is circuit riding and why should you care?

  • TLDR: Model for doing tech capacity building for organizations
  • What do you think of
    • Finding the right tools for your mission
    • If you don’t have the “right” people, turning the people you have into the right people
    • How will tech further the mission
      • Not necessarily the biggest, shiniest tools
      • What is most appropriate for your needs
  • What are good elements/practices/methods for good tech capacity building?
    • Free/low cost
    • Will the people/tech do the things the org needs
    • Do we have an implementation plan?
    • Articulated, shared, strategic goals
    • Evaluation models, using data in retrospective processes
    • Can they pass skills on?
    • How sustainable is it?
    • Transparency & communication practices – on how we get stuff done
  • Capacity – power to do or understand something
    • Tech capacity building – work done to help an org achieve its mission and understand how tech can or can’t further that mission
  • Circuit riding experience
    • Quest – how can low income communities build power for themselves
    • Accidental techie
    • Job description – traveling, training technology use to use welfare better
    • Get organizing groups online for better communication, countering silos
  • Model: 19th century ministers traveling on a circuit, traveling judges
    • 90s nonprofits – resistant to technology, not well resourced
    • Requirement was to be a problem solver, not necessarily having the tech skills in advance
  • Problem: reinforcing existing power dynamics
    • Personal background – used to connect with the communities
  • Building an email list – but not a priority for the users
    • Wanted better ways to connect with and build members – databases
  • One of many circuit riders – different riders working on different issues
    • Learning strategies from different circuit riders
    • Circuit rider roundup
  • Does anything like circuit riders exist now?
    • 1998 was an early circuit rider roundup – 30 people there
    • Grew exponentially for a while
    • Circuit rider term didn’t resonate as well internationally – change name to eRiding
    • Riding – a shared resource, helping people achieve their missions, connector, developing a network
    • Similar but not called circuit riding? Engine Room, School of Data
    • Building networks to help specialize
  • How did the community groups access your services? Get integrated into the circuit rider model
    • Circuit rider org got to choose/identify community groups
    • Looking for building coalitions, potential impact
    • Who is open to working with you?
    • Initial work helped build reputation, open doors
    • Built networks that are still strong now, years later
    • Where could this model be applied now?
    • By issue area?
    • By existing networks?
  • What happened with circuit riders?
    • Funders wanted work to be self funding
    • Direction to fees for service, but not a good fit for the mission
    • Sliding scale
    • eRiders set up with funding models in mind, set up as social enterprises
      • Commercial work to fund the nonprofit work
    • Range of capabilities and resources
  • How similar were the organizations you were working with?
    • Common thread – everyone wanted a database, but specific needs may vary
    • Coalitions had more communication needs
    • Some mapping needs – especially for pressuring elected officials
    • Approach each group uniquely, doing assessments, unique path forward
    • Organizations want to be unique
    • Peer to peer facilitation – sharing information about how they tacked tech problems
  • Important not to other marginalized communities
    • Let the community be the guide to building relationships, sharing their needs
    • Some cases, need to acknowledge that you don’t have the same experience/don’t know their context, but still want to support them
    • You own your knowledge, how can I help you unlock that power
    • Honoring the differences