Over the past two months, I’ve been working phones, airports and train stations trying to talk to as many people as possible about the Indaba fieldwork platform. I wanted to get their sense of how it might be useful to them, and where we can go next. Allen Gunn at Aspiration was my sidekick for most of it, and in the end, we talked to (and are grateful to) a lot of people. Most of these are in the good governance and transparency space, and it was a pleasure learning from all of them.
Last week, we invited some of these folks over to the Global Integrity office for a meeting that that merged elements of group therapy and a hackathon. We had some fun, talked to each other, built bridges between organizations doing similar work. We also got some work done on Indaba: a lot of discussion of NGO workflows, complete with some gorgeously elaborate wire diagrams drawn by our participants.
The groups invited weren’t a random sample of the transparency and good governance community. These were people running projects that involve hundreds of people working in dozens of different cities with a tiny core staff — what I’m calling a distributed NGO. At these orgs, we see ratios of 50+ independent contributors for each full time staffer. So they were perfect Indaba test candidates because they are already pushing the boundaries of what’s technically possible for NGO managers.
For now, these distributed NGO projects are pretty rare. Perhaps Indaba can change that.
Thanks again to our participants:
- Samah Elsayed, World Resources Institute
- Hazel Feigenblatt, Global Integrity
- Allen Gunn, Aspiration
- Sheri Hansen, Hewlett Foundation
- Courtney Heck, Results for Development
- Nathaniel Heller, Global Integrity
- Raymond June, Global Integrity
- Monika Kerdeman, The Access Initiative
- Norah Mallaney, Global Integrity
- Harika Masud, Open Budget Partnership
- Jed Miller, Revenue Watch Institute
- Juan Carlos Quiroz, Revenue Watch Institute
- Lisa Smith, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
- Courtney Tolmie, Results for Development
Beyond the important work of community building, our goal is also to test the Indaba workflow designer. We want to see how organizations function when they are pulling content in from hundreds of authors in dozens of countries. What kind of review happens and when? Who manages data reliability and how? When do editors and proofreaders get involved? Who else has to see it before it’s ready to publish?
Indaba is more than a shared content library — it takes the answers to the questions above and builds an automated workflow to help managers move content along the process. It’s this workflow assistance that is key to running big projects at large scale. But before we can do that, users have to be able to explain their workflows – make the invisible visible. We didn’t frame it this way at the event, but a big part of Indaba Camp was to start building the self-awareness needed to define a workflow in advance, instead of just making it up as we go.
You can see the results of our workflow brainstorming below.
Want to play along? Pick a data-gathering project you work on, and draw each step it takes from start to publishing. Each person it touches gets a new box. Bonus points if you take a picture of it and email it to me afterwards ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). And if you’re running a distributed NGO project, I’d very much like to hear from you.
– Jonathan Eyler-Werve
Indaba Camp photos
(CC-by Indaba platform team)