Six ways to practice inclusive capacity building in digital development
Digital exclusion and the gender digital divide are two challenges facing underrepresented groups in the digital ecosystem. Intentionally designed capacity building practices can support inclusion and belonging.
Organizations and communities rely on capacity building to strengthen their mission, achieve sustainability and thrive in a rapidly changing world. In May 2022, DIAL launched a research project to turn its Catalog of Digital Solutions into a marketplace platform that connects buyers demanding digital solutions (i.e. digital products or services) with suppliers of digital solutions. As part of our research agenda, we explored how the Catalog can support the capacity-building needs of digital public goods (DPGs) in the development ecosystem.
Through individual interviews, focus groups, and surveys, we recognized that digital exclusion and gender digital divide were challenges facing underrepresented groups in the digital ecosystem. DIAL identified the lack of capacity-building opportunities as a key contributor to these problems, and a major challenge to solve in order to address the inclusion problem. Using the assessment of the feedback provided by respondents, we found six capacity-building practices that stakeholders can adopt to support inclusion and belonging in the digital ecosystem on both individual and organizational levels.
We identified three of these practices on the individual level, and they are:
- Sharing impact stories: Storytelling is an important medium and tool that allows for the communication of narratives that evoke emotions and insights. Respondents were interested in organizations that can support underrepresented groups by publishing impact stories highlighting people from underrepresented communities and the significance of their projects. Ethical storytelling can be a powerful framework that addresses invisibility, critiques systems of power and agency, and allows for the digital ecosystem to understand ways technology can challenge social inequalities or be used to scale social impact.
- Training and tutorials: Training and development initiatives are important not only within organizations but also for the people that they serve. Respondents suggested that organizations can provide training sessions, particularly for tech innovators and product owners of digital solutions on how to design with the user in mind. Additionally, periodic tutorials that provide installation guidance and how to configure, deploy and use the open-source tools in the Catalog are necessary. For more information, follow this link to find tutorials in the Catalog.
- Mentorship: Providing a mentorship program that allows for building skills, knowledge, and understanding of digital public goods is important. Participants suggested that organizations focused on the development of DPGs can provide mentorship to product owners and organizations particularly in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) on how to improve their business models or design services to meet the needs of their communities.
We also identified three organizational strategies that involve procedural restructuring, policies, and regulations.
- Accessibility, usability, and inclusion: Respondents pointed out that organizations can practice inclusion by offering language or localization support for LMICs on their platforms. Continually reviewing the platform to ensure accessibility options for older people, and people with disabilities is necessary. In addition, we also found that some respondents struggled to navigate specific digital platforms due to the usage of internal languages or terms that made it difficult to find resources. To resolve this issue, respondents suggested having clear or standard definitions and distinctions for terms such as use cases, case studies, playbooks, and workflows. Additionally, search filters by geography are important for tracing the origins and deployment of DPGs, as are search filters by gender and case studies for marginalized communities.
- Highlighting use cases: Use cases provide stakeholders in the digital ecosystem with step-by-step guidelines on deploying the platform’s products to accomplish their business objectives. Underrepresented communities can benefit from organizations like DIAL by accessing use cases, and case studies that demonstrate how inclusion has been achieved in different geographies and by providing playbooks about inclusion projects.
- Funding: Many local NGOs, and startups, especially in LMICs, struggle with competing for government grants and major investments that limit their growth and sustainability. Several respondents suggested integrating a feature on our platform that provides a database of relevant funding opportunities and events to stakeholders in the digital ecosystem.
As part of our capacity-building practices, DIAL is continuously analyzing its policies related to diversity, equity, inclusion, sustainability, and social change (DEISSC) to ensure they are inclusive, non-discriminatory, and promote equal opportunities.
During the timeframe of consolidating these responses, the Catalog team has incorporated some of the feedback, and it now maintains an open-door policy that enables users of the Catalog to drop in during our Friday biweekly office hours.
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As the platform continues to grow and expand, we want to hear from you. How have you found the Catalog useful? We invite you to share your story or provide feedback, suggestions, or ask us questions. Get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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