Engaging responsibly with tech folk

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Facilitator: Heather Note Taker: Dhairya

Engaging Technologist in a Responsible Way

Ex Occupy Wallstreet, wide range of literacy, access to technology and experiences that was challenging. Lesson learned was to be less choosy about technology and more attuned immediate needs

Ex: Learning from Manufacturing world.

  • Asking for requirements upfront is not helpful. You can learn a lot through observing work on the floor
  • As a technologist, you need to see the world through their eyes to learn about how to design the right solution.

Local Hackathon

  • Having local government to explain their challenges and work to the technologist was very valuable

Learning from family

  • Often times there are many low bandwith options but not publicly known.

Often times technology don't take into consideration people's dignity and pride.

Technology makers shouldn't have the glory. Often technologist like the novelty of their solution that makes them look good.

Often technology needs are not sexy and flashy. There needs to be humility to do the work that needs to be done at the local level.

The challenges on the ground can be complex. For example, a queer activist that is vulnerable during a crisis.

Functionality over software.

Technologists should not be the person dictating requirements re: agile development principles of a product owner. Functionally this rarely happens.

Multiple product owners: everyone has their own needs and defines similar things separately

The danger of over generalization in software: how is software developed and how does it account for ppl's working styles and learning styles.


Resource-sharing software - how to develop open source solutions that are specific enough that you have most of what you need and there are instructions enough to do the rest.

2 frames of reference: what already exists v. _______. Software design that is meant to make it easy to customize (microservices: you build a particular service that does one thing well + an API)

How to Onboard Technologists Into Humanitarian Work

how to slow down and work on a discovery phase: dive into a community long enough to answer big qs (what is technology to these people, how to create something useful to the community) - how do I remove my knowledge, ego, and assumptions from the equation. Embed, learn, observe.

help me understand how to help you.

who do you want to onboard? Ppl with technical skills and knowledge who don't know how to go about the helping: the experience of going somewhere and exploring what it is that people know and already do well.

how does it scale?

context and value is not always judged by scale

what skills are important? what roles need to be filled? clear ask, clear role, definable work.

no doctors w/o borders for technologists.

can we build technologies that simulate the onboarding process?

can we put people into contexts that are more easily defined?

let's support communities in their every day problems. sometimes we may have to set aside technological preferences to serve the needs of the people.

Onboarding Digital Volunteers

How do we onboard new individuals and orgs? What's the ladder, what's the pipeline?

  • don't take motivation for granted
  • progression learning for volunteers is important. can we move from "slot in to slot out" into meaningful engagement
  • task manager piece of the puzzle is still missing
  • not everyone will be able to volunteer. maybe don't have the skills, willingness to tackle necessary tasks, empowerment. sometimes small tasks only work with people who are already engaged and embedded into the organization/project.
  • some of the outreach sessions are about filtering people out
  • is it worth our time to plug in volunteers?
  • "we are all sanitation" people should do the dirty work before they can do the sexy work
  • let's talk about security and risk alongside building trust
  • volunteers can create more problems than solutions, wastes money and employee/mentor time

know task, know person, know growth

community values, community need

be mindful of the power dynamics and when volunteer becomes employment

personal engagement to create good need, build items

good coordination, strong facilitation

focus on learning journey, comfort and trust

how to incorporate with large groups.

navigator, coordinators needed

how to create more leaders to help people tap into existing leaders- too hard to digitize that 'hi how are you, what are you interested in, what are the needs'

social experience provides more value space for people

triage, but can't replace human review

tools can't replace, is it duplication

lists around what is needed

where to volunteer

There is a small group of volunteers that are trusted and the go to resource. Trusted leader coordinator model

Digital humanitarian network provides coordination support

Challenge of creating and distributing leaders

Tech community focus on usual suspects. Need to focus on unusual suspects like onboarding first responders

Challenges of Digital volunteering

Occupy Wallstreet, strive to have 50% of time training folks to replace ourselves. Volunteer burnout is real

  • Build support systems while we are engaged.
  • Solve the singular point of failure
  • Knowledge Transfer is key to onboarding digital volunteers

what do we need, tasks, skills,

insert heather's chart