Civic Tech and NGOs: How collaboration can drive Transparency and Accountability around the world

re:publica 2015
Politics & Society

Short thesis: 

In the last decade the development and take up of digital technologies has driven an unprecedented change in civic activism and civic spaces. Established NGOs have often been slow to understand and engage with these shifting dynamics and the new culture of sharing and reusing technology. Many traditional NGOs have incredible experience in working in challenging environments - there is now a huge opportunity for these change makers to work more closely with digital tool makers and activists to empower citizens in the areas of transparency and accountability. This session is intended as an open discussion between the traditional NGO environment and the tech activism scene. Informed by both side’s Tech for Transparency and Accountability work, the session is bringing together a range of inputs from activists, technologists, practitioners and academics. The objective is to help define the steps that need to be taken in order to enable the civic tech scene and traditional NGOs to work more closely together - to use their combined skills to bring about more significant, sustainable change.


The pervasion of information and communication technologies has been increasing over the last decade. At the same time we have seen people increasingly rise up around the world, claiming agency over their own situations in shaping or challenging political systems they live in.

Now more than ever organisations all over the world are holding governments to account, challenging corruption, and demanding the right to transparency, and they are using digital technologies to do so.

Why should every civic organisation have to write their software from scratch? If you wanted to start a blog, you would never thinking of writing new software to do it - you would use Tumblr or Wordpress.

- This is the question the newly born Poplus Movement is putting out there.

With increasingly globally networked activism, new networks are emerging - those of hackers and tech activists, crafting tools that enable citizens to make their voices heard, reveal injustice on a new scale and challenge their duty bearers.

Such rapidly shifting dynamics should have clear implications for more conventional NGOs in the field of governance and citizenship. However, in many contexts, NGOs keep building their own tools rather than engaging with those new civic networks to explore ways of moving closer together.

For example, Oxfam’s representation in more than 90 countries, mainly working through their vast network of local partner organisations bears immense diversity where technologies can play a facilitating role in enabling change mechanisms. However, such more traditional NGOs also need to recognize the role new technologies play in the realms of shifting civil society and civic agency. At the same time, accessibility and availability of internet based tech space remains scarce in many parts of the world. Therefore, Oxfam and mySociety started exploring the potentials to engage with each others and to create allies to directly link their local partners with those frontrunners of civic driven networks.

This workshop invites representatives from the entire spectrum to explore what is needed to move the civic tech scene and the more traditional NGO scene closer together and take a consequent path towards increased sharing and reusing of code and existing tools. How can this look like and how can we hook up local partners with the globally growing civic tech scene?

Such questions will be discussed during re:publica with a diverse group of people from all strands of the play. We aim to co-create a collaboration roadmap, collect a series of case studies and potentially gather a committed group to forge the conditions to move forward.

Let us know if you will join:

Ignite Talk

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 18:30 to 19:30


Strategist, Campaigner & Researcher
Tech4TA Lead Oxfam
Project Manager