Chapter 1

Why You Should Use ‘Fundamentals’

This ‘Fundamentals’ guide is designed to help organisations who want to use technology to improve the impact of their transparency and accountability work. It will assist you to develop overall strategies for using technology, and then to plan, implement and evaluate specific technology projects.

‘Fundamentals’ will also be useful to funders and intermediaries who are interested in supporting transparency and accountability projects, both through the stages outlined above, and the ‘Checklist for Funders of Tech Projects.’

This guide was born of hard experience implementing technology projects. We have learned that for any technology to have maximum impact and be cost-effective, it is necessary:

  • to have a clear idea of exactly why you are implementing a technology project: will it contribute to your overall organisational goals? Do you know for certain that your intended audiences will actually use your proposed technology project and/or contribute to it? Is the project the best way to achieve your organisation’s tactical and strategic aims?
  • to make sure that you have the internal capacity to manage the project, along with the ability to identify the right external expertise to carry out defined tasks.
  • to build in early, frequent and regular evaluation of whether the development and implementation of your technology project is progressing as it should, and to make any needed changes as you go.
  • You want to avoid investing blood, sweat and tears in a costly plan and ending up with something that just doesn’t work. It’s better to build in the capacity and flexibility to make any necessary changes early on, and get the results that you really want!

You want to avoid investing blood, sweat and tears in a costly plan and ending up with something that just doesn’t work. It’s better to build in the capacity and flexibility to make any necessary changes early on, and get the results that you really want!

To assure that you understand the ‘Fundamentals’, we’ve split the guide into the following sections:

  • Are You Ready to Start a Tech Project?
    • This section will help you assess your readiness. Does your organisation have the requisite project management skills and expertise, and the capacity to handle and react to unforeseen challenges as they arise? Do you understand exactly how your technology project will help you reach your overall strategic goals?
  • What we’ve learned from Impact Case Studies: The Importance of Strategy
    • Here, we summarise the findings of our research into the impact of technology projects on transparency and accountability work. Technology interventions that produce quick and dramatic increases in accountability are rare. However, gradual and evolutionary tech projects, based on strategies that take into account socio-political contexts, are more likely to be successful.
  • The Tech Strategy
    • This section shows you how to ensure that your technology project will contribute to achieving your organisational goals. It will help you first to articulate your long-term vision of organisational success and plan a roadmap to get you there, and then to develop a tech vision and tech strategy to support your organisational vision and road map. These are the fundamental foundations for any tech project.
  • Tech Project Planning and Management
    • In this section, we take a look at the nuts and bolts of integrating technology into your transparency and accountability work. We walk through the steps: assessing your current technology use, identifying your users, developing a project plan and creating a budget. We also look at key questions to ask in order to identify appropriate technologies for your work, and how to hire and work with a technology consultant/developer.
  • Checklist for Funders of Tech Projects
    • This list helps funders assess whether grant applicants are being realistic about the effort it will take to implement their technology projects, and the potential impact of the projects. It also spells out best practice for funding, including flexibility, providing good feedback, building in support for on-going learning and evaluation, connecting grantees to other grantees doing simiar work and promoting the use of free and open source software and open data.
  • Integrating Evaluation and Learning
    • This explains how to set up a ‘light-touch’ framework for creating feedback loops during the implementation of your tech project, which will help you learn and become more effective as the project progresses. It covers determining your starting point or baseline and choosing ways to measure your tech project’s impact.

And, finally, we’ve provided appendices that we think are essential additions that will help you think about what you’re doing with technology.