Storytelling for advocacy is a challenge, especially in transparency work, where the characters are often lawyers—or laws—and not mythical heroes. As advocates who want to make a point to make a change, we need vivid imagery to deliver our message, especially because the changes we seek can be hard to explain.

We seek compelling stories the same way those heroes seek magic hammers and hidden temples. We’re on a quest for stories that can remake the world. But—spoiler alert—the quest often ends in disappointment.

When you’re an NGO technologist, you discover that every exciting technology plan comes with ‘small print’: caveats and contingencies that stand between your best case scenario and reality. A promising civictech tool runs up against scepticism that hobbles its impact, for example, or a new trove of government data gets released to find only a trickle of usage.

But to learn why tech succeeds or falls short in the governance context requires time and resources that NGOs don’t usually have. It takes research and reflection to understand that small print and delve into whether digital tools can foster better governance and greater participation—and, if so, under what conditions.

It's worth re-reading the Emma Lazarus poem "The New Colossus" that was set at the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1903 (and which was moved indoors since 1986). Here are a few things I noticed:

  • Lazarus names Lady Liberty "Mother of Exiles." It makes one comparison unavoidable.
  • She rejects the "storied pomp" of "ancient" Europe and antiquity for the humbleness of the New World. #NeverPomp
  • "From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome." Nice one.
View Blog
I help mission-driven organizations and foundations align vision, digital strategy, communications and day-to-day work. See recent work ...

Work

Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Promoting evidence-based decisions to upgrade criminal justice in the U.S.

The World Bank      

Visualizing how money moves from companies and aid groups to governments and citizens

Open Contracting Partnership

Defining strategy for a new organization at the forefront of the global fight on corruption

View All Work

Close