A colleague in the data and human rights world asked friends and followers what international leaders need to hear right now about the state of human rights around the globe.

I told him that if I could draw on my own experience to ask an international body to do one thing, it would be to confront and address the global delinquency in data governance.

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.

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I help mission-driven organizations and foundations align vision, digital strategy, communications and day-to-day work. See recent work ...

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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

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