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Know their context

Learning about a different context, and how this should be incorporated into your own strategy, shouldn’t be an extractive exercise. Donors tend not to be embedded within the communities they hope to benefit, limiting the ability to understand appropriate and effective responses. When partners are embedded in these communities, they should obviously help drive the understanding of how to innovate for those communities. As with a company, a shared vision is always a more effective vision. The local innovating organisations themselves are the ones best placed to effectively describe their own needs.

Be the change you want to see

Seeing the recent ambitions of many funders to promote collaborative projects has been promising, though it obviously also comes with scale benefits for funders. Yet requiring collaboration should also be encouraged alongside not just shared funds, but also an emphasis on designing and incorporating both donor-organisation and organisation-organisation processes that can act as mechanisms for collaboration.

This has an additional aspect: technology itself should also be creatively incorporated to minimise administrative burdens and enhance communication between stakeholders in a project. This must obviously be implemented within a context which appreciates digital inequalities.

Don’t be afraid of experiments

Donor funds often present clear barriers to civic tech innovation, for example:
  1. “…innovation remains under-resourced, and models that are providing clear results are not properly supported;
  2. pathways to scale remain limited because of the total funding available; and
  3. the risk appetite of donors remains too conservative to properly support and scale innovation”

Help build capacity

Investment needs to be made into an organisation, rather than a project if you wish to contribute to a strategic vision. Fostering organisational development means supporting these costs, ideally through unallocated funds. However, it also means helping to address skills gaps within organisations that prevent them from effectively delivering, and also may prevent effectively practising for sustainability – similarly to how Incubators and Accelerators also provide support for improving a startup’s business and organisational development.

Donors with access to various human resources can help provide these forms of support while civic technology organisations scale up.

This capacity can also be developed through the provision of your own skills by actively sharing and participating in existing communities of practice on African civic tech funding, like CTINs.