The Dd team has been quiet lately, but we’ve been anything but idle. This year we have completed a three-year program, launched new initiatives - and oh yeah, hosted Haiti’s first hackathon! It’s been a period of challenges, new learning and very rewarding work expanding our reach to more marginalized communities.
New Site & New Staff
You may have noticed the new look of the Dd website. Both the design and the underlying philosophy are thanks to Gregor MacLennan, who joined our team as Program Director in February. Gregor comes to Dd with more than a decade of experience bringing new tools and technical training to marginalized communities in the Amazon. In addition to connections to indigenous groups and environmental activists in Latin America, Gregor brings to Dd a UK Passport (& Scottish Accent), West Coast presence (his home is now San Francisco) and equal parts passion for hardware hacking, redesigning websites in his sleep and traveling multiple days by boat to work directly with local communities. Get to know Gregor by checking out his 2011 Do Lecture talk, and show him some love by reading & responding to his blog post on the new Dd website.
Secondly, a warm welcome to Shahla Fatemi, who joined our team in May as a part-time Development & Communications Associate. In addition to infectious enthusiasm and passion for human rights (including prior work with Amnesty International and Falling Whistles) Shahla is a designer and jewelry maker. Her excitement about Dd’s work and enjoyment of grant writing make her a great addition to the team. Read Shahla’s blog post a weekend workshop Digital Democracy participated in with Design Gym this summer, focused on design thinking & strategic planning.
Finally, we want to extend our deep gratitude to Liz Hodes and Biz Ghormley. Although they transitioned out of day-to-day operations this spring & winter (respectively), their irreplacable spirits live on in the organization, and we’re glad to still call on them as friends and advisors to Dd.
In February, we ended a three-year program focused on leveraging technology to address gender-based violence in Haiti. We ended the program with a bang, hosting an inspiring & fast paced-hackathin in Port-au-Prince that has now been replicated by local tech students. By the end of the month, we fully transitioned the technical and managerial tasks to the hands of our partner, Haitian women’s organization KOFAVIV. This fall we’re releasing our report on our work in Haiti, alongside recommendations for incorporating technology into international development & human rights programs. We’re excited to use the report as a tool to inspire others to take a holistic approach to integrating technology into community development programs. Today, we’ll also be reporting back on our Haiti program at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting - check out the livestream on the morning plenary “Women Decision-Makers in the Global Economy.”
Even as our work in Haiti has been winding down, our work addressing environmental issues with indigenous communities is ramping up. Our main focus this year has been piloting a new initative thanks to support from the Knight News Challenge. Our project, Remote Access, is a mobile toolkit to empower groups in remote areas to share critical human rights and environmental information. We’re piloting Remote Access with indigenous groups who are taking on oil contamination in the northern Peruvian Amazon. We’ll be writing more about it soon; in the meantime, take this photographic journey to meet our partners and see the oil contamination for yourself.
In addition to tool building for Remote Access, we are continuing to support grassroots community mapping, primarily in Peru, Guyana & Chiapas, Mexico. At the request of our Peruvian partners we are also looking to do trainings specifically for indigenous women to do monitoring in their communities, and we just announced a new initiative to build a remote sensing application to help local groups better monitor for illegal logging and mining in Guyana, thanks to a Google Earth Outreach Developer Grant. We’re also partnering with more established groups in the human rights space in order to amplify our impact much further than we could do alone.
As we move forward with our programs this fall, you can expect to see more frequent updates, including from Gregor about the tech details. We’re still figuring out essential infrastructure questions - like how to keep operations going when we’re doing so much programming in the outer world. But we’re approaching these questions with an open mind, and we’re having refreshingly honest conversations with fellow NGOs in the tech for civic good space. We know some pretty amazing things can be accomplished through partnership, and we’re excited to apply that to our structure and backend needs just like we’ve helped create innovative systems that last for our partners around the globe.