The Evidence Agenda: appealing for rationality in tech for social change

We don't have a culture of evidence-informed action in tech for social change. Instead of being seduced by the lure of the new, we have to start building a body of evidence; professionalizing our action; and focussing on incremental improvement in practice over mindless innovation. Our CEO Laura Walker McDonald charts a way forward.

Responsible Data versus Data Transactions: the coming culture clash

SIMLab's recent consultation on responsible data in practice demonstrated a deep disconnect between two opposing visions of data in social change work: one, rights-based and respectful of the ownership of the people we serve of their own data; and the other, data-centric and focussed on transactional exchanges of development gains in return for data access and monetization.

The SIMLab you didn’t see

Now that SIMLab is closing, I’ve started trying to find a new home. I always have a host of questions when walking into an interview, but there’s always one I save for last. To me, it’s the most important thing to ask.So...tell me about the work culture.

Our evaluation of Groupe URD's open-source Sigmah platform is published

We're pleased to share our evaluation of the Sigmah platform: open-source project management software for humanitarians built by Groupe URD. This evaluation was the first to pilot the Evaluation Criteria we developed for our Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, and the first that we know of to evaluate a software-focussed aid or development project as if it were any other social change project.

SIMLab is closing

I am very sad to announce that SIMLab is closing.

Talking about tools: an early warning system in Kenya

At SIMLab we place a lot of value on the time before a project begins—the design phase, which comes after a context assessment but before project implementation. Project design is the foundation of a project so we devote quite a lot of time and resources to ensure the project is set-up for success. We also ensure each of our projects is thoroughly documented and shared so that others can learn from our findings, failures and fun! Here are some insights about how organizations use, modify and abandon tools illustrated in part through our ICT4COP pilot project in Kenya.

Is this really the first ever independent evaluation of an open-source software? SIMLab begins the Sigmah platform evaluation.

Exciting times at SIMLab: we're delighted to share that we're working with Groupe URD, a humanitarian think tank focussed on evaluation, innovation, training and strategy for the sector, on the first ever evaluation of their open-source project management platform, Sigmah.

Doing good data: starting out by taking stock.

As digital technology becomes part of more and more social change projects, practitioners all over the world become data holders, with the responsibility to manage the information ethically and legally. We need guides and tools to help them do this - but they have to fit with users working practices and constraints. This month SIMLab and the rest of the Good Data Collaborative kick off a new research project to find out what practitioners need, and then hopefully, to try to build it.

Building appointment reminders and client surveys for legal aid.

Last month, we concluded a project with Bay Area Legal Aid, the Bay Area's largest provider of legal support for low-income residents. This project was funded by LSC's Technology Innovation Grant program. Today, we'll share a bit of information about what the project was, how we did it, and how you can replicate it.

Five things your board should be doing (and why we’re grateful for ours)

Truly great boards are few and far between, which is pretty unfortunate, because a board can make or break an organization. After all, nonprofit board members are the legitimate “owners,” responsible for representing community interest in making sure an organization is doing the work it supports. There’s a rule of thumb out there that out of every four board members, one will be an asset and three will be dead weight. Having worked with lots of boards over the last decade, I’d go a step further and say that the “dead weight” directors have the potential to actually harm an organization. In a Stanford survey of 924 nonprofit directors, 69% of organizations had experienced at least one serious governance problem in the last decade.

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