Technology Salon

Washington DC

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a discussion at the intersection of technology and development

How to Use Your International ICT4D Skills in US Elections

ict4d domestic elections

This is shaping up to be a pivotal year in US politics. We are all experts in behavior change, change management, governance, accountability, civil society, and a host of other skills and activities that can strengthen democratic processes and bring change here at home.

In our recent Technology Salon on How to Use Your International Skills in US Elections?, we explored how to use our expertise in the ICT4D field domestically. We were joined by thought leaders whose work has spanned across the domestic and international fields, including:

  • Andrea Miller, Founder at People Demanding Action
  • Katherine Gage, Founding Partner at The Movement Cooperative
  • Lauren Kunis, Program Director at National Voter Registration Day
  • Rose Jackson, National Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project

Where Can the ICT4D Field Help?

There is real appetite from the ICT4D community to contribute to the domestic space, yet many of us don’t know where to start. As reflected in our discussion, a true mechanism or framework for the domestic and international fields to share their expertise is lacking. Perhaps this was a first step in developing that collaboration.

Be Aware of the Boom and Bust

Campaigns are the flashy moment as one discussant stated – for both individual contributions and technology innovation. This boom and bust cycle results in technology that is not sustainable from one cycle to the next. Similarly, it’s easy to get swept up in wanting to contribute to an individual campaign.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t volunteer. However, we must recognize that a longer arc of issues exist that can’t be solved by parachuting in to provide our expertise (the same approach we try to avoid in our work overseas).

Create Guiding Principles

One concrete common good the field can contribute is the Principles for Digital Development. For those working internationally, these seem like old hat by now. Yet they contain fundamental best practices that can, and should, be applied to the domestic space.

Design with the user or understanding the existing ecosystem is key. For instance, one discussant realized the need to change their approach when reaching out to older voters. Instead of an app, they chose to meet beneficiaries through more tried and true communication channels.

Build Trust through Non-partisanship

We know by working internationally that trust is key in strengthening democratic processes. The best way to build this trust is by providing true and actionable information – in a way that is easy to understand and digest.

Voters should be handled with care and engaged through a non-partisan approach. This means focusing on increasingly voter accessibility and reaching marginalized populations through basic digital or even non-digital means. And most importantly, being able to provide the right type of information at the right time.

Go Local First

So, where do we start? Consistently participants stated that starting with your local politics is the most impactful. This includes getting involved with city level or local offices. Don’t forget about knocking on doors or volunteering as a poll worker or driving people to the polls.

Make sure to look at your state table, which aims to connect non-partisan grassroots organizations to one another that can leverage their collective power to transform our democracy.

And most of all, keep asking where your help is needed.

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