Loren’s thoughts on working from the inside out – when you come from outside the community (or even the country).
Indigo Trust is a UK-based foundation. But we believe that the best solutions to Africa’s challenges will be devised by citizens of Africa itself. Local communities have a deeper understanding of context and cultural nuance. They are best-equipped to negotiate the legal framework and have greater insight into the everyday challenges people face. They’re also best-placed to network with stakeholders like civil society organisations, government and community members. That’s why we often see the best projects arising when people are empowered to innovate to solve their own community needs.
This can be supported by encouraging good connections between the technology community, civil society, government and end-users. International funders can play a role and contribute to this “big picture” by capturing learning, sharing best practice and linking up compatible organisations across the African continent.
Also, at times, there is a role for adapting platforms or approaches that have been successful in other countries to the local context. We think this is most effective through strong partnerships with organisations based in Africa, who eventually take ownership of the project. Skills and available tools can be shared while ensuring that the project is well-rooted in the local context.
A great example of this is mySociety, who have developed some of the UK’s leading democracy sites. One of these, called TheyWorkForYou, allows users to follow parliamentary proceedings and track MPs and their contributions in parliament. They’ve now teamed up with local partners to create similar sites across Africa – Odekro in Ghana (partnering with Hutspace) and People’s Assembly in South Africa (partnering with PMG). This partnership approach cuts costs and prevents organisations reinventing the wheel. At the same time, it ensures that the project and its content are locally managed – meaning they work from within.