RHoK Guide for Experts

Contributors: Aires Zulian, World Bank Daniel Shemie, World Bank Patrick Meier, CrisisMappers Nigel Snoad, Google Will Pate, Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) Elizabeth Sabet, SecondMuse

Recent years have seen an increase in the profile, use and relevancy of Volunteer Technology Communities (VTCs) or Volunteer and Technical Communities (VT&Cs) by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). These communities have been described in two reports from the Disaster Risk Mangement (DRM) sector where many began: ● ● Disaster Relief 2.0: The Future of Information Sharing in Humanitarian Emergencies Volunteer Technology Communities: Open Development

A common pattern is for volunteers to take part in a 1-2 day event of “hacking”, where participants self-organize around problems, oftne provided by SMEs. While innovation for its own sake is extremely valuable, effort directed towards clearly identified real needs is often what participants and volunteers are seeking: the chance to make a difference. Collective understanding is developing in key ways SME’s can collaborate effectively: ● ● ● ● Identifying and defining problems Building stakeholder ownership Partnering with volunteer technologists to develop solutions Piloting new technologies in programs

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance through best practices and lessons learned in engaging Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in Volunteer Technology Communities (VTCs). The primary audiences are: ● ● ● Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) Stakeholders and facilitators Event teams

This document is intended to serve as place to collect knowledge, which different groups can use as they see fit. As the missions of the communities and purpose of the activities described herein are for the greater good of humanity, the content of this document should be considered freely available for sharing and reuse by others. RHoK’s intent is to publish a version of this content on its website. It will be published wikistyle so that community members will be able to add to it. Attribution and thanks will be given to those that list themselves as contributors above. Please feel free to share your intent to use the document as well.

Guidance for VTC Event Managers
How VTC event managers can effectively engage SMEs Outreach Event managers can reach out to the following groups early and invite them to participate and submit relevant problem definitions and data sets: ● ● ● ● Local universities and academics Local and national government bodies Local NGOs and civil society groups Local small businesses, national and transnational corporations

Consider hosting workshops or conference calls to help SMEs or communities to identify and sketch out problem definitions. Format outlines are provided later in this document. Problem Definition Review Event managers can help review problem definitions provided by SMEs: ● Consider having your event team (and key attendees) review the problem definitions and take the following actions: ○ Suggest edits that will help make the problem definition better, easier to understand, or more relevant to technologists ○ Suggest data sets that may be used in developing the solution ○ Look for alignment between problems and skills known to be in your attendees, and identify problems that are the best fit for your event

Event Planning When planning your event, consider how to encourage SME participation: ● ● Providing time before or during the event for SMEs to “pitch” their problem definitions Encouraging SMEs to attend the event to build relationships with attendees

Identifying Problems
How to identify problems that are well suited to technology solutions Simply asking people to list their problems is too easy, and often yields poor results. Because the question is too vague, it doesn’t help focus on problems that lend themselves to ICT solutions. It’s important to immediately ground the problem definition process in concrete terms that everyone can relate to. This helps overcome skepticism some may have towards technology, while managing expectations properly about what ICT can do. Here are some questions to help focus on problems that lend themselves well to ICT solutions: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● What information do you wish you had? What information do you have that you wish others had access to? What information would help people make more informed decisions? Where are there market inefficiencies? Where are there information asymmetries? How could we visualize data to make it actionable? How could we make communication more efficient? What kind of “crowdsourced” data could be valuable to us, to others?

It’s advisable to focus even further on problems which are both: ● ● Related to an ongoing operational program Can be owned by a person or organization with relevant operations and expertise

How to identify problems that are interesting to technologists ● ● Must have an impact they can understand (ie. clearly a public good) Are relevant to their local community (or the world)

Problem Identification Workshops Problem identification workshops can be used to stimulate a dialogue on how ICT can impact people’s area of work and stakeholder’s lives, and to explore and identify problems that can then be defined. Workshops require a facilitator. These people need to secure the space, supplies and attendees commitment. As well they need to facilitate the presentations and discussion. Gamestorming is a particularly good resource for those looking to run workshops. Here is a sample workshop agenda:

Welcoming remarks (5-15 minutes) Introduction to VTCs (5 - 15 minutes) Relevant technologies (15 - 30 minutes) Breakout sessions (30 - 60 minutes)

Welcome attendees, introduce the goals of the event, outline the agenda High level how they work and their outcomes and impact Briefing on a few key technologies making an impact in the domain of the people attending Breakout into small groups to identify problems, outline definitions and identify potential data sources Group presentations and peer review

Presentations (15 - 30 minutes)

Community Problem Identification Workshops Community problem identification workshops focus on consulting community members (endusers) directly to identify perceived priority problems. People leading these workshops are often highly aware of the environments through operational experience or community leaders. These consultations are often used in community consultation and reporting for development, humanitarian and social programs.

Defining Problems
How to define a problem so that volunteers can easily work on it There are many different ways to define a problem. The challenge is translating a sectoral problem into a challenge suited to VTCs where their entry point is clear. At a high level, there are two types of problem definitions: 1. Specific The first type are refined are specific in their scope, with a solid understanding and sometimes a high level of detail about the inputs (data, algorithms, etc) and outputs (interfaces, capabilities, features & functionality, etc). These tend to have higher levels of traction with users and partners, and thus are more likely to create an impact. They can be classified as low risk and medium reward. 2. Aspirational The second type are aspirational; ambitious but loosely defined. They are often expressed in terms of the end goal, with fewer details about how to get there. These can be more exciting, but tend to have lower traction rates. When they do achieve traction the impact can be magnitudes greater than with a more specific problem definition. They can be classified as high risk, high reward. Building Context Once you have identified a problem, it is vital that the problem be contextualized. The context and importance of the problem may often be self-evident to the SMEs but not so to volunteers. These questions that should be easy to answer for a non-technical expert: 1. What kind of context must the solution operate in? What language do the people affected speak? Do specific groups (such as women, children, immigrants, etc) have a special context which should be considered? Does the end user live in an urban center, a rural area, or work in a displaced person’s camp? 2. What is the crisis? Use this to contextualize the specific problem. This will go a long way to making the problem attractive to civic minded technologist. 3. What constraints exist? Is the population limited in access to power? Is internet access or mobile phone penetration limited? Do the end users have financial constraints? Are technical or functional literacy an issue? Estimating Potential Impact

Assessing impact helps volunteers understand the potential impact of their participation. The opportunity to have a large impact can be highly motivating. 1. What could the impact of a solution be? Explain the potential impact of the development and implementation of the solution. How many people would benefit? Which organizations would use it? What would the impact be on people’s lives if the problem was solved? What unintended consequences could you possibly anticipate? Technical Assessment These questions may require help from someone with technical expertise: 1. Are their technologies that solve similar problems? Perhaps you’re inspired by a feature of another piece of technology such as an app on your phone, or an online service. Do you know of other technologies that solve similar problems, or solve a problem in a similar way to what you imagine? 2. How would a person use the tool? Walking through using the tool from the end-user’s perspective helps define how the tool solves the problem. How does the person enter and receive information? Where are they and what are they doing when they use the tool? How does using the tool change their next actions? 3. What data is available? Technology requires data. What data could be used to help solve this problem? Is that data publicly available? If so, where can it be found? If not, who owns it and have you asked if they would share it? Find Co-owners and stakeholders Finding others in your own organization or colleagues from a partner organization can be very valuable. Co-owners signal levels of interest and support to volunteers evaluating which problems to tackle, provide more points of contact for volunteers, help refine problem definitions and can field test solutions developed. Sharing Your Problem Definition Problems should be public and archived on an online platform. The best problems have a video pitch, so try to get experts and stakeholders on video if possible.

Collaborating with Technologists
How to build partnerships with volunteer technologists to develop solutions

Identifying and defining a problem is a first step of a process of collaboration. Simply creating a problem definition and hoping it gets solved is wishful thinking. Here are some recommendations on collaborating with technologists to achieve positive outcomes: 1. Attend an event There is no replacement for being present. Attending an event gives you an opportunity to make your case to volunteers, answer questions, provide input to their solutions, and form relationships for collaboration beyond an event. 2. Consider your after-event plans What do you plan to do after the event? If the solution developed is a prototype, how do you intend to collaborate with the volunteers to make it ready to be field-tested? If a testable solution is created, how will you field test it? Does your organization or its supporters have resources to support further work through internships, grants or other financial mechanisms? 3. Learning technologist culture Many SMEs are used to highly structured environments, where status is primarily defined by level of education and years of experience. Technologists are often used to environments with flat structures where status is primarily defined by contributions and accomplishments, while education and experience are also considered. 4. Learning to speak geek While SMEs and technologists are both highly intelligent groups, translating between them can be confusing. For instance: “development” to SME’s often means the improvement of people’s quality of life, whereas for technologists it means writing code. As well, you can not assume that technologists are familiar with the language of your field. Try to learn and understand basic technology language so you can communicate more effectively, and take care to choose or explain words to ensure clarity.

Using Technology in Programs
How to pilot and field test technology Building technology into your operations requires planning alongside your problem definition creation. Technology development is iterative process, which requires ongoing communication. Here are some recommendations on how to build space in your programs to test new technologies: 1. Involve stakeholders in the process Who are the stakeholders and clients in your programs? Consider having their peer review or co-ownership of your problem definition, or running a community problem identification workshop. Share with them your intent to pilot suitable technology if it’s developed and secure their commitment to help you do so wherever possible. 2. Design feedback loops How will you collect feedback from your stakeholders and share it with the technologists working on the technology solution? There are many good and free tools available to collect and prioritize user feedback in the form of bug reports and feature requests. A lightweight system will be sufficient for most projects.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful