Solidarity Technology: Values for an Earth Defender’s Toolkit

author: Karissa McKelvey
date: 2020-06-29
title: Solidarity Technology: Values for an Earth Defender’s Toolkit
categories: – blog

Digital Democracy’s mission is to empower marginalized communities to use technology to defend their rights. As technology becomes cheaper and more accessible, we believe it can and should be used to bring more voices to the table. Digital Democracy helps our partners achieve transformative change and works toward a world where all people can participate in decisions that govern their lives.

Over the past year, we’ve dug deeply into our convictions and had empowering conversations with practitioners, allies, and partners. Based on these conversations, we’ve crafted some recommendations for technologists who want to build solidarity technology. We combine this with our own experiences co-designing technology with earth defenders over the past five years.

Center Self-Determination and Human Rights

Respect. All peoples have the right to determine their future for themselves. Prioritize
solutions that increase self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on outside entities.

    • In practice: Apps should work without access to a server. If a server is required,
      users should be able to run their own.

Autonomy. Read the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent, and recognize
your user’s intellectual property rights. Users should be able to take their data with them.

    • In practice: Export data into many openly accessible and flexible data formats.

Collaborate Through Equity and Intentional inclusion

Lead from the Heart. Build an ecosystem of organizations and individuals and prioritize
projects that enable collaboration.

    • In practice: Have open dialogue and refrain from a competitive mindset.

Co-design. Design first, implement later. Instead of driving product decisions from metrics
dashboards, form direct partnerships and work side-by-side in collaborative design processes.

    • In practice: Hire designers/UX researchers early and prioritize in-person workshops.

Challenge Oppression (Social & Environmental Justice)

Consent & Safety. Data can be used as a weapon against marginalized communities.
Always ask: Do we need to store that data? What is the threat model?
How long do we keep data?

    • In practice: Have strict data retention policies and revisit them often.

Accessibility. Create tools that are adaptable and usable across typical boundaries
such as class, race, language, literacy and culture.

    • In practice: Co-design to ensure different user needs are prioritized
      from the beginning.

Be Fearless & Creative

Open Source. The project is open to new contributors to help steer the project.

    • In practice: Open source from the first day and prioritize writing documentation.

Take a stance: Reflect on your team’s & communities’ values, and decide
“best practice” for yourselves. Don’t reproduce Silicon Valley practices blindly.

    • In practice: Make it clear that user satisfaction, not profit margin, is your
      team’s priority.