Digitalisation for Development #2 Transforming our Organisations
As the world is moving towards a new era in which digitalisation is transforming our lives, we are experiencing an upsurge of digital innovations. Many development organisations are, however, hesitant to invest in digitalisation due to the risks and challenges it brings. We need to learn from each other’s experiences to overcome this fear and reach digital technology’s full potential. What is there to learn? And how do we make our organisations digital-ready?
Interview with Jacqueline Lampe (CEO, RNW Media)
Author: Aimee Breuls
In my previous blog, I discussed how the use of data can booster our development programmes by creating greater social impact. I spoke to Jeroen van der Sommen (Akvo) about the important role of data for development, and the change that is needed within the sector to unlock this potential. However, digitalisation is about much more than the use of data. It’s about making a shift in the way you work within your organisation, and changing the focus of your programmes in order to live up to your ambitions.
In this second blog in a series of two, I will speak to Jacqueline Lampe, director of RNW Media, about the need to become a digital organisation. RNW Media is an organisation that accelerates the impact of youth-centred changemakers by co-creating digital communities for social change. They bring together young people to let them engage in all their diversity in constructive dialogue, realise their rights, and contribute to making their societies more inclusive. At RNW Media, they already made a digital transformation which has been one of their biggest learnings. How did they make this transformation, and what has this brought them?
Most people start by looking at the risks of digitalisation, but we have to focus on the opportunities and manage the risks accordingly. The opportunities are enormous! – Jacqueline Lampe
As digitalisation is affecting our organisations, partnerships, and programmes, we also need to make a change within our organisations to become digital-ready. If we want to reach our goals, it is essential that we start using digital technologies. It not only offers new opportunities to engage with large communities of young people on sensitive topics in a safe space, but also brings huge potential to increase the impact of development programmes.
Let’s for example take the ‘Love Matters’ programme of RNW Media, which is focused on understanding the needs of young people in relation to sexual and reproductive health and rights by using digital media and transforming data into insights in young people’s behaviour and attitudes. In response to those needs, they create online platforms to let people engage in open conversations about love, sex, and relationships.
At RNW Media, they started to explore for a way in which they could attract many young people to the digital platforms. At the same time, they wanted to make sure that youth would stay connected to the platform for a longer amount of time and become real change-makers. Therefore, they started to use a pleasure positive youth-centred approach which starts with the needs of the young people in the countries where the programmes take place.
By creating online digital communities, the impact of their programmes highly increased. Where they would reach about 100.000 young people when working offline, they are now interacting with over 20 million youth each year. According to Jacqueline, if you would like to focus on widespread interaction with young people, it is important to use their language and tools, and meet them where they are active. This is in the digital space, on social media.
A digital transformation requires a whole different mindset, new skills, and a different way of managing your organisation. – Jacqueline Lampe
Working with digital technologies can boost the impact of your organisation’s work. However, in order to grasp its full potential, your organisation needs to become digital-ready. A digital transformation is not a straightforward process but rather requires a disruptive change in many aspects within the organisational structure. First, it is important to change the way in which you manage your organisation and decision-making. As we find ourselves in a field that is continuously developing, flexibility is key. According to Jacqueline, it’s important to make quick decisions, switch fast, and try out new things.
For this to happen, a different mindset within the organisation is needed. We must accept that when trying out new things, they can take you down hard. However, you will learn from them and develop further on that. Moreover, a digital transformation also depends upon extra investments, 21st century skills, and having the right people in the right places. Bringing the right expertise to your organisation is essential to make a shift towards greater social impact.
In 4 to 8 years, RNW Media transformed into a digital media organisation by developing and investing in a new strategy, new processes, new tools, and digital savvy people. But how to make this transition yourself? A good starting point are the Principles for Digital Development, a set of guidelines that can help organisations to develop strong digital innovations. In partnership with this organisation, the Partos Digital Lab will organise a session on the 22nd of March with an introduction to the Digital Principles and how organisations could apply these principles in their own programmes and practices.
According to Jacqueline, when an organisation would like to enter a digital transition it is important to implement all of these principles. When looking at RNW Media, all these guidelines can be identified in their current work. However, she would also like to add one principle to the list. What is missing, is that it requires a lot of an organisation to change the way it is structured and managed. Therefore, a tenth principle should be added: don’t be scared of disruptive change within your organisation!
Digitalisation is a revolution. We must give it the right amount of time, money, and human resources to take its development to its full potential. – Jacqueline Lampe
Learning and exchange
If you would like to impact the future of young people, it is all about digitalisation and data for Jacqueline. Currently, many organisations start by focusing on the risks. Of course these have to be managed, but we mostly need to focus on the opportunities of digitalisation. By doing so, a “snowball” effect can be put in motion in which organisations increasingly start to make digital transformations and develop digital innovations for their programmes. The Digital Agenda of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an important start. Furthermore, we need the financial resources to be able to make the necessary investments. We have to find a way to bring together our experiences in order to learn from each other’s best practices and mistakes.
This is why the Partos Digital Lab is so important. Offering a space where change-oriented organisations can come together to learn and innovate on digitalisation can bring us one step closer towards the goal of unlocking the full potential of digital technology. Through interactive and experimental learning, we can navigate our path forward in digital development for social change.
We learned a lot from the many mistakes we made in the past years. We would like to share those learnings with others. – Jacqueline Lampe
Learning and exchanging experiences are essential to foster collaborations. For an organisation to make a digital transformation on its own, it takes a huge investment. If we bind our forces, we have a higher potential of succeeding in our digital transtions. At RNW Media, they have already started to share their learnings with other organisations who they are partnering with. They support them in the different steps that need to be taken to become digital-ready, as they have already been through this process once.
Use of data
In my previous blog, Jeroen van der Sommen (Akvo) pleaded for the integration of data into development organisations. Making a digital transformation also includes becoming data-driven. When data is used to design, monitor, and improve your programmes, your work will lead to more impact. At RNW Media, they have developed a data strategy to help them analyse the huge amounts of data generated by their online platforms. To better understand the wishes and needs of the young people on their platforms, they apply data and text analysis on online discussions.
Moreover, Jaqueline shares how RNW Media has started to bring all data together in one place so it can be effectively analysed and processed. This can optimise the impact of their programmes. Not only do they use their own data, but they also use data from third parties, something they call ‘social listening’. For example, they analyse discussions on certain topics in digital spaces in the countries they work in. This can inform their work, giving them a better understanding on how to help young people in a particular context. Even though digital data mining and social listening aren’t common methods in the development sector, they can make our development programmes more effective.
Future of digitalisation
With the publication of this second blog, my internship at Partos officially comes to an end. Over the past six months, I have been given the opportunity to co-create a learning trajectory on data and digitalisation for Dutch development organisations and their partners. I have been introduced to many inspiring people within various organisations such as Digital Power, Peacetech Lab NL, and Principles for Digital Development. I have learnt a lot about the opportunities of digitalisation for development, but it also showed me that there is still many work left to be done.
Data and digital technology bring us tremendous possibilities. Working together is the key to unlocking this potential. – Aimee Breuls
I am proud to have been a part of the Digital Lab, and I am looking forward to the many learning activities and innovation sessions Partos will organise this year. Haven written these blogs, I hope to have motivated you to start making a real change within your own organisation. I am confident that you will learn many new things in the Digital Lab that can help you on your way, but I also hope that it will result in the flourishment of new collaborations. The biggest thing that became clear to me over the past few months is that we really need each other. Working together will enable us to make the necessary investments, to minimize the risks, to collect a higher amount of data to be used, and therefore to create social impact on a wider scale.
So, I invite you to join Partos on this important and exicting journey towards grasping the full potential of digitalisation. Together we can make it work, now let’s start do the work!
Written by Aimee Breuls
Monthly updates about innovations, inspiring projects and the latest news? No strings attached.