NGO-in-a-box provides technical service providers and support staff within non-profits with bespoke box-sets of tools and materials aggregated around specific themes. Tactical Tech works to form networks of established experts who can act as topical and regional editorial teams. These teams work together to actively recommend and select tools and materials around a given topic.
Where other projects may aim to provide neutral or comprehensive overviews of tools available in a particular area, NGO-in-a-box strives to provide specific recommendations and forms of distribution based on a grassroots approach. It delivers up to date peer-reviewed and selected tools and materials based on the experiences of informed practitioners and field experts. Moreover it aims to do so in a format designed for use in developing countries and by low-resourced groups. Predominantly the box-sets are targeted at IT intermediaries and service providers (eRiders, consultants, trainers), system administrators and self-taught technologists working with small to medium sized non-profit organisations. With NGO-in-a-box they should have the tools and materials they need to promote and implement a range of FOSS solutions for NGOs in their respective situations.
Box design and content: Editorial teams
The NGO0-in-a-box project started in the summer of 2003 and has continued to grow sinc then. During this first phase of the NGO-in-a-box project expert teams were formed ad hoc around particular training events. Discussions between trainers in a given area were organised in the run-up to a particular workshop or training, the resulting recommendations were then compiled in to a thematic box-set and distributed to event participants.
In the projects second phase (starting September 2005), Tactical Tech is building on the strong points of the project. Current editions of NGO-in-a-box begin with the development of a dedicated editorial team made up of trainers, practitioners and experts working in a specific area; such as alternative access, advocacy or GIS. These dedicated editorial teams are selected for their existing experience utilising FOSS in a particular context and are invited to work together on the design of the box-set. They are tasked with agreeing on an inter-related set of tools, materials and guides around a given theme or in relation to a specific region. In some cases they may even decide to create or commission new materials to compliment existing resources. Once the first version of a particular box-set is released, feedback, changes and updates are coordinated by a few members of the editorial team, who continue to contribute to and update the edition over a longer period. Tactical Tech takes on the role of commissioning and coordinating the editorial teams, this involves providing them with a pre-defined remit and structure, as well as an online coordination and publishing system. Tactical Tech works with the editorial team to promote and distribute the resulting box-set as well as evaluate its use in the field.
Collaboration is sought with existing complimentary projects and with those that emerge in the future. The aim is to establish a partnership with such projects, diversifying NGO-in-a-boxes offerings whilst providing the project partner with an increased reach, established user community and on-line system.
Distribution: Local hubs and events
Through its regional editions the NGO-in-a-box project has always strived to cater to the needs of localisation. Now we aim to take this one step further by creating points of localisation that last beyond the one-off interventions of the Source Events and other specific trainings. Our hope is that these points of localisation, known as hubs, are also helping to increase distribution and promotion of the boxes in each region.
In this next phase, Tactical Tech extends the distribution of NGO-in-a-box outside of the workshop and training context, and begins to work with a group of existing non-profit organisations established in the local technology and non-profit space. Working together with these established groups, Tactical Tech creates regional hubs for NGO-in-a-box. This grassroots trajectory is utilised not only to encourage local groups to drive and steer the growth of the resource by creating their own local editorial teams, but also to overcome the physical distribution challenges of box-sets to particular areas.
These local distribution and development points are set up to;
measure needs and respond to demands by assembling and maintaining local up-to-date version of the boxes
actively promote the project in their immediate region
put together new boxes in collaboration with local editorial teams suited to local needs (or at least single disks containing software and documentation compilations)
conduct out-reach efforts, training and where possible collaborate with other groups providing training and support to NGOs
contribute to on-line community efforts to refine and keep up to date versions of the boxes
distribute the boxes within a given area and make them available on-line for local Internet users (mirroring)
evaluate the local use of the box and gather feedback to influence future versions
Each of these hubs is coordinated by Tactical Tech and connected with hubs in other regions. Partners are sought around the basis of their interest in the project, their capacity, their existing reputation and their potential reach to the non-profit sector.
In parallel, Tactical Tech continues to promote NGO-in-a-box through its Source Events and other workshops. It also actively seeks to increase distribution by collaborating with international organisations providing training to non-profit service providers in developing and transition countries.