RDF-HRD Codesign

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Breakout discussion group at RDF Human rights documentation at RightsCon in SF March 2016

Why are you here?

  • Working on participatory methods for tool building, but there's always a "where to exit?" "how to evaluate?" questions. How can we build tools around it? How should we be thinking of things? Considering risk factors, who to work with, etc
  • Came from for-profit world, participatory design was well-defined to maximize profit or reduce time. A-B testing. How do you judge your impact? What are you trying to maximize? How can you tell if something is successful?
  • Want to engage in a participatory process to understand how human rights defenders, specifically in Latin America, aren't using the tools which exist right now.
  • Multistakeholder, crowd sourced for ideas -- gov, private sector, etc. But want to evaluate how different stakeholders participate.
  • We build those tools, interested to see the other side's perspective (and also someone in the same boat but experiencing it differently).


People are not sitting down with end users and asking them what they want. The things that we built for ourselves work

We're showing up with pre-made tools, and then wondering why people aren't using them. We spent a lot of money building them. Do people not know about them? Is it too expensive? Not usable? Or are we building the wrong things? Everything is so contextual -- how can we possibly build something which will be useful in many different contexts?

Who are we designing the tool for? Martus was built for people who are incredibly at risk -- the 1-5%. But we want to make it for the next 45% are able to use and communicate with others. How broadly do we want to design this?

  • How do we identify our users? There are human rights defenders all over.

Failure -- commercial software also fails a lot. Cultural aspect is important, but maybe this is also about failing responsibility when working closely with a community. Working in a participatory way is expensive.

If you design well, it's often a super simple implementation. Minimum technology maximally applied.

Where to from here?

  • Do you need participatory design, and how to implement? - many already exist. Analysis of them is fine, or tweaking what exists.
  • Case study on what goals might be, align to contexts, determining if you should implement an existing tool or design and create a new one
  • Build a resource list?
  • How do I attract users to be a part of the process? How do I explain myself, ask them to invest their time? Get people to be honest about it being a bad idea etc.
  • Examining what exists, selecting, filling gaps, getting human rights defenders to start using those tools.