We have been reviewing idea submissions for many weeks now and are nearly ready to take a shortlist to our final Lightning Round. Throughout the evaluation process, we made some unexpected observations. In one case, the shockingly different ideas we had called for missed a seemingly crucial step.
Whether it’s journalists tracking money flows in politics, mappers visualizing education disparities across communities, or non-profits publishing their Aid-funded projects, those working to illuminate public information, engage citizens in decision-making, and strengthen mechanisms for holding the responsible to account are using a myriad of tools.
Transparency, accountability, and participation, however, are vague enough terms to invoke them without targeting tangible challenges.
With these difficult-to-concretize goals, the T&A community shows signs of falling prey to a trap that generates tools, but begs the question, what are they for? Are they working to address problems, or are they in search of them?
At Global Integrity, we came face-to-face with this issue while vetting ideas submitted to our innovation fund, TESTING 1 2 3.
A select few tools grabbed our attention right off the bat, owing to their innovativeness – unique designs that excited us because we had never heard about them before. It was only when we reviewed them more carefully that we noticed a shared failure to “address a specific, identifiable challenge,” one of our key criterion for selection.
Flashy ideas, such as transforming the functionality of a common tech tool or finding a niche application for an adopted method, can run the risk of leapfrogging the goal and landing at the solution.
The question is, does this matter? Are we at risk of producing tools that yield disappointing results? Or can there be unexpected benefits to them – for example, can a tool conceived to help X end up fixing Y?
Send us your examples to help answer these questions. We want to figure out the best way to approach this issue and steer research and innovation towards the challenges we seek to address.
–Photo Credit: Beshef/Flickr