Online Isn't Necessarily Better
Access: While it’s true that over half the world is now online, that still means about half isn’t. If you need to reach that population, consider using phone-based methods such as texting and interactive voice response.
Inclusion: Many marginalized groups have lower levels of access to the internet, particularly those facing intersectional marginalization as, for example, low-income women in rural areas.
Security: A move to the internet makes it all the more critical that our partners are safe online and the tools we build and use are secure.
Important Considerations When Using Digital Tools
Start from the goal. While adopting online approaches and tools, the overarching goal remains the same. As always, the question is what is the most effective way to achieve the political change you seek; tech approaches and relevant tools come out from that. In almost every case, it is advisable to center the digital tool on the requirements of users. Co/Act: Human Centered Design for Activists provides a framework to help you design more powerful products, services, and campaigns by centering them your community, stakeholders, and colleagues.
Go where people are. Put yourself in the mindset of your audience and think about what is easiest and most sensible for them. If your target population is already using a system (SMS, Facebook, WhatsApp) – try and reach them there. Unless folks have a lot of motivation, you’ll have a hard time to get them to create new habits.
You've got the content! Your organization has probably already created a great deal of relevant content. Your staff, consultants and partners have vast expertise. Often deploying online isn’t a matter of content creation at all – simply adapting to a new format. Other teams have also created valuable resources – consider duplicating and translating – and contributing back!
Quantity vs Quality. There’s a lot of value in expanding the number of people reached, but that may come at a trade-off in depth. Reproducing a workshop online for a dozen people can be harder than setting up a mass course that reaches thousands, but the type of learning will be entirely different.
Digital approaches can take time. It won’t be possible to flip a switch and create modified methods of delivery immediately; some will also be costly. We’ll all be learning along the way.
Experiment, share and learn. Please share back your experience: what worked seamlessly, what needs work, and what was a complete failure. Also, there are always benefits to scale – if more people use the same tool or approach, it’s likely to be faster, cheaper, and more generally valid over time.