Responsible Data Practitioners are Gardeners

by | Jun 1, 2020 | Change, ICT4D |

I like to garden. Being outside transforming a piece of land into something productive and beautiful, I find rewarding. Most Friday nights at this time of year, before heading up to bed, we’ll plop down on the sofa and watch the week’s episode of Gardener’s World on BBC. Gardener’s World is filmed in the week it airs so viewers see the changes in the presenters’ gardens.

Monty strolls on screen into his Jewel Garden, which is awash with colour, bushy plants at varying heights wrestling for space and spilling those on the edge into the pathway. I look out the window at our brown patch of earth with tiny splotches of green which were plants so am hopeful still are. I also see areas of green looking lovely from afar but know they are patches of weeds up close. Or this week Adam knelt in his ‘forest garden’ planting a few flowers in soft, gentle soil into which his hand spade slipped like a hot knife into butter. I could only recall breaking a spade recently as I tried to turn our soil.

Like all a craft specific shows or magazines, it is both inspirational and disheartening. On our current plot, some days I feel we are making progress, other days not at all. Transformation is rarely a straight path to happiness. Gardening, if nothing else, is a constant lesson in patience, consistency, and a reminder of things outside our control.

Very similarly, digital transformation and responsible data and technology use are slow processes requiring patience, consistency, and remembering what isn’t in our control. And like gardens, often significant hard work is required behind the scenes ‘in the soil’ before there is a grow spurt. Additionally, comparing our gardens or the digital maturity of our organisation to others is rarely helpful. Other gardens and organisations are for inspiration, learning, and ideas.

Most gardeners love to share insights, plants, and what is working for them. Most of us working on responsible data management and technology use are similar. Perhaps we are the gardeners of the NGO world. The work never ends, has seasons, and constantly evolves. But, and this is an important but, but we get to do it. What an immense and unbelievable privilege it is.

Photo by Nagesh Badu 

1 Comment

  1. Sally Cobb

    I really enjoy your analogy with gardening here Amos, very much resonates!


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