5 Foundational Blocks of Responsible Organisations

by | Sep 15, 2020 | ICT4D |

defining responsible organisation

Definitions are interesting. Sometimes they are shared, sometimes they are not. We can likely agree on a definition of ‘happy’. Undoubtedly we will define what makes us happy. Defining the terms we use is critical for communication, agreeing on the definition is less so.

Recently, someone asked me how I would define ‘responsible organisations’. ‘Responsible organisations care as much or more for the people they serve as they do for themselves.‘ But then I went on to suggest a few 5 foundational blocks I’d look for in organisations. These included:

  1. Responsible organisations rarely ask the question of ‘can we use technology to do X’ but often ask ‘should we use technology to do X’.  They have a culture of ‘should we’ which prompts them to discuss their why.  They are clear on the purpose for using technology and undergoing digital transformation.  And their purpose connects to their values.
  2. They understand digital literacy is broad term ranging from how to turn on a computer or device to how to create determine the ethics of an algorithm.  So they get specific.  They consider digital literacy basics for staff, but also for the community members they seek to serve.  This includes how to use a computer, to how to use mobile money, how to be safe online, the value of their data. and how algorithms work.
  3. But they also know there is organisational digital literacy.  Some of the basics of this include:
    1. Best in class information security, privacy, protection standards and protocols that are actually known and implemented.  Side note here – responsible organisations understand that the law is usually a minimum standard, not an aspiration. 
    2. Consent, data minimisation, sharing, and safeguarding are opportunities we ‘get’ to do, not things we ‘have’ to.  Responsible organisations understand doing these things well reduces risk for their organisation, but most importantly reduces risk for those we seek to serve.  They understand duty of care is something we get to do, something that is not a burden but is one more way to put our values into action.
    3. Responsible organisation seek diversity of opinion in discussions. They understand we work in complex environments on complex issues.  They seek a diversity of viewpoints because its through listening to diverse experiences and viewpoints that we reduce bias and harm. 
  4. Responsible organisations understand digital and data and technology is wrapped up in power and purpose, and therefore they must think about governance and the long term 
  5. And lastly, responsible organisation think beyond the technology.  They understand digital transformation is mostly about organisational change. 

I could have gone on, but stopped there. How would you define them? What would you add/delete from the above?

Photo by Joshua Hoehne


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