It’s easy to be stuck. To see barriers everywhere. To tweak on the edges because tweaking the core is too hard. But is it too hard or are we just scared that we will be rejected, laughed at, fail or all three?
In our work on data governance in various countries, sometimes there is little regulatory frameworks in existence. The technological infrastructure isn’t great. Literacy of all forms – linguistic, digital, identity – is patchy. And the humanitarian organisations have little incentive to change their current data management processes and enable involving aid recipients in the decision making about data. These are all barriers to change. Real barriers which can make it hard to see a way to a new future.
However, we still often have multiple options.
We can keep things as they are – single agency, centralised governance.
Go through the Window.
We can tweak on the edges by adding in slightly different approaches. We can add a collective governance approach in which each governance actor provides a service to the collective. No new legal entity, but an agreed way of working together. Some of the data or data functions might be centralised, but they are collectively governed. We could even add representatives from the community to begin to engage them in decision making.
Wedge the Door Open.
In this option we can adopt a collective governance approach similar to the above window option, but add to it an account management approach. One of the services the collective governance provides is the hosting of the accounts and sets the standards for organisational systems to connect or ‘talk’ to the accounts. The access to the accounts can be managed by the community members, but the collective organisations can ‘ask’ the accounts questions to reduce duplication of assistance, etc. The information in the account is kept private, but the organisations can still perform their functions.
The first two options are easiest options. Wedging the door open is more different and brings more unknowns. Sometimes a small step of going ‘through the window’ is best, other times we need to open the door. Whatever we choose, fear should not be the biggest determining factor.
The choice is up to us.