The Principles for Digital Development: Gold Practices


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Nine guidelines, hundreds of ways to use them. 

As the definition states, The Principles of Digital Development are alive. They change their shape and form, going through a constant process of adjustment and adaptation, to suit the needs of the one who is using them. Their core, however, always stays the same. At the very heart of the Digital Principles lies the willingness to continuously improve our work, our projects and our beliefs.

But how do we do this? How do we actually use the Digital Principles in practice, instead of only endorsing them?

In this article, we will discuss the best practices of the Digital Principles community that can inspire us on our own path of endorsement.

The Gold Level of Digital Development

As we mentioned in our previous article on the Digital Principles, last year the Digital Principles team conducted a survey. It’s aim was to help the endorsers with self-assessment. Based on the type of activities they engaged in, they were placed on one or more of the three tiers: bronze, silver and gold.

Out of 61 organizations that were assessed, only 19 received the gold status of engagement. How did they do that?

The content of the survey comes with a handful of hints. Best practices of digital development include:

  • Establishing an internal working group or network:

“The endorsing organization established a peer working group or some other vehicle within the organization to build capacity and promote knowledge exchange among staff.”

  • Changing your policy or procedures, so that they align with the Digital Principles:

“The endorsing organization made material changes to digital strategy, procurement processes, project or program resources or tools, or some other strategic or operational activity that both cites and uses at least one of the Digital Principles.”

  • Evaluating your use of the Digital Principles in practice:

“The endorsing organization conducted an internal or external Digital Principles-focused evaluation that evaluates the relevance of, fidelity to, and results of applying Digital Principles within the endorsing organization.”

  • Basing your organizational strategy plan on the Digital Principles:

“The endorsing organization developed an implementation or institutionalization strategy with concrete steps to put specific principles into practice at the organization.”

  • Assessing the capacity to implement a Digital Principles strategy:

“The endorsing organization assessed organizational staff and technical capacity to implement a Digital Principles institutionalization strategy across sectors and at various stages of implementation.”

  • Incorporating the Digital Principles into the M&E criteria:

“The endorsing organization established or adapted an existing monitoring and evaluation system for tracking progress on implementing a Digital Principles strategy.”

  • Creating a Digital Principles review board:

“The endorsing organization created a review board for spending on digital development to provide input, feedback, and guidance on digital development strategy and spending informed by the Digital Principles.”

These are the main activities that indicate the gold-level engagement in the practical use of the Digital Principles. 

The Philosophy of Digital Development

To fully represent and embody these guidelines, one needs to understand them deeply, first. It requires not only knowledge, but also self-reflexivity, flexibility and willingness to create and apply changes. 

To support and promote a philosophy and to live by it are two different things. Living by The Principles for Digital Development requires time, effort and dedication. But it is worth it! Implementing these guidelines into your work will increase its quality. It will also help you find your way, whenever you get lost. 

The Digital Principles may look simple, but they are actually very complex, when used in practice. They make you ask yourself questions you haven’t considered before. They also assist you in solving problems that unexpectedly show up on your path. 

The Digital Principles Organizational-Self Assessment Survey is just an introduction to the new Evaluation Tools that can help in better understanding the art of using the Digital Principles in practice. In the next two posts we’ll shed some light on the other handy resources.

Get Inspired! 

Theoretical indicators of the engagement are one thing, but real-life examples serve as another great way to grasp the idea of the practical use of the Digital Principles. Examining the examples can also get us inspired and help in coming up with ideas for our own development. 

In case you’re wondering, where to find such examples, here are a few places worth checking out:  

The Principles for Digital Development: Case Studies

A collection of case studies based on projects and initiatives of the Digital Principles’ endorsers. It showcases a variety of different situations in which the Digital Principles can be applied. Additionally, every case study is labeled with corresponding Principles.

Chemonics: Living the Principles for Digital Development

A series of case studies created and shared by Chemonics. Three inspiring real-life stories of how the Digital Principles can be applied in practice to help people in the best way possible. Uniquely, the case studies are shared in a form of short videos, making the content even more interesting and approachable.

Energypedia Consulting

A short, but informative description of how Energypedia is applying each of the Digital Principles in their projects.


As one of the most active and engaged endorsers of the Digital Principles, USAID created a handful of resources that can help in applying organizational changes in the spirit of the Principles.

Briefer for The Principles for Digital Development

USAID’s digital strategy, with the Digital Principles being an integral part of it. The briefer consists of 4 strategy goals dedicated to the Principles.

Digital Investment Tool: An Approach to Incorporating Digital Development Best Practices in Your Activity

A tool that was created to guide the staff during the process of planning and implementing digital projects, so that their work aligns with the Digital Principles.

What’s next?

We hope that this short overview of gold-level practices served as a source of inspiration for your own digital development activities. If you’re willing to dive deeper into the world of the Digital Principles and gather a detailed understanding of how you can use them in practice, stay tuned. More posts are on their way!


Digital Principles Organizational-Self Assessment 

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