The Principles for Digital Development: The Measure of Success

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Every project is like a journey. And during that journey we need good guidance that will help us reach our destination. Running an organization is not an exception. It’s a long and winding road, full of lost tracks and unpredictable weather conditions. Thankfully, the trail we follow is marked with signs that always help us find our way. These signs are called The Principles for Digital Development.

We have already discussed them widely on our blog. For those of you who are new, here is a quick reminder:

The Principles for Digital Development

Nine “living” guidelines designed to help digital development practitioners integrate established best practices into technology-enabled programs.

Over the few years that have passed since the Digital Principles had been established and introduced, the community grew and expanded, joined by endorsers from various different sectors, such as government agencies, NGOs, private firms and contractors. From 54 organizations at the beginning, the number has now developed into over 270 endorsers.

SolDevelo Foundation is very proud to be a part of this community. Our journey is much richer and much more inspiring, thanks to the guidance of The Principles for Digital Development. 

Following these signs on our trail certainly is helpful. But how do we measure how far we have come, without proper tools of evaluation? That is the question that came to the minds of many of the endorsers. Answering their voices, the Digital Principles team came up with new tools, tailored to the needs of the community.

Organizational Self-Assessment Survey

After spreading awareness about the Digital Principles and their value, expanding through different sectors and gaining new endorsers, the time has come for the next step – adopting the guidelines in practice. 

How are the Digital Principles used in everyday situations? How do different types of organizations incorporate them into their operations? How can endorsers improve their practical usage of the Digital Principles? These and many more questions arose, indicating that the community wants to grow and learn. 

To answer these needs, the Digital Principles team conducted an Organizational Self-Assessment Survey. It was sent to all of the endorsers. The aim of this survey was to:

  • Collect specific data on how endorsers use and integrate the Digital Principles into their everyday operations.
  • Examine how endorsers engage and collaborate with the Digital Principles team.

The Ranking of Engagement

Based on the results of the survey, endorsers were placed in one of three tiers: bronze, silver or gold. Tiers were selected on the basis of the level of engagement and the type of activities that endorsers are implementing in their everyday operations. 

The bronze level endorsers are focused on learning and general engagement. What it means is that they promote the Digital Principles and learn about them, but do not apply them in real situations.

The silver level endorsers are focused on adoption and culture. This group is engaging in minor activities of use, many of which are aimed at creating an organizational culture that values the Digital Principles.

The gold level endorsers are focused on integration. They concentrate their joint efforts on activities that aim at incorporating Digital Principles to facilitate organizational change. Furthermore, all activities pertain to systematic inquiry, policy-making, or actual use and implementation of Digital Principle-informed policies and procedures.

You can find the list of example activities for each level, as well as the survey in a form of PDF here: Digital Principles Organizational-Self Assessment.

The Results

The Digital Principles team received 29 responses to the survey. Additionally, basing on the data they have collected, they brought the number of assessed organizations to 61.

Out of 61 organizations, 47 were qualified as bronze tier endorsers. Their main activities were based on citing the Digital Principles in reports, blog posts and on social media. 

23 of the endorsers received a silver status. They put effort in sharing the Digital Principles within their organizations, training staff in spirit of the Digital Principles and responding to requests for proposal (RFPs) with the Digital Principles.

Among the assessed, only 19 were placed in the golden level of engagement. They integrated the Digital Principles into the organizational procedures and policies, adjusting strategies and projects to the ideals represented by the Digital Principles.

The organizations that were granted the golden status: APO-Coach, Arqaam, Avert, Bopinc, Chemonics, Enabel, Energypedia Consulting, Ersilia, FCDO, Foundation Botnar, GIZ, IntelliSOFT, Norad, PSI, Save the Children, UNDP, UN Habitat, USAID, VSO.

For more information on the results of the survey go here: [link]

Evaluation Tools

Organizational Self-Assessment Survey is the first one of the Evaluation Tools, introduced by the Digital Principles team in order to help endorsers in measuring their usage of the Digital Principles. It also encourages learning new methods in which the endorsers can implement the Digital Principles into their organizations’ everyday practices. 

The other two Evaluation Tools are: Digital Principles Indicator Library, and Digital Principles-Focused Evaluation. Posts about these tools will appear on our blog soon!

As for the Organizational Self-Assessment Survey, the Digital Principles team stated that they are planning to conduct it at least once a year, including every endorser that has joined the community no later than three months prior to the survey conduction date.

The 2021 survey is still available for those who want to evaluate their work with the Digital Principles. You can fill it in here: [link] 

Conclusions

Organizational Self-Assessment Survey served to fill a gap in the knowledge about the Digital Principles community. Before, we knew who was supporting the project. Now we also know how they are doing it. It helped not only to gather information about the actual use of the Digital Principles by different organizations, but also to encourage self-reflection. 

Additionally, it provided some important insights on the engagement of the community. The low response rate is an indicator for the Digital Principles team that there is a need to work on communication and commitment of the community. 

Moreover, the survey showed that many of the activities listed as gold tier are specific to larger organizations, making it hard for the smaller ones to receive the highest rank. The Digital Principles team promised to revise the survey and fix such mistakes for this year’s self-assessment round.

Therefore, this project has brought extremely valuable contributions to the Digital Principles community. The organizations classified as gold level endorsers have been appreciated for their efforts. But more than about ranking, this project was about communicating, sharing and learning. 

The gold level endorsers serve as a real-life example of the ideals that we all believe in. We can follow their lead or choose to create our own path. The Evaluation Tools will help us and the Digital Principles will guide us. The weather conditions might be tough and our tracks might get lost sometimes, but eventually we will always find our way to success. 

Sources

[CROSS POST] Digital Principles Metrics and Indicators Part 1
Digital Principles Organizational-Self Assessment 
Digital Principles Metrics and Indicators Part 1.5: Organizational-Self Assessment Results Are In!

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