Accelerating the Makers of Civil Society

The TechSoup Global Network
5 min readSep 11, 2023

By Marnie Webb, Chief Community Impact Officer, TechSoup

Marnie Webb, Chief Community Impact Officer for TechSoup

TechSoup has been working with civil society organizations of all sizes, all mission areas, and in all parts of the world, for more than 30 years. As a result, we know that innovating with even well-established technology is difficult for many — much less emerging tech solutions built on the decentralized web (DWeb). With often limited time, training, and resources, most organizations will always make the choice in favor of providing service to the people around them.

Yet, the values of civil society and DWeb technology align in many ways. Recordkeeping is transparent and (can be) immutable; systems can be set up to support community decision-making; data can be a part of a historical record; and any changes can be captured in that record.

That’s why, with the support of the Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW), we’ve launched Accelerating Makers. We define Makers as individuals and organizations involved in the creation, operation, and impact of public interest technologies. We aim to increase the number of DWeb tools that can be effectively used by civil society organizations to meet their mission-specific needs.

We’re doing this work because we believe that organizations can better tackle the existential threats to humanity with the development of innovative, built-for-purpose technology tools. With its lack of a single point of control — or failure — DWeb technology is well suited to meet the messy, pluralistic nature of civil society head on.

Introducing Civil Society Organizations to DWeb Technology (and Vice Versa)

Accelerating Makers will connect emerging DWeb tools and the needs of civil society to one another. We will bring community members together in a space that celebrates the expertise of both groups. And, we will provide insight and support to foundations and other potential funders in order to bring financial support to public good technology projects built on DWeb technology.

We’ll accomplish this through a series of community events that bring the Maker, civil society, and funder communities together, all of which will be supported by expert-developed educational materials. Along with this dynamic event series, we’ll be launching a GitHub repo in which all the resources we’ve developed — including open-source code — will be made available to the public.

We’ve already held our first event, How Can Civil Society Participate in the Decentralized Future of the Web?, featuring Hunter Treseder, head of global social impact programs at Filecoin Foundation & FFDW, and Nathan Freitas, founder and director of Guardian Project. You can find a video of that full event here.

This is the first of many events and actions that we’ll be taking to achieve the goals of this project. Here’s how we plan to introduce civil society decision-makers (such as NGO executive directors and more) to DWeb technology — and how we’ll introduce the Makers of Dweb technology (blockchain software developers, for example) to those same decision-makers:

  1. We explain DWeb technology in no-nonsense terms that will support civil society leaders as they evaluate and interrogate its suitability for their own organizations’ specific needs. We also explain key concerns and terms of civil society leaders to the Makers — things like log frames, theories of change, and impact tracking.
  2. We provide use cases that are relevant to civil society organizations and build demonstration projects that illuminate the ways that DWeb technology can solve problems in their mission areas. We also provide baseline data from civil society to DWeb Makers, allowing decision-makers to talk about the impact of their work in quantifiable ways
  3. We create a rubric that can be used by civil society leaders to evaluate and determine if a particular DWeb solution is right for them. This same rubric will be used by DWeb Makers to build out their solutions in ways that align with the requirements of civil society.
  4. We document specific projects and develop case studies in order to describe what went well, what was difficult, and the impact of the work itself.
  5. We provide opportunities for civil society decision-makers to ask questions of others who have worked with the technology. At the same time, we provide opportunities for DWeb Makers to hear directly from civil society leaders and better understand the challenges that these organizations face when adopting technology.

Bringing these two groups together in meaningful ways is the heart of the Accelerating Makers project. Among the end results of these efforts will be 15 Maker-developed DWeb solutions available for donation on the TechSoup marketplace. But beyond that, we’ll produce research studies, fundraising templates, and other resources to help us collectively meet our specific goals.

Why the DWeb Matters to Civil Society

All of this means a significant increase in the supply of digital solutions for civil society at large.

But this is where the shared values of civil society and the DWeb movement come into focus. Civil society organizations are pillars of an open and free democratic society, and civil society organizations become more resilient when they have access to flexible, purpose-built resources that enable them to build a more equitable planet. That’s why we believe that our work, and FFDW’s mission to ensure the preservation of humanity’s most important information through open-source software and DWeb technology, can combine to build, as the saying (sort of) goes, something truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Like FFDW, Accelerating Makers is defined by its commitment to collaborative and open-source education, research, and development. Together, we can bring to bear new solutions that can have a transformative influence on the way civil society organizes itself around the world’s most pressing issues.

How You Can Get Involved

We will have more to share soon. In the meantime, you can participate in this project in the following ways:

  • Download our first explainer, “What Is the Decentralized Web?” By providing your contact information, you’ll be notified of upcoming Accelerating Makers events and project updates.
  • Register for our learning series for Makers interesting in integrating Dweb into apps and software. The next event is on September 13, 2023.
  • We’d also love to hear what you would like to see in this project moving forward. You can email us directly at makerlabs@techsoup.org.

We have a lot of work to do. Let’s get started.

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The TechSoup Global Network

60+ organizations with kindred missions working together to get critical tech know-how and resources to changemakers around the world. TSGN.org