Announcement: Digital Principles Director Allana Nelson’s Departure

Dear friends and community members,

I learned during my brief stint as a journalist that you should never bury the lede, so here it is:

After over three and a half years at DIAL overseeing the Digital Principles program, I will be leaving on September 25.

Allana with former Principles Director, Carolyn Florey at a Principles event in Tanzania

I first came to DIAL in early 2017, less than a year after we had been named the steward for the Principles for Digital Development. I joined the team because I strongly believed in what the Principles could be – a unifying framework that would fundamentally change the way we use technology in development, thereby providing a more equal footing for the underserved and underrepresented. Digital technologies had (and still have) the potential to be the great equalizer if leveraged properly, and the Digital Principles, for me, were the opportunity to ensure that happened.

The program was young; Carolyn Florey – the Digital Principles Director at the time – and I were still getting our feet under us and trying to understand what the community needed to really utilize the Principles in a meaningful way. At the end of 2017, Carolyn moved on and I inherited a program that was full of promise and possibility, but also one that was met with a lot of skepticism from the digital development community. Despite an enthusiastic endorsement campaign at their launch, stakeholder engagement in the Digital Principles had largely fallen by the wayside and we knew we needed to re-energize the community once again.

My first year at DIAL was spent building trust among our peers, proving that we were the right home for the Principles, and that our team were the right people for the job. We had a lot to prove, and my early days were consumed by overhauling existing guidance and content, investing in relationships and partnership building, and advocating for broader adoption of the Digital Principles.

Digital Opportunity Trust UnConference

I have been heartened to witness the Digital Principles move from a niche design framework to a mainstream measure of what good digital development looks like. The community has rallied around this social movement, felt ownership over it, and has taken on so much responsibility in seeing it grow. The Principles have been written into organizational strategies, from small NGOs to major governmental donors, thereby evolving into a central point of policy.  Many community members contributed to our body of resources by creating their own Digital Principles-based products for internal use at their organizations, which they kindly permitted us to share publicly with all of you. Others have championed the Digital Principles by including them in virtual learning series, conferences, and encouraging partners to join the endorser network.  I came to DIAL intent on being the Principles’ chief advocate, wanting to be the voice of the community and push for better practices in development, but it didn’t take long for that role to become shared by so many of you. The Digital Principles were very much my life for the past few years, but they certainly were never mine alone. 

It’s easy to forget how far we have come; but, as I transition from my role and the team closes out our fourth year of stewardship, I’ve spent time revisiting our accomplishments. We have grown the original 54 endorsing organizations to over 230 across six continents; we established an Advisory Council representative of diverse sectors and geographical regions to guide programming through the community’s lens; and we developed a series of free courses and training materials to improve advocacy and understanding of the Digital Principles (a more detailed list of some of the notable achievements is below).

DIAL celebrating 100 endorsers

Just like our sector and technology itself, the Principles for Digital Development were always intended to evolve and change: it was the original intent behind them being “living” guidelines. Next year, we will take the first steps towards a global conversation on how the Principles must evolve to meet the moment we are in so that they may remain relevant and useful. This conversation will require new voices, new vision, and new champions. If the Principles for Digital Development are truly reflective and driven by the community – a community that has grown significantly over the past four years – these new voices have a right to be heard, too. I am so proud of the work our team has done over the last few months, recommitting ourselves to inclusivity and equity in all that we do.

Principles event in Indonesia

DIAL will begin recruiting for a new Director for the Digital Principles in the coming months with the support and advice of our Digital Principles Advisory Council. We look forward to welcoming a member of the community into this role. Additionally, we will open the nomination period for our next Advisory Council cohort this October, so keep an eye on our Twitter account and website for how you can be considered to join this important group.

My decision to leave DIAL and the Principles for Digital Development program was not an easy one. I have carried the Digital Principles work for a long time; our team has revitalized the community and we have grown and become more representative of the voices in the digital development ecosystem. But growth – in a person, or a set of principles – requires transition. There are moments when it is necessary for leadership to pass to someone new, who will bring bolder visions of what can be possible, and I recognize that that time has come for me. I am thrilled to see where we go next as a community and will continue cheering the progress on and championing it from the sidelines.

Thank you for these incredible years, and for allowing me to be a small part of something so much bigger than myself.

All my gratitude,

Allana Nelson

Director, Principles for Digital Development

With the DIAL team, circa 2016

Here are some highlights from my time at DIAL. Thank you all for your support in making these things possible! 

  • We have grown from a community of 54 endorsers based in the Global North, to more than 230 endorsing organizations represented on six continents (check out our awesome map!).
  • We founded a Digital Principles Advisory Council to give the digital development community a stronger voice in our work, and ensure we are being guided by your needs and not our assumptions.
  • We held three international conference events (TanzaniaIndonesiaGuatemala), two of which were multilingual.
  • We created a Maturity Matrix for Proposal Creation and Evaluation to better help implementers think through the design of the digital projects, and donors to better evaluate proposals for funding against the Digital Principles.
  • We have launched the Digital Principles Academy, which hosts six training courses – all available, for free, online. We also launched the Digital Principles 101 workshop, which can be delivered to your organization or network group.
  • We have translated our Digital Principles guidance into three languages – FrenchSpanish, and Arabic – with plans to add more.
  • We have published five reports diving into important themes in digital development, such as access to needed training and challenges donors face when undergoing digital transformation.
  • We have published 39 formal case studies demonstrating the impact that using the Digital Principles can have on technology-based projects and programs (and we also have a template you can use to write your own!).
  • We launched the Digital Principles Forum – a peer-learning platform to connect our diverse community of practitioners and share our challenges and lessons learned.
  • We have developed an Advocacy Toolkit to help the community champion the Principles, including a branding and style guide, an animation video (in three languages), a promotional video, a standard presentation template, and two card games.
  • Most recently, we launched our Pulse on the Principles podcast and webinar series, to bring the stories of our community members to life in a new way and amplify the incredible work you all are doing.

Later this year, we will be launching two more incredibly exciting products: the Principles+ suite of resources, which are companion guides to help you think about the Principles through specific lenses, such as Responsible Data Use and Leave No One Behind; and a catalog of Common Evaluation Metrics, which will hopefully serve as a starting point in building MEL plans for technology programs, but also will allow us all to create a common language around what and how we gather evidence supporting the use of digital in development programs. Keep an eye out for more exciting things to come!

Claudine Lim

Manager at The Principles for Digital Development

Claudine first joined the Digital Impact Alliance in October 2017, shortly after receiving a dual masters in international relations and public relations from the Maxwell School and S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University. After working as a Program Coordinator and Researcher for DIAL’s Business Operations, she is currently working with the Principles of Digital Development.