The Digital Principles Suite of Practical Resources: Maturity Matrix for Program Design and Proposal Evaluation
Although the Principles for Digital Development were created to outline best practices in digital development, we are frequently asked how organizations can measure their own level of adoption and integration of the Principles in their projects and programs. As practitioners, we often know what we need to do, but do not have a tangible or formal method of measuring those actions in our work.
Over the past two years, the Digital Principles team has engaged donor organizations around the world to better understand their challenges in putting the Principles into practice. From our conversations, we learned that donors were challenged by knowing how to help non-tech colleagues understand when a proposal for funding suggested a good use of technology to invest in or not. In 2018, DIAL hosted a donor convening in Dublin, Ireland and published a subsequent Donors Landscape Report covering six months of research, reinforcing resource gaps and asserting the need for greater alignment between donors and implementers on what “good” use of the Digital Principles looked like.
After many trials and rounds of testing, the Digital Principles team at DIAL is excited to introduce the Digital Principles Maturity Matrix for Program Design & Proposal Evaluation –- a flexible, self-driven guide to provide insights into potential project improvements. The tool was created in collaboration with TechChange, as an interactive tool to better align proposal evaluations with the Principles for Digital Development throughout all stages of project lifecycle.
Set up as a dynamic spreadsheet, the Maturity Matrix is aimed to score proposals against a series of statements that measure alignment with the Digital Principles. However, while seeking to establish shared standards, avoiding overly prescriptive requirements was another key consideration for the team. “I wanted us to show that these things are nuanced,” said Digital Principles Director, Allana Nelson. “The Principles aren’t always applied equally and don’t always have to be applied deeply. Their use has to be taken in context; that context is so important.”
Donors were the intended primary users of the Maturity Matrix during initial development stages, having flagged the need for a tool like it for several years; however, the Digital Principles team quickly realized there were intrinsic benefits for implementers as well. Because proposals and proposal-review processes are not standardized between donors or implementers, the Maturity Matrix helps create metrics of good practices and provides all parties with the latest best practices and resources.
“Our goal was to enable a shared conversation between donors and practitioners in order to measure and incentivize process alignment with best practice guidance of the Digital Principles,” stated the TechChange team. “Every organization has their own processes. But anyone should be able to pick up this tool, come up with a shared understanding, and then be able to communicate that at a glance.”
The tool has gone through several iterations, having received feedback from many members in the digital development community. From maintaining the tool as a spreadsheet, to answering sector-specific questions, the Matrix is intended to be a proactive process that enables conversation between donors and practitioners to better align on the Digital Principles in development projects.
So how does it work?
Statements are grouped according to the specific Principles, project lifecycle phases, and activity. Users can rank their priorities, produce donor request scores alongside proposal scores, and see the difference between the two. This allows users to examine how far apart donors and practitioners are on each Principle and phase and better understand where and how to achieve alignment.
Ultimately, the Digital Principles team hopes that the Maturity Matrix will successfully facilitate collaborative engagement between donors and practitioners to iteratively assess proposals against donor expectations accepted best practices. The use of the Matrix is intended to drive a cycle of learning through which the community understanding collectively increases.
“Technology is constantly advancing, and so are digital development best practices,” TechChange concluded. “The hope is that the matrix will continue to evolve as a shared understanding by phase, alignment, and Principle of what it takes to do this well.”
This is only one of the many new resources we will be announcing – be on the lookout for additional tools and resources that support the continued learning and application of the Digital Principles!
For more information and access to the Digital Principles Maturity Matrix for Program Design and Proposal Evaluation, visit its resource page.
This blog is the first of a four-part series on the new Digital Principles suite of resources.