Thinking through the Evolution of Toolkits
*Guest author this month is Akshay Roongta, Quicksand Alumnus, Co-Founder of Amrutdhara, and Social Innovation champion*
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been working as an independent consultant in the design for social change space, while working on my MA thesis. While the thesis is about how grassroots workers in development projects can be empowered using ICT tools to innovate in context, my consulting work has brought me in contact with practitioners in a number of sectors, from WaSH, to education and participatory video. A common thread in freewheeling discussions was the lack of success of knowledge management tools that span sectors or organisations.
In my own work I’m realising that my interest lies at the intersection of development, organisational theory and the leveraging of ICT tools create more human, workable solutions at scale. Like on many other occasions, when I have a new idea or something I’m trying to make sense of, I turn to some of my colleagues from quicksand for help.
What started as a simple query over email I sent to a few of the folks at the studio, about collated learnings about toolkits, soon turned into a larger, longer exercise where, we decided to dive into and better understand the world of ‘toolkits’.
We’ve turned this into a longer ongoing publishing project over at Medium, where through a variety of posts — editorials and interviews — we unpack and dive deeper into how knowledge is documented and shared within organisations, sectors, and the world at large.
What is certainly clear to us is that building and deploying toolkits is a rising trend, with a variety of organisations jumping into the fray: everybody from consulting firms and grassroots NGOs to government organisations, foundations, and aid organisations. The interest stems from the organisations wanting to scale the impact they’re having, with the firm thesis that sharing knowledge in an open manner will help replication of successful programs and interventions, or in the very least to help direct the efforts of others for a more efficient and timely deployment of products, services, and policies seeking to address an issue or challenge.
In the development sector, we have traditionally shared knowledge through reports, conferences, journals, and increasingly through blogs and social and new media. At their core, though, most of these methods of sharing knowledge were ‘one to many’ (as opposed to one to one), and given the need to be more collaborative with the information being doled out, so as to better build knowledge together, people have turned to the idea of toolkits.
Even as we started talking about toolkits internally, we realised very quickly that perhaps there was some clarity required in what we actually meant by ‘toolkit’, as this term has become a catch-all for a variety of different methods of storing, sharing, and building knowledge.
In this first post, we look at different typologies that we have seen, and some principles on designing human centred toolkits.
We’re now gaining steam on this project, and our attempt with this project is to provoke reflection and discussion, as we collectively kick off another few decades of work trying to meet the SDGs, to have a considered approach in how we share knowledge with each other.
One of our lines of inquiry to better understand this space is the academic research that has been done to date. We request that if any of you have suggestions on papers or books to read, or discursive spaces to explore, we would most welcome suggestions. We invite you to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what you think, and do watch this space for more as we dive in deeper into this subject with other practitioners and stakeholders.
1// Kevin reflects on the process of creating a toolkit for Project Sammaan. (link)
2// Sara is a self confessed tool nerd, and she shares her experiences and tips on finding and using tools. (link)
3// Babitha interviews Vishwanath, and they talk about the need for toolkits to include and empower the informal and the grassroots. (link)
4// Akshay interviews Theo, and they talk about toolkits needing stewardship and become long term projects to affect real change. (link)
5// Quicksand’s work on the DIY Toolkit (link)
6// Quicksand’s work on developing a financial abilities toolkit (link)
7// Potty Project and the community sanitation reality in India’s urban slums (link)