What we learned at NPDev 2016

This was our fifth year attending Aspiration’s NonProfit Developer Summit (NPDev) and it remains the most important event in the FabRiders’ calendar. There are so many reasons why we love this event: the radical techie community that surrounds it, the way Aspiration lays down a foundation to support meaningful knowledge exchange and the excellent venue, Preservation Park in Oakland. This year was VERY different, thanks to the devastating US Presidential election result that occurred the week prior. We started on a very somber note, with a lot of initial commiseration, but we quickly switched to a mode of organising and pro-actively preparing for the hard times ahead.

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From the ‘Propaganda Posters for Good’ Session

Sensing that the needs of participants was VERY different this year, Gunner took a different tactic in getting the Summit started. Ditching the traditional spectrogram, we got an opportunity to go deep into discussion in pairs and take a walk in the neighbourhood that surrounds Preservation Park. I was fortunate to be able to grab Ken Montenegro, of whom I have been a long time fan, but have never had the opportunity to meet. He and I spent some time comparing and contrasting our shared histories in the NPTech space in the United States.

On our return, we took part in a ‘world-cafe’ like exercise focused on storytelling with some very compelling case studies:

  • Rainey Reitman from EFF talking about using twitter to confound the UK’s government’s attempt to sneak the snooper’s charter through the House of Lord’s.
  • Matt Mitchell discussed the different methodologies used for improving Black Lives Matter Activists’ abilities to utilise digital safety tools
  • Chris Michael from Collaborations for Change on lessons learned in running book/content sprints
  • Sasha Kinney on running awareness raising campaigns around combatting corruption in various communities in Nairobi
  • Nick Sera Leyva on sustaining a network of digital security trainers.

Every NPDev presents the same challenge for me in that I always walk in with around a half-dozen session I’d like to run, but I also want the ability to go to some of the other great participant driven sessions. This year I managed to run:

I also managed to get to sessions on

  • Data Literacy, led by Heather Leson from the International Federation of the Red Cross, looking at what was effective methodologies to achieve Data Literacy, including getting people engaged in collecting and using data, but also better understanding their own goals and aims.
  • Surveillance Self Defense, Led by Bill and Soraya from EFF and discussing how to build capacity for people to train others on digital safety.

It was also an honour to get to represent LevelUp with Nick Sera Leyva in the Science Fair. A major theme this year was about how to effectively engage activists around digital safety. What seemed Ironic, was how materials geared toward activists working in repressive regimes and funded by the state department, were now relevant and needed for activists working in the US.

Be sure to check out the event wiki which is full of helpful notes from all the great sessions (along with links to notes from past NPDevs) along with other great write-ups on NPDev by Ruth MillerSrishti Sethi, and Rainey Reitman.

And so we ended with general appreciations for each other and the time we shared, with sleeves rolled up and ready for the challenges we face in our own corners of the world. Of course, I can’t wait til NPDev 2017!