Democratisation of Technology and the Decolonisation of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning: Bridging the Gap

CEO blog graphic

We publish these quarterly, with our CEO Preeti Shetty giving her insights into challenges and opportunities in the third sector, deep diving into areas such as impact, digital & tech, sport & non-sport sectors and MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning) trends. 

I don't know about you but I cannot turn the corner without hearing about AI. How it will revolutionise our sector. How it will affect our jobs. How everyone has heard about it but not that many people know how to use it well … yet.

Technology has evolved at a breathtaking pace over the past few decades, shaping every facet of our lives but are we using it or is it using us? And if we really are to take advantage of the innovation and efficiencies tech can bring, isn't it our responsibility to make sure everyone gets these?

At Upshot, we spend a lot of time talking about MEL. Why it is important that third sector organisations understand, measure and articulate their impact. But lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about whether the way we do this is fair. Historically, charities and NGOs provide services to communities and ask for nothing in return … except data. We need this data to tell us whether our interventions are working or not. It is crucial to understand our success and importantly, we need it to get funding. But designing programs, pushing down intrusive survey questions and digging into personal details from often vulnerable groups can really affect the balance of power. Are we really successful if we hit our self-professed KPIs or does success mean that the community we are working with feels like sustainable change has been made? 

These two seemingly distinct concepts are more interconnected than one might think.

Democratising technology refers to the process of making technology accessible and inclusive to all, while decolonisation in the context of monitoring, evaluation, and learning pertains to breaking free from colonial legacies that have perpetuated inequality and oppression in these fields.

In this month’s blog I will try and explore the link between these two movements and how they are contributing to a more equitable and just society.

The Democratisation of Technology

The democratisation of technology aims to ensure that these innovations are accessible and beneficial to all, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, or geographic location. Here are a few ways technology is being democratised...

  • Internet Accessibility: Efforts are being made to expand internet access to under-served communities, narrowing the digital divide. Initiatives like Starlink, ViaSat etc. are bringing high-speed internet to remote areas, enabling people to access information and opportunities.
  • Open-Source Software: Open-source software projects allow anyone to use, modify, and distribute software freely. This not only reduces costs but also fosters collaboration and innovation.
  • Maker Movement: The maker movement empowers individuals to create and innovate with tools such as 3D printers, microcontrollers and open-source hardware. This enables local solutions to address local problems.

The Decolonisation of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning

The process of decolonisation in monitoring, evaluation and learning is vital for addressing systemic inequalities and promoting inclusivity in the assessment of policies, programs and projects. Decolonisation in this context means challenging the Eurocentric paradigms that have traditionally guided these fields and making space for diverse perspectives. Here's how it's happening...

  • Inclusive Frameworks: Researchers and evaluators are adopting more culturally sensitive and context-specific evaluation frameworks. These frameworks consider indigenous knowledge and local perspectives, making the process more relevant and equitable.
  • Local Participation: Engaging local communities in the co-creation, design and implementation of monitoring and evaluation activities is crucial for decolonisation. Their insights can provide a more accurate and holistic understanding of the impact of projects.
  • Diverse Voices: Recognising and promoting the importance of diverse voices in evaluation and learning, including those traditionally marginalised, helps to shed light on previously unseen disparities and dynamics.

This sounds complicated! How are these two things connected?

The link between the democratisation of technology and the decolonisation of monitoring, evaluation and learning is evident in several ways...

  • Data Access and Collection: Democratised technology, such as mobile phones and open-source data collection tools, enables local communities to gather and analyse their own data. This shift in power from external experts to local stakeholders supports the decolonisation process.
  • Local Innovation: Technology democratisation allows local communities to innovate and develop solutions that meet their specific needs. When paired with decolonised monitoring and evaluation, these innovations can be better understood and their impact more accurately assessed.
  • Global Collaboration: Technology facilitates global collaboration, connecting people from diverse backgrounds and locations. This can help create a more inclusive and equitable approach to monitoring and evaluation that transcends colonial legacies.
  • Data Sovereignty: Democratisation of technology can lead to a more equitable distribution of data sovereignty. This means that the control and ownership of data are returned to the people and communities being studied, aligning with the principles of decolonisation.

So what does this all have to do with Upshot?

The democratisation of technology and the decolonisation of monitoring, evaluation and learning are interlinked movements working in tandem to create a more equitable and just world. For us at Upshot, we are constantly looking at how we are supporting our organisations to make a greater impact in their communities. This means we need to think about how we provide access to technology and support our clients in challenging colonial legacies in monitoring and evaluation. We play our small role in these movements in the following ways...

  • Accessible Data Management: At Upshot we provide an accessible and user-friendly data management platform that allow organisations, especially those in the third sector, to collect, store, and analyse data effectively. By making these tools accessible and at a fair price point, we contribute to the democratisation of technology, enabling a broader range of organisations to engage in effective data management and MEL practices.
  • Customised Solutions: We help develop customised frameworks or Theories of Change that consider the specific needs and contexts of organisations working with marginalised or underrepresented communities. This approach aligns with the decolonisation of monitoring and evaluation, as it recognises the importance of context-specific evaluation frameworks.
  • Training and Capacity Building: Upshot offers training and capacity-building services to help organisations become more proficient in impact measurement, data collection and analysis, cutting through the jargon and simplifying MEL. This support empowers local communities and organisations, aligning with the broader goals of democratisation and decolonisation.
  • Local Community Engagement: We work with our clients to promote local community engagement in data collection and evaluation processes. This encourages the inclusion of diverse voices and aligns with the decolonisation efforts to challenge traditional, top-down evaluation practices.
  • Collaborative Initiatives: By supporting collaborative initiatives and sector partnerships that bridge the gap between the social and sports sectors, we try and contribute to a more holistic approach to impact measurement. This alignment of efforts fosters a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of the social impact of programs and projects.
  • Advocacy and Thought Leadership: Where possible, we engage in advocacy and thought leadership to promote the principles of democratisation and decolonisation within the sector (like this blog!). This includes raising awareness about the importance of accessible technology and more equitable evaluation practices.
  • Global Networks: Our vision is to build a global community of impact-led organisations who use data to make better decisions to serve their communities. And so, we try and facilitate global networking opportunities, connecting organisations and individuals from diverse backgrounds. Such connections encourage the exchange of ideas and best practices, contributing to the broader movement for inclusivity and social justice.

By prioritising local community engagement and fostering collaboration, we hope to contribute to a more equitable and inclusive approach to data management and impact assessment, helping bridge the gap between technology, empowerment and social justice. 

Want to learn more about this work? We are always happy to talk, contact: