The Digital Agency for International Development

Nate's thoughts on Bond 2014

By Sam Armstrong on 12 November 2014

There has been a lot of hype in recent weeks as the 2014 Bond Conference and Exhibition draws ever closer. Why might you ask? Not only is Bond the largest event on international development in Europe - a massive deal in itself, but it brings together people from a range of different spheres to discuss, share, challenge and add to the existing international development arsenal, ultimately influencing not only current, but also future work in this ever-changing sphere. No wonder this years conference, held on the 10th November in London was attended by over 700 delegates, and continues to be supported by a vast array of sponsors and partner organisations. Some of the staff at Aptivate were lucky enough to attend and exhibit the work Aptivate does. I managed to chat with Nate upon his return to find out how it went.

Did you attend any interesting sessions at Bond?

I was really busy chatting to so many cool people throughout the day that I only had time to sit in on two sessions - one on transparency and one on the idea of radical organisational change, as well as the introductory speech, but they were all really interesting and insightful.

What was Aptivate able to offer to the conference?

Lots of attendees are interested in discussing how their end-users do or don’t participate in development, which was also a theme raised by Jay Naidoo in the opening speech. So it was interesting to talk to people about how we take this a step further and deliver on it internally. In terms of Aptivate, I don’t mean to suggest that we are perfect in our practice of participation, quite the opposite in that we are extremely flawed, but being flawed and on the learning curve already puts us ahead of others. In the transparency side, there is a lot we can learn from others, but we do have tools that they could use, and some of our tools we already use, so that the world can see our policy development process.

   So you were able to showcase some of the ideas and tools Aptivate has to offer?

A number of people were showcasing things, including the bond impact builder tool that Aptivate built. So we made a significant contribution behind the scenes. We also had a demo screen on a mobile data collection site that we built. I personally focused on talking about Kashana with some of the people I met on the day, and TradeMapper was another thing we were talking about. 

What should BOND do differently next time?

I wish we had more of a mechanism to offer ideas to the conference. Something I think people would have benefited from would be our contribution during the radical organisational change talk, had there been any opportunity for audience participation or feedback. As I mentioned before, many organisations were talking about how they were shifting towards more participatory frameworks, which they could have done much more sustainably with our help, so next time it would be great if there was a way we could get more involved in some of the talks that our work relates to.

Who did you talk to?

There was an interesting nexus of interests between ourselves and other organisations. We talked with SEND Ghana who are focusing on participatory video, and wanting to make the transition to doing it on tablets. It just so happens that a few years ago, we did a tablet-based participatory well-being assessment as a pilot. That has been very slow to evolve into a larger scale programme, but it got me thinking maybe we could go back to that project with the next phase, and bring the video aspect to it. SEND Ghana had been doing all this stuff that we had been piloting, but they had developed it in parallel. They totally own their development process, are wanting to scale up their tablet based stuff, and are working with Oxfam to do this. I thought, maybe we should talk to them and see if we can help in that sense. I also ran into a journalist for SciDevNet, who is interested in looking at how citizens can feedback to governments using ICT, and whats working and not working in that area. I said we are kind of interested in that kinda thing, and so maybe some sort of collaboration will come out of that.

Did you notice any key themes across the conference?

I noticed a real theme about feeding back to governments and steering governments with citizen engagement. We have been working on that with the World Bank evaluation project, and I think that there is a certain thirst for solid effective mechanisms for that, so maybe thats another way we can contribute to further developments and relationship building post-bond.

So, whats next?

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