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Stories of Collaboration: 2020 Tech for Non Tech Exchange

Words by Cassitie Galliott • Jan 5 2021

Thanks to funding from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as part of the Code for All Exchange Program, Code for Australia and Codeando México were able to partner up to bring educational workshop “Tech for Non Tech” to a new part of the world! Below, two of the team share their reflections.

Portrait photos of two people: Cassitie Galliott of Code for Australia and Alma Rangel of Codeando México.

So, what is the Code for All Exchange Program?

Code for All sources funding from generous organisations like National Democratic Institute and National Endowment for Democracy to allow member organisations to join forces to work on specific civic-tech projects (we would also like to give a shout-out to Fundacja ePaństwo for their administrative support on this year’s Exchange). Without this funding and the opportunity to get support from others, organisations full of great ideas and knowledge to share and build-on may not be able to bring their visions to life.

What was our Exchange all about?

Tech for Non Tech is an educational workshop that demystifies the world of tech and helps people build digital capability. Originally created by Enspiral in New Zealand, Tech for Non Tech has been adapted by Code for Australia and primarily delivered to people in government who will be working on or with digital products and services, but don’t come from a tech background.

The workshop creates an informal and interactive atmosphere wherein people can ask lots of questions and build-up their knowledge. We start with the basics including asking (and answering) questions like, “what is a computer?” and “what is the internet?” We then build upon that knowledge until we reach more complex concepts like APIs, coding languages, and Agile methodology.

A slide from a presentation showing a snacks vending machine next to the text: "An API is the way 2 computers interact with each other. The provider lists all the jobs it can do, and the consumer requests an option from the list."
An example of Tech for Non Tech breaking down complex concepts in simple ways

Tech for Non Tech has started to spread further around the globe with thanks to an Exchange last year between Code for Australia, Open Up South Africa and Code for Japan.

This year, Code for Australia were fortunate enough to take part in another exchange, this time with Codeando México! The idea of bringing Tech for Non Tech to Spanish-speakers is an exciting one, creating potential to bring the workshop to numerous new countries around the world.

What did we do?

So, in a nutshell, we had some meetings, shared a bunch of resources, and translated a lot of documents into Spanish. But, it was a little more complex than that, especially due to…well, COVID.

Due to COVID restrictions, we weren’t able to meet and work together in person as we had done in our previous exchange. It would have been ideal given that Codeando México wanted to deliver Tech for Non Tech primarily as an in-person workshop. Additionally, in-person events are still on hold in Mexico, so we weren’t able to run a test session during the exchange period.

So, in true agile civic-tech fashion, we adapted and persevered under the constraints we had. The shape the exchange has taken has been a series of online information sessions presented by the Code for Australia team to the crew at Codeando México, covering the different aspects of Tech for Non Tech that they would need to make it a success — marketing, event planning, facilitation, and technical content. Each session also had a series of resources that Codeando México will keep and refer back to. Once Codeando México had a good understanding of what Tech for Non Tech was all about, they then had a translator work their magic on all the documentation, translating every last bit into Spanish in anticipation of running their first workshop early in 2021.

Two slides side by side, with one in English and the other in Spanish.
Sample translation

Now that we have a bit of background information, let’s hear from some of the participants about their experience during the Exchange.

What did you learn?

Cass, Code for Australia: That working with an organisation on the other side of the world, especially during COVID, can actually go pretty well. Preparing documentation ahead of meetings, and having our partners actually read it in advance, made things move smoothly. We also used our favourite friend, Trello, to keep us on track, provide updates and organise all our a-sync work.

Alma, Codeando México: We learned a lot from the work and dedication that Code for Australia’s team put into the Tech for Non Tech program. It is not just about the content, but also setting the tone for people to be comfortable learning and participating. We learned from each other about our contexts, working throughout the exchange on what could and couldn’t work for us. Finally, it is all about documentation! Documentation allowed us to keep everything on track throughout COVID and being 16 hours apart.

A screenshot of a Trello board with multiple cards and stacks visible.
Our Exchange Trello was key to keeping things on track

How was your experience partnering with another Code for All member organisation?

Cass: Sometimes you can get stuck in a bubble, so it was nice to spend so much time with another organisation to hear about their work, but also how they perceive your existing programs. I should also add, Alma and Rodo from Codeando México were great exchange partners. They were always responsive and asked a lot of great questions that got us thinking as well!

Alma: Having the opportunity to listen and learn from Code for Australia was a great experience. Even though our contexts are different, it was great to see that we could apply their content and their delivery styles in Mexico. Code for Australia’s team was very supportive and helped guide us throughout the process.

Was there anything surprising or challenging that happened during the Exchange?

Cass: I was surprised by what translated to the Mexican context and what didn’t. We have a really unique and relaxed tone we use in Tech for Non Tech that was maintained in the Spanish translation, which was great to see! Yet, Mexico is focused much more on hard-skills so the way we market the workshop probably needs changing.

Alma: Connecting with the organisations and learning from the previous exchange was a challenge since the team that organised the previous exchange is no longer a part of the core-team. However, Code for Australia connected us with OpenUp and videos and documentation from the previous exchange were very useful. COVID also prevented us from delivering our first workshop during the exchange.

What impact did the Exchange have on our organisations?

Cass: As a small organisation, it can be difficult to find the time and resources to collaborate at this level. It’s really reinforced the importance and benefits of working with other organisations while also being selective about what projects you can really commit to. The Exchange also prompted us to reach out to previous organisations interested in running Tech for Non Tech — something we’ve probably neglected somewhat. We’re hopeful this is the start of an active Tech for Non Tech global network!

Portrait photos of three people: Rodolfo Ferro of Codeando México, Esther Semo of Code for Australia and Matt Sawkill of Code for Australia.
Our Exchange Teammates

Alma: Without the exchange it would have been hard for us to find the time and the resources to become a Tech for Non Tech partner, particularly during COVID. It allowed us to learn not only from Code for Australia’s team, but from Open Up’s experience. The exchange allowed us to review and rethink the partnership agreement. We are very excited about what this program can bring to the Latin American community!

What’s next?

Cass: Well, we’re obviously happy to support Codeando México as they plan and hold their first Tech for Non Tech workshop. We also have some plans of our own…During COVID, we moved Tech for Non Tech online and used the time as an opportunity to test out a bunch of new ideas, such as changing it from a 1-day event to smaller sessions over several days and branching out to private sector participants (read more about all that here). Now we’re moving towards “COVID normal” in 2021, we need to decide what changes to keep and what to scrap. So keep an eye out for updates in the new year!

Alma: Having our first Tech for Non Tech workshop! We are planning to focus this first effort on social movements and NGO leaders. It will be a great opportunity to test how the content and delivery methods adapt to the Mexican context and give further feedback to the program. We are also excited about contributing to the program’s growth.

Click here to stay up-to-date with the blog from Code for Australia and here for Codeando México!

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Cassitie Galliott

Head of Delivery + People at Code for Australia

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