Closer than ever: A guide for social change organisations who want to work online
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is a global organisation and network made up of different civil society organisations. Our mission is to challenge discrimination, structural inequality and power structures by working to decolonise the internet and digital technologies and spaces to create a more just and sustainable world. We do this by harnessing the collective power of activists, organisations, excluded groups, communities and social movements; embodying a feminist and rights-based approach in shaping and co-creating digital technology and spaces; and ensuring that the internet is governed as a global public resource.
APC is a legal entity registered in California in the United States, but our staff are located all over the world. Our staff (of around 40 people) work day to day with each other and with APC members and partners from computers in their homes. The APC network has almost 60 organisational members and more than 30 individual members active in more than 70 countries, mostly from the global South.
APC has worked as a completely virtual and remotely connected network from its inception in 1990, evolving and adapting throughout the organisation's 30 years of working for social change, which we are commemorating in 2020.
We are relaunching this guide as one response to the crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has generated worldwide and which is affecting each and every one of us, wherever we live, wherever we work.
Many organisations have found their usual work culture and routines totally disrupted and need advice and support in reorienting and reconfiguring their mission and work to continue their activities online, safely and securely.
In this guide, APC shares knowledge harvested through three decades of remote working in the hopes that other non-profit organisations will find it useful for putting systems and practices in place that maximise the benefits of working remotely and mitigate the challenges of working remotely – particularly in the context of this current crisis. We also hope that the experience gained will allow organisations to adopt practices and tools that will benefit them in the longer term.
The guide draws on the views and experiences of APC members, partners (people and groups we work with), consultants and staff who work online for social change. Their perspectives are the basis for this guide, which is organised sequentially following the level of importance that those interviewed placed on each issue. Our starting point is people.
Although nine years have passed between the first and second editions of this guide, we continue to believe that the key to sustainable and effective online working lies in building a foundation of strong relationships based on trust and solidarity.
We hope that this revised material provides you with some of the information you need to encourage and assist your organisation to harness the potential of online work for your causes and that it helps you develop and implement efficient ways to work online for social change — helping us to come closer than ever in times of global crises.
The revision has been done quickly in order to share something we hope will be useful as soon as possible. We will be revising and updating this guide continually over the coming weeks to ensure the content is as accurate, helpful and comprehensive as possible.
The first chapter focuses on people, the importance of the relationships between and among people who work together online, and how you can sustain and strengthen those relationships in an online environment.
The second chapter focuses on the policies, processes and systems you need to consider when working online.
The third chapter focuses on the tools and applications that make working online possible, and what you and your organisation need to consider before making choices about what technology you will adopt.
The fourth chapter shares case studies of how APC has implemented APC-wide activities online.
We welcome your thoughts, feedback and suggestions for improvement, which you can share with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
APC would like to thank all the members, staff and partners in the APC network that made possible the first edition of this guide, contributing their time for interviews, consultations and feedback, as well as Margarita Salas and Sulá Batsú who put together this indispensable material.
A first version of this guide was published in 2011, authored by Margarita Salas and Sulá Batsú, with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The changes made in this second version of the guide reflect the availability of new tools and the new learnings we have made in the nine years that have passed since the first edition was published.