NDI’s Civic Tech Leadership Program has three stages. First, a large cohort of young people around the world participate in the Technology for Accountability Lab, a free, open online course in partnership with Stanford University Online. The bilingual Lab is the first course to be offered in Arabic by Stanford Online. Over 3,400 young people participated in the course during Fall 2016.
Second, young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa who completed the Lab were eligible to apply for the Civic Tech Leadership Program, an intensive mentorship, training, and peer exchange program. Two hundred participants worked collaboratively in virtual cross-cultural teams to exchange ideas, build a concept of a civic tech tool, and learn how to present it, drawing on the expertise of their peers and experienced mentors.
Participants developed their projects into a video pitch, and members of teams that produced outstanding video pitches were invited on an in-person exchange, the third and final phase of the program. Sixteen participants traveled to Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley to meet with technology leaders and policymakers to further develop their project ideas and hone their presentations.
One team that participated in the trip developed an online tool to provide services people with disabilities in Tunisia. Another developed a tech-based assessment tool to improve access to educational resources for Syrian refugee children in Jordan. Yet another group proposed a blockchain-based system to protect the property rights of citizens and businesses in Libya.
Wala Ben Ali, a trip participant from Tunisia, worked with her teammates Clara Tsao and Flora Wang from the United States on a pitch for Saeduni, a mobile application that would enable non-native English speakers in the United States to safely report domestic abuse and connect with support groups. The trip was Wala’s first time in the United States, and the experience has been inspiring for her. “Scarce are the organizations working on civic technology strategies in Tunisia, and I am planning to start working on it.”