Read our six rules for choosing tech
and get a head-start in your social change project

Answer the questions that follow each rule. They could help you make a wiser choice.

Read about the research Alidade was built on

1. Research the people, the problem, and the tech

Do at least some research in three areas:

  1. the overall problem where you think the tool could help;
  2. what your intended users want and need;
  3. what technology options are available.

Focus on the things you don’t know, and learn more about them. Ask for help to fill gaps in your knowledge.

Explain why you think using a technology tool is the right way to address the problem you’re facing.

Describe why your users might want to use the type of technology tool you are thinking about. What might stop them from using it?


Research Finding

Only 3 organisations of the 38 we interviewed did research on all three questions. Many were not prepared for technical challenges that came later on, and less than one-quarter were happy with the tool they chose.

2. Think twice before you build

Look for existing tools that can do what you need. Building a completely new tool is complex and risky.

List any existing tools that can do the things you want.


Research Finding

More than half the organisations in our research built a completely new tool, often without checking if existing tools could do the job. Developing a new tool from scratch usually took much longer and cost more than expected. New tools were often not used by their target audience.

3. Get a second opinion

Someone else has probably tried a similar approach before you. Find them, and ask for advice.

Write down any people or organisations that have used a similar tool in their projects.


Research Finding

Organisations often underestimated the time and effort they needed to put into choosing and using a tool. Talking to people with practical experience on similar projects often helped them avoid mistakes.

4. Always take it for a test drive

Try out at least one tool, with the people you want to use it, before choosing. Trialling highlights problems at the start. It also raises questions you never knew you had.

List any people who you could trial the tool with.


Research Finding

Only 20% of the organisations trialled tools before choosing them. Those that did said it was central to their tool’s success. Trialling wasn’t always successful, but this was usually because the organisation did not test the tool with the people who would eventually use it.

5. Plan for failure

You will not get it right first time. Budget and plan to make regular adjustments to the tool throughout the project.

Write down a short plan for how you will adjust your project plan if unexpected changes occur. Include a testing phase and time to make improvements.


Research Finding

The few organisations that explicitly planned for the risks involved in choosing new tools were most likely to be happy with their choice. They also gained knowledge that they said they would be useful next time they chose a tool.

6. Reflect on what you’re doing

Keep thinking about what is and isn’t working. Apply what you learn to your organisation’s work, and share with other organisations.

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Research Finding

Very few participants said that, in a similar scenario, they would choose a tool in the same way again. Many organisations had learned lessons that they wanted to use the next time they chose a tool. Some avoided common mistakes by talking to other organisations that had tried similar tools.

Case Study

“Now, because had seen with the first tool the things that were not working, we had a clearer picture of what we were looking for. It was not like the first time, when you want something but aren’t sure what. This time, we had a pretty good idea.”