In collaboration with Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and the Institute for Representative Government, NDI launched the Civic Tech Leadership Program, a unique bilingual program to cultivate young tech-empowered leaders in the U.S. and across the Middle East. By connecting civic activists interested in using technology in their work with technology experts who wish to use their skills to build a more democratic world, the Civic Tech Leadership Program aims to encourage and facilitate cross-cultural collaboration between young innovators in the two regions. Participants learn about using technology for better governance, develop a civic tech idea into a compelling and thoughtful video pitch, and compete for the opportunity to join a study mission to the U.S. This program is made possible through the Stevens Initiative, with support from the U.S. Department of State and the Bezos Family Foundation.
The program has three parts, beginning with a free, open online course offered in Arabic and English and hosted by Stanford Online -- the Technology for Accountability Lab. The Lab includes lessons on broad topics of accountability, and features presentations by leading civic tech experts, including Larry Diamond on the importance of transparency; NDI and Mourakiboun on election tech; Sunlight Foundation on political finance; Transparency International on beneficial ownership transparency; and Tunisia’s Al Bawsala on citizen engagement in legislatures. In its launch, the Lab attracted more than 3,500 registrants from 125 countries, and led to over 3,900 contributions and 56 real-world project proposals made by course participants. Examples of students’ work include proposed projects focused on developing an online platform for public procurement in Libya, the use of social media for humanitarian relief, and developing tools for women to report and combat harassment.
The second part of the program is a virtual exchange, in which participants are teamed up to collaborate on the design of a civic tech project idea. With guidance from their peers and from civic technologist mentors, teams create a two-minute bilingual video pitch and compete for the opportunity to participate in the final portion of the program—an in-person Innovators' Exchange Study Mission. The Study Mission takes participants to Silicon Valley and Washington, DC, for the opportunity to meet prominent change-makers, entrepreneurs and civic tech experts operating at the forefront of the global civic tech space.