Setting goals is one of the keys to success in any venture, which is one of the main reasons that 2013 was such a great year for the Sentinel Project. In fact, I’m writing this blog post from the road as our team drives through the Tana Delta in the midst of our first major fieldwork to directly counter the risk of atrocities. The very fact that we’re here in Kenya with the resources to accomplish our mission is the result of goals that we set more than a year ago.
Of course, 2014 will be no different except that this time we’ll be even more ambitious. Now, in the spirit of keeping everyone informed about our work, I’d like to share with you what we have planned for this year. Since 2014 is already well underway, we’ve already made some progress on achieving these goals and will definitely be updating you more as we go.
Our goals are divided up by our three main teams – Research develops and implements our methodology, Operations ensures that we have the resources we need, and Technology creates the tools that enable our work. An additional category covers our leadership and governance, which ensures that the Sentinel Project keeps moving in the right direction.
- Transition completely to a mass atrocity framework – Our mission has been evolving for some time and we’ve realized that maintaining a focus on situations which may fit the narrow legal definition of genocide could restrict us from helping some people in danger of mass atrocities. By broadening our mandate, we not only bring ourselves in line with the general direction of our field but also maximize the number of situations where we could potentially help.
- Establish consistent and effectively publicized reporting for all SOCs – Our team does great work when it comes to monitoring situations of concern but we need to standardize our products to ensure the highest quality while also working to get that information and analysis into the hands of the people who can use it.
- Develop relationships with similar organizations around the world – The Sentinel Project is far from the only atrocity prevention NGO in the world and we need to actively ensure that our efforts complement those of others in the field so we can work together when it makes sense.
- Create a rapid reaction system which can begin to address atrocities outside of existing SOCs – Last year, we started looking at South Sudan and the Central African Republic as potential situations of concern before they became the well-known crises that they are today. However, resource constraints meant that we worked too slowly on this, which is something that can’t happen again if we are to be successful at early warning and early action.
- Integrate lessons from Una Hakika into more general Sentinel Project operations – This is an important time for us as we set up the Una Hakika project to counter the negative influence of misinformation in the Kenya’s Tana Delta and so work to prevent the recurrence of interethnic atrocities. We have already learned many lessons from this experience which will benefit the organization as a whole and expect to learn many more.
- Dramatically increase public awareness of the Sentinel Project – We know that our work here at the Sentinel Project is both important and interesting but not enough people are familiar with it yet. We’ve seen in the past that every increase in public awareness of the Sentinel Project comes along with an increase in resources such as volunteers, funds, and opportunities. That’s why this year we need to dramatically increase the organization’s profile – it will also dramatically increase the organization’s capabilities.
- Develop fundraising to support organizational needs – In short, money has always been the main factor holding the Sentinel Project back from accomplishing more. We have innovative, potentially lifesaving ideas and talented people to implement them, but often lack the other resources to make this a reality and grow the organization. This year, we will work hard to gather sustainable resources for accomplishing our mission.
- Establish the Sentinel Academy as an independent revenue stream – In order to achieve our financial goals for this year, we need a diversified strategy which relies not only on donation-based fundraising and grants but also earned revenue. Last year, we received a great initial vote of confidence in our Introduction to Technology for Human Rights course. This year, we will expand our course offerings through the Sentinel Academy while also making them accessible to more people through our new micro-scholarships program. Each person who enrolls will be directly supporting the Sentinel Project’s core mission.
- Strengthen internal communication and collaboration across all levels of the organization – With an ever growing team of smart, talented people working on diverse projects, it is now more important than ever that we foster solid internal communication and collaboration between all of them to build a stronger organization overall.
- Improve external engagement with our data – We have various projects, such as Hatebase, Threatwiki, and WikiRumours, which produce a lot of interesting and useful data and benefit not only the Sentinel Project but also others in our field. We aim this year to actively provide access to this data for others who can use it.
- Improve internal usage and integration across our datasets – At the same time that we want to make our data available to others, we also need to make better use of it ourselves. This will help to ensure that our teams all benefit from each other’s work.
- Restore and maintain media presence – Some of our technology projects, such as Hatebase, gained significant media interest last year so we aim to recapture and maintain this interest in order to keep the Sentinel Project’s technology work in the public eye. The Technology Team will independently work on this in order to complement the organization’s overall PR strategy.
- Improve security and establish disaster planning protocols – It’s no secret that technology is integral to almost everything we do at the Sentinel Project, so we will work hard to ensure that our tools and data are protected from threats and that we plan for the worst case scenario.
- Optimize our usage of productivity tools and software platforms – With a large team of volunteers, paid staff, and interns spread over several countries, the tools we use keep us in contact and moving in the right direction. There’s a lot more we can do though to be increasingly effective at this, and getting our whole team using the right tools is essential.
- Grow the Technology Team – We’re fortunate to have a dedicated core team of technology experts but we’ve reached the point where they need more help to accomplish their own mission. Recruiting the right people with the right skills will be an essential goal for this year.
Leadership & Governance
- Fill and develop the executive team – The Sentinel Project is full of talented people but few of them occupy our most senior leadership positions. This puts a serious strain on the leaders we do have in place and hinders their ability to do their own jobs effectively when they have to cover multiple vacancies. Of course, these positions are often more demanding than what can be expected from most volunteers, so we need to think creatively about how to fill such gaps.
- Improve basic governance practices – Good governance practices not only help us to meet regulatory requirements but also to keep the Sentinel Project moving in the right direction over the long term. Finding the right people to participate in this process will be essential to our success.
- Improve accountability of individuals and teams – In an organization that is still largely composed of volunteers, most people have multiple commitments in their lives. Sometimes, this can make it a challenge to get our work done but ensuring accountability for individuals – especially leaders – and teams will go a long way towards keeping us productive.