Narrative Futures is a series of different future scenarios created to spark inspiration on how we can shape the digital future in a collaborative, sustainable and equal way. We set out to break with current narratives that are introduced by Big Tech. Our goal is to reclaim digital infrastructure in the public interest – and start a conversation about how get there. Each starts with a potential future (🚀) and the current problem. (📌)
“Going deep: how infrastructure support gained traction in the philanthropic world.”
April 25th, 2032 – 10 years ago reports like Roads and Bridges and Roadwork Ahead started a discussion about the relevance of digital infrastructure. They highlighted how millions of applications rely on infrastructure like frameworks or libraries that are maintained by individual software engineers who are underfunded and overworked. In the past years, the bad condition of digital infrastructure has become more and more visible through numerous zero-day exploits that affected millions of users and institutions. Exposing the challenges and highlighting the importance of solid, accessible, and open infrastructure by pioneers in the field has led to a change of mindset of governments, funders, civil society and developer communities. Infrastructure support is something that has become indispensable in their portfolios and approaches. Today infrastructure is understood as far more than the bits and bytes that our applications are based upon. The social infrastructure – like community work, knowledge exchange and wellbeing – for good technical infrastructure is the core element of support programs and efforts.
2022: Digital infrastructure is a topic that many funders shy away from: It is a complex topic with few obvious connections to pressing social matters. But digital infrastructure has long become an important foundation for funders and their grantees; where it fails, their impact decreases. At the same time, open digital infrastructure is facing a crisis, because it lacks very non-digital support structures that funders are well acquainted with: good practices of sharing knowledge, of supporting and growing communities, of organizational health and wellbeing. In that sense, digital infrastructure consists of much more than code, libraries and standards.
- Digital infrastructure is too often developed and discussed without direct grounding in social issues, tech too often considered as an end unto itself, with notable exceptions (e.g. HRPC group)
- Digital infrastructure communities themselves lack the infrastructure to support their work, especially when it comes to good practices for organizing, design, administration and more.
- Funders might rethink their own position within the digital infrastructure ecosystem and evaluate: What digital infrastructures do we/our grantees rely on? What can we contribute to keeping these infrastructures stable? What sort of support networks do digital infrastructure communities need that we could easily provide and are already sharing with others?
- Collaborate with other actors in the field who provide non-monetary support (e.g. grant makers, fundraising platforms, coaches, expert groups) to provide a strong support network for digital infrastructure communities and other grantees.