Digital Civil Society Lab

Technical Intuition in Philanthropy and Civil Society


Individuals take different paths to awaken to digital possibility and in turn, acquire agency within digital systems, yet there are common journeys toward this agency.  At the same time, there is a growing recognition that the current system of technology access and governance is untenable. The public is excluded, policymakers are inept, and we have outsourced control of critical, global infrastructure to a cabal of programmers. The only way to change this is if individuals – regardless of profession, age, or background – can build clarity and agency about the digital world. The solution often asserted is that we should support people to learn how to code. But people should not have to learn to code to be able to navigate digital spaces, put technology to work for their causes, and influence policy. Similarly, programmers should not be making structural choices about our world without meaningful influence of broad-based publics. 

How do we escape this trap in which confidence and agency in digital systems is reserved for those who choose to dedicate their careers to technology-focused work? The first step is to define what skills and learning we are working to develop, including both skills for technical production and skills for technical intuition.


This project aims to understand the pathways to building technical intuition, build and test instruments that can accelerate technical intuition development, and work towards tools, practices, and learning that may allow for scalable development of technical intuition by non-technical audiences. The initial group focus would be on philanthropy organisations and civil society, but it would likely be applicable for those outside of those communities as well. The driving goal of this project is to unlock  the possibility of digital systems for non-technologists, and to design and mainstream technical intuition learning to increase inclusion and agency in our inescapably digital world.


The first phase will be research to ground and understand the fields adjacent to technical intuition; the second will be experimentation based on the research and to supplement the findings; the third will be community building with others working to advance technical intuition in their own fields; and the fourth will be design and development of a core set of technical intuition concepts; and the fifth will be to evaluate the impact of the work with an eye towards recommendations for foundations and educators.