Laura Walker McDonald

Hello.

I help people to fix technology problems
and use technology to fix people problems

 

 
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Hire me to help with your social change project

Technology-enabled social change work can help engage communities and solve problems - or can fail to deliver impact or return on investment, or worse, cause harm to the people we’re trying to help. My work in the last ten years has been to understand how to best identify, design, implement and evaluate technologies for social change.

Working with me, people have chosen better technology tools, saved money, taken better risks, and improved their impact, by understanding how to design for sustainable, inclusive and pragmatic technology.

I work with clients to solve complex problems using methodologies drawn from monitoring and evaluation, agile project management, and design thinking.

  • If your social change organization doesn't have an in-house technology design team, I can help you design, choose and use tech in your projects.
  • If you want to improve the way your organization overall integrates technology into projects, I can work with you on a tailored plan to tackle programmatic and organizational challenges in practical and sustainable ways, to amplify your impact.
  • If you want to understand how technology is contributing to your social change outcomes, and reflect on your work, I can draw on years of experience in technology, entrepreneurship, monitoring and evaluation to give you a rounded evaluation.
     
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    I also:

    Support strategy and leadership

     

    With experience on several governing boards, and seven years as a leader in the tech for social change field, I can help teams, networks and organizations to work together to co-create strategies. Through a combination of facilitated workshop activities, consultative research and collaborative writing, I'll support your stakeholders to work as a team to create a document that everyone feels ownership of.


    Develop guidance and tools

    An author of SIMLab's Monitoring and Evaluation and Context Analysis Frameworks, contributor to the World Disasters Report, and an editor of the IFRC's Guidelines for Cash Transfer Programming, I am experienced in crafting practical guidelines that practitioners can pick up and use.


    Talk, write and research

    An experienced speaker and writer, I advocate for inclusive technology, evidence-based decision-making, effective philanthropy in social change tech, and ethics and responsible data. You can read many of my blog posts on SIMLab.org and on my Medium profile. Selected bibliography and recordings appear below:

     
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    Resume

    With over a decade of non-profit experience, seven years at the forefront of social change technology practice, knowledge of humanitarian aid, international development, human rights and humanitarian law, and a track record leading software development at a successful, global non-profit platform, I specialize in inclusive technology and practitioner-friendly approach that puts communities at the heart of social change work. I bring together methodologies from M&E, agile, and design thinking to solve problems and co-create solutions. 

    In my work at SIMLab, I helped clients and partners to choose better technology tools, save money, take better risks, and improve their impact. I moved the field forward with substantive research and practical contributions around data ethics, monitoring and evaluation, context analysis, and inclusive and accessible technology, and invested in advocacy to get the word out. And I built a close-knit and high-performing, distributed team. 

    I started my career at the British Red Cross, working on humanitarian policy, accountability, and learning. In 2010, I joined FrontlineSMS, where I helped turn an open-source platform into a non-profit business, and took the software from 25,000 downloads to 250,000, and from desktop to cloud in just two years. I have served on the Boards of ELRHA and the CDAC Network and the funding committee of the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, and was a founding member of the H2H Network.

    I've travelled widely in the course of my work, and lived in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Kenya. I now live in Washington, DC, with my husband and daughter and our crazy yellow lab. I love to grow things, read things, and host chaotic but delicious feasts.

    In 2018, SIMLab is closing, and I'll be looking for my next challenge.

    Experience

    SIMLab, Washington DC
    CEO
    September 2014 to present

    Humanitarian Innovation Fund
    Funding Committee Member
    April 2016 to present

    ELRHA
    Steering Committee Member
    November 2010 to December 2012

    British Red Cross, London
    Policy & Learning Officer
    November 2006 to March 2010

    CDAC
    Member of the Board
    May 2017 to present

    FrontlineSMS, Kenya & UK
    co-CEO
    May 2012 to September 2014

    Director of Operations
    October 2010 to May 2012

    Project Manager
    March to October 2010

    Warwickshire Domestic Violence Support Service
    Executive Committee Member
    August 2009 to September 2012

    Education

    LL.M International Development Law and Human Rights, Distinction
    Warwick University, UK
    2005-6

    LL.B Law with French and German, First Class
    University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
    1999-2004

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    Testimonials

    Laura... played a critical role in helping the CDAC Network agree a new strategy that is clear and owned by the membership. Working across the diverse network that includes UN agencies and international NGOs of various sizes based in multiple locations, she enabled engagement through face to face workshops and online drafting. Skilled at drawing out the areas that needed discussion and highlighting the decisions that needed to be made, her writing skills and attention to detail honed a clear, accessible document.
    — Caroline Nursey, Board Member of the CDAC Network
    It was a pleasure to work with Laura and her team. I would highly recommend them to others seeking technical expertise in the future.
    — Lauren Pucci, Global Disaster Preparedness Center (GDPC)

    Recent blog posts

     
     
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