Ngo in-a-box

Project image

Note: The NGO in-a-box series is no longer in publication in its original form, but up-to-date content along similar lines can be found in some of our more recent toolkits and guides: Security in-a-box, Visualising Information for Advocacy, the Women's Rights Campaigning Info-activism Toolkit, and our Exposing the Invisible project's Resources section.

In 2003 we launched our NGO-in-a-box project - a series of toolkits designed to meet the specialised technology needs of non-profit organisations such as NGOs, activists, independent journalists and community groups.

As the name suggests, each toolkit was a 'box' containing a few different elements:

  • CDs containing specifically selected Free and Open Source Software
  • easy-to-use tutorials
  • hands-on guides
  • informative case studies

The proto version of NGO in-a-box was created for distribution at our Summer Source Camp in Croatia. Following from the success of this, the toolkit was then adapted for Africa, Asia and Latin America - compiled and distributed during AfricaSource, Asia Source and the Free Software Forum in Brazil.

Four toolkits were then produced, each covering a specific theme, providing comprehensive solutions to the very real technological issues faced by NGOs, and produced specifically to address the realities of their work:

  • Base-box: a collection of essential tools for setting up and running a small-to-medium sized NGO.
  • Digital security and privacy,created in collaboration with Frontline Defenders: crucial security resources for human rights defenders and independent journalists handling sensitive information.
  • Audio and video: the basics for producing and distributing audio and video material.
  • Open publishing: for producing and disseminating text and images.

All the toolkits were put together by a team of international experts in each field and rigorously peer-reviewed by an editorial team, with the needs of non-profit organisations at the fore at all times.

All the toolkits were also (as Tactical Tech's toolkits still are) provided to the non-profit community free or at low-cost.

(NGO in-a-box: security edition, A/V edition, Open publishing edition, and Base Box edition)


NGO-in-a-box demystified the use of technology for non-profit organisations in five main ways:

  • Finding the right software: each toolkit selects the most relevant tools, making specific recommendations and choices, so that non-profit organisations don't need to trawl through the overwhelming amount of software available.
  • Helping with implementation: all software is accompanied by guides, documentation and, where possible, training material – making it easy-to-use even for those with limited technological expertise.
  • Improving access: distributed in CD and USB format, software is immediately available and easier to share.
  • Providing legal solutions: by providing FOSS and fully licensed materials, we ensure that organisations have access to legal tools that can be freely shared and often improved upon and localised by their users.
  • Diversifying access: toolkits can be easily localised and many have been translated into local languages.

In practice, NGO-in-a-box was designed to free busy advocates and organisations from the troublesome difficulties of finding, selecting and implementing the right software – freeing them to use their time addressing more urgent and immediate concerns, supporting people and communities in need.

It also offered a solution for those with limited and sporadic internet access, providing the tools and materials in-hand and in a form that was easy to copy and pass on.

By putting the tools of production and distribution and the means of collaboration and mobilisation into the hands of the non-profit community, NGO-in-a-box aimed to help make that community – and all of its work – more effective and powerful.