Encouraging the use of citizen-generated data for the Sustainable Development Goals in Nepal

by Sara Rodriguez

Incorporating citizen-generated data into any phase of a campaign is one of the best ways to improve the overall campaign and make the message stronger. From the research phase to the justification, to detailing the campaign plan or monitoring the impact of the campaign – the inclusion of accurate and reliable citizen-generated data (CGD) is key for any organisation.

As a core part of the DataShift Direct Support Phase II (DSII) initiative, DataShift is working to motivate civil society organisations (CSOs) in Nepal to create and begin CGD campaigns for monitoring or implementing SDGs in their communities. For this, DataShift is currently working to build the capacity and confidence of four Nepali CSOs to produce and introduce CGD to their campaigns.

The first step of our journey in Nepal, was the creation of “Using citizen-generated data to power campaigns”, a curriculum to guide CSOs through the process of designing, strengthening, monitoring, and evaluating advocacy and awareness campaigns by supporting them with CGD and social media management plans.

The preliminary assessments of each organisation and the resulting adaptation of the material gave us a sense on how could DataShift support and motivate CGD initiatives in Nepal:

  • Bikalpa – An Alternative is a think tank working in Biratnagar (eastern part of Nepal) to promote and spread the ideas of freedom, prosperity, rule of law and accountability through empowering and engaging people. The organisation considered conducting a citizen-perception survey on government services in Biratnagar, to start a campaign related to the matter. The lack of capacity and resources hampering the progress of this idea, was identified by the team as an opportunity to offer personalised support on building the capacity of the organisation to create and implement surveys as well as to analyse and use the data effectively;
  • Visible Impact is a young organisation making efforts in Nepal to unleash the social and economic leadership of girls, women and youth through beneficiary-partnered innovative interventions. They are working on a campaign called “No shame to bleed”, promoting safer and healthier menstruation for girls and women. After the preliminary assessment was conducted, we identified the need of support to conduct research around the issue, as well as support to create briefing materials that would better justify the relevance of the problem they are working on and the suitability of their approach. In this case, CGD was seen as an opportunity to complement the background research and create the briefing materials;
  • Local Interventions Group (LIG) is a non-profit company working with affordable innovation and data-driven solutions for smarter governance in Nepal. LIG is in the preliminary phases to start a project related to human trafficking and technology in Nepal. Several gaps have been identified, thus becoming potential areas for DataShift to support. The lack of background research about the context and the situation of human trafficking in Nepal, as well as a lack of knowledge about best practices and lessons learned from organisations working in this issue in other parts of the world gave us the idea to provide support through a research consultant. DataShift will provide support, as well as design a data plan that will provide LIG the opportunity to interview relevant stakeholders to start testing and knowing possible uses of the platform they are going to create.

After touching base and conducting the preliminary campaign assessments, a workshop was held on 7 November 2016 in Kathmandu, attended by the above-mentioned organisations we are working with, based on the “Using Citizen-Generated Data to Power Campaigns” curriculum. The objectives of the workshop included:

  • Introducing the DataShift project and it’s goals
  • Developing an understanding of the value of advocacy campaigns in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Learning how data can add value to advocacy campaigns
  • Creating a strong, structured campaign objective
  • Learning tips on using social media for campaigns
  • Designing a targeted, individualised direct support for one aspect of the organisation’s advocacy campaign.

The workshop was a great opportunity for organisations to share their campaigns, experiences and needs. The level of knowledge about the discussed topics was very high, therefore the contents of the workshop had to be constantly adapted to the discussions, while keeping an eye on the main objectives. Sessions such as, “Learning how data can add value to advocacy campaigns” were shared as examples. Providing examples of different campaigns collecting and using data for advocacy, was highly appreciated by the attendees.  As a result, we had the opportunity to explore deeper possibilities for synergies between DataShift and each participant CSO, allowing us to better define the potential direct support to be provided to each organisation.

The time limitations and the nature of the offered direct support which required hiring specialised consultants and coordinating the processes with different organisations, together with the nature of change and adaptability of such a project, lead to problems related to communications and expectations between DataShift, the implementing partner in Nepal, and the participant CSOs. The response to the processes and communications from different organisations and consultants was completely different, with different speeds and challenges. While the remote survey-related consultancy was a success, we faced many challenges at first when it came to the research consultant. With a consultant placed in the United States, available to work only when it was late in the evening in Nepal and when the consistency in the communications was very limited – communication between the consultant and the CSOs in Nepal was highly limited. However, once the remote research was replaced with one with more flexible hours and more responsive communication, the remote research went very well.

The fact that the project changed its direction soon after it started (to offer a better support to the CSOs after the assessments and testing the curriculum) generated confusion and lack of interest among the participant CSOs. Dedicating more time with the implementing partner at the beginning of the project to discuss the possible routes and requirements of the project is needed, especially when different organisations are involved.

Adaptive support when working on capacity building is the best way to success but it is not enough. The adaptability has to be accompanied by a coherent plan, effective communications and a proper management of expectations. Having the chance to be part of a space full of leaders with exceptional ideas focused on improving the reality through citizens-driven campaigns is something unique. I believe the support from DataShift will strengthen the capacities of the CSOs, as well as help us understand and learn more about best practices related to CDGs and SDGs.

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