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.

Data Literacy is Only Half the Battle

by Ryan Winch

Discussions of data literacy permeate many of the conversations surrounding big data and the data revolution taking place today. Debates abound about what data literacy entails, who needs to be data literate and what it will take to increase data literacy worldwide. While these are all worthwhile debates, what often seems to get lost in these discussions is how to convince both individuals and civil society organisations (CSOs) that learning about and actively integrating data into their work is worthwhile. Accordingly, for all those who attended the World Data Forum from 15 – 18 January in Cape Town, South Africa, it is essential to move discussions beyond how to increase data literacy and to actively incorporate a focus about how to build enthusiasm within CSOs around working with data.    

It’s increasingly clear that data literacy is essential for CSOs in the 21st century. Data, in its many forms, can allow organisations to use their resources more efficiently, increase programme efficacy and develop greater understandings of the contexts in which these programmes operate. Despite these benefits, the fact remains that knowledge of how to work with data, the amount of experience CSOs have using it and their willingness (or reluctance) to increasingly incorporate data into their work are often not closely correlated.  This observation is supported by the DataShift team’s experience providing direct support to CSOs, where we have found that many data literate CSOs regularly choose not to work with data, while at the same time many CSOs with lower capacities are producing data heavy reports and literature.

What’s driving this phenomenon is a lack of enthusiasm for working with data. Even amongst those knowledgeable about how to work with data, it’s often seen as either boring, or as a distraction from “real” work such as project management, campaigning or grant writing. Changing this perception towards one where data is seen as a core part of all work will therefore be an essential step to ensuring widespread “data mainstreaming” amongst CSOs in the coming years.

From our experience, this disconnect between data literacy and willingness to voluntarily integrate data into programming is derived from two main sources:

  1. Training courses aren’t applied.  Students, professionals and organisations often take statistics courses or attend monitoring and evaluation (M&E) training sessions which may explain how to design a survey, how to work with SPSS or how to visualise data effectively, but which fail to explain in clear terms how using these tools actually improves project outcomes. How can data reduce child marriage rates? How can deforestation be reduced using data? Too often CSOs fail to see how data can answer these questions and thus, while they know how to use data related tools effectively, they don’t choose to expend their limited time and manpower collecting and analysing data.   
  2. Data is seen as a donor requirement.  Many organisations only work with data when it is requested by donors. Donors today almost always request quantitative accounting of projects’ successes and failures. This means that for many organisations their first experiences with data have been collecting data for donor reports. M&E of programmes soon becomes seen as a chore rather than a potential avenue through which to consistently evaluate and improve programming. This donor-driven process thereby frames data in a way where, while it is seen as an effective avenue to impressing donors and obtaining funding, it isn’t directly connected to the goals of improving programme quality. The result is many CSOs to only choose to work with data when asked to by their donors.  

On the flipside of this situation, it’s also common for CSOs with little experience working with data to be asked by their donors to supply demanding quantitative evaluations of the projects being funded. This leads to low quality, slapdash data being included in reports and publications, providing little value to donors or CSOs. This process is frustrating for CSOs, who can feel coerced into collecting and analysing data they are unprepared to work with. Through forcing data onto these CSOs it saps any enthusiasm these organisations may have had to work with data and leaves them with little understanding of its value. 

Even within the low capacity CSOs which remain enthused about working with data, DataShift has found that asking CSOs to work with data prematurely entrenches poor methodologies, creating habits that are difficult to break even after training or capacity building efforts that may (or may not) be provided later on. It also, and perhaps most distressingly, leads to reports making recommendations or reaching conclusions that are either untrue or that remain unproven. As a result, this improperly used data may actually be fueling inefficiencies and slowing efforts to drive positive change.

This has significant implications for how data needs to be presented to students and trainees, as it shows that simply building data literacy often isn’t enough. CSO’s first experiences with data need to be positive ones and they have to incorporate applied content that allows organisations to see the connections between data and their work. Furthermore, effective training or capacity building efforts need to include a clear marketing element, working to promote all the benefits organisations can reap through engaging with data so that the benefits of working with data become just as clear as the costs (such as staff hours and training).

This certainly isn’t to say that all CSOs have a negative opinion of data, that is certainly not the case.  What it is saying though, is that too often the way that CSOs are introduced to data is the wrong way.  If widespread use of data amongst CSOs is the goal, this trend is alarming as it means that a significant number of the efforts to increase data usage by CSOs are being done in an inefficient, possibly unsustainable manner. Fortunately, the solution isn’t backing off data, or suggesting that data-light training is necessary –  in fact doubling down on data, discussing it more often with partners and focusing on how these discussions of data are framed will be the key to increasing enthusiasm around working with data.  

It is thus essential that discussions of data need to expand their focus beyond the goal of building data literacy. A focus from those running data trainings, and from donors requesting quantitative reporting, on how data can be used to improve projects, as well as efforts to frame data as something essential and productive, rather than a laborious chore, is essential to increasing the number of CSOs choosing to work with data when they’re not required to, and to encourage them to use these data in productive, innovative ways beyond the specific M&E role they also may use it in.

The project I’m currently working on, DataShift, is working hard to overcome this disconnect.  Through our innovative direct support process, we’re able to implement a two-week direct support process that builds data literacy, while also building enthusiasm about working with data. Our training ensure that partner CSOs are engaged throughout the process and are customised to partner’s specific circumstances, so our training sessions and activities can be as applied as possible.  Specifically, we’re working to build enthusiasm though:  

  • Building Relationships – Our direct support consultants take the time to get to know the partner CSO’s we’re supporting.  Through making the process as personal and interactive as possible, partner organisations are able to feel comfortable asking questions, departing from the set curriculum to discuss other potential applications of data and taking their time to ensure all subjects are understood completely.  Most importantly, we’ve found having training run by those enthusiastic about data themselves allows the enthusiasm to rub off, creating an environment where growing enthusiastic about working with data is easy.  
  • Focusing on Applications – All units of our direct support curriculum allow for customisation, allowing topics to be applied directly to the work of the partner organisation.  Our curriculum centers around one specific advocacy project throughout, allowing partner CSOs to see how data can help them reach their goals through it becoming a core part of an effective advocacy campaign. Our units are flexible enough though that they also ensure partners see how data can improve their organisations other programming as well, making it easier for them to choose to integrate data into these aspects of their work.  
  • Collaboration & Networking Building – We work to connect our partners with other organisations using data in similar ways, especially those implementing similar projects. This process allows organisations to build off of each other’s experiences and ensures that once the direct support process ends, partners will continue to have avenues through which to engage with data focused programming.   

While the long-term results of the two-week direct support curriculum remain to be seen, DataShift is taking the important first step towards bridging the data enthusiasm gap. Data has the potential to unleash positive change in a way no one could have anticipated a generation ago, but this will only happen if CSOs have both the knowledge and the desire to engage with it. That’s why we see actively communicating the value of data as an essential step to ensuring data lives up to its potential. Our hope is that this focus extends beyond our programme and that all will work alongside us to build enthusiasm about data. Together, we can make data education both engaging and informative, allowing data’s true potential to be realised in the years ahead.  

The key to building CSO confidence working with CGD

by Ryan Winch

When working with citizen-generated data (CGD), there’s one hurdle many civil society organisations (CSOs) struggle to overcome. This hurdle holds back many CSOs from generating, analysing and communicating CGD in a meaningful way, even though in some cases they may already have many of the skills they need to do so.  The hurdle: confidence.  

Fortunately, based on our experiences providing direct support to CSOs in Tanzania, we’ve found there’s one method for building this confidence that is more powerful than any other – learning through doing.  Nothing else can impart confidence like having done something before, overcoming challenges along the way and seeing the positive results that result from this process. Working with CGD is no exception.  

In my experience, organisations shy away from work they are not completely confident they can do correctly – working with data often falls into this category. Many of us have been in this situation before. When making decisions such as what the focus of an upcoming report will be, deciding whether to include certain data in a grant proposal or report or determining whether new advocacy campaigns should integrate CGD components, it is easy to decide to exclude data and take the ‘easy’ route of leaving it out. On the other hand, organisations that are confident in their ability to collect and analyse data won’t see the inclusion of CGD as a difficulty, rather they’ll see it for what it is: an integral tool in their toolbox; one that can make new projects and applications for funding significantly more successful, while at the same time working to make their CSO part of a growing international network using and sharing CDG and related resources.

So how do we get CSOs to the point where they have this confidence, a point where the decision to include CGD in their work has become nearly automatic? The key, we have found, is learning through doing, often known as experiential learning. Through providing opportunities to work with data in real-world situations and through ensuring CSOs receive constructive feedback throughout this process, CSOs can quickly gain confidence working with data, while at the same time improving their knowledge of how to integrate CGD effectively into their programmes. This is a process I have seen first-hand and a process which DataShift is working to facilitate for our partners.

One case that has clearly demonstrated the value of learning through doing has been our direct support with a partner organisation in Tanzania who was looking to launch a new advocacy campaign. Before launching this campaign, they needed reliable CGD to identify and narrow their target audience and messaging for the campaign. Together we developed an initial survey, going back and forth until our third draft, when we both agreed we had a workable survey.  

I suggested that at this point they conduct a small pilot of the survey, so they could gain experience administering surveys, while also working to flesh out any issues with the survey we had designed. I was pleasantly surprised with what they returned with. Not only had they administered more surveys than we had initially discussed, they came to our next meeting with a series of suggestions for improving the survey and insights about how they could better administer surveys in the future.

One major challenge they brought to the meeting was that respondents were consistently expecting money in exchange for their participation. They had initially grown frustrated with this ,but decided that at the beginning of each survey they would explain to respondents the value of the information it would generate and how respondent’s participation would benefit their community as a whole. Once they began doing this, the change was immediate. Respondents began to consistently agree to participate and questions about money largely stopped.  

During our meeting we discussed this lesson, as well as a number of others they brought to the table and together we determined how these lessons could be incorporated into the survey going forward. As a result, the organisation now has a field-tested survey that they know will work and this learning took place only because they got out into the field. Even better, following this process, they were excited to make these changes and to get out into the field again to conduct the improved survey.   

While this was a great success it’s important to note that experience looks different to different organisations and must be customised based on their current capacity, their topical focus and the eventual goals of each organisation. Learning through doing though, however this takes shape, is the fastest and most effective way of building confidence within CSOs to generate CGD and to get them excited to continue working with it going forward.

Direct support therefore, should be just that: support. It should work by providing the tools and filling the gaps necessary to get organisations to the point where experiential learning is possible. Once at this point, if our experiences in Tanzania are any indication, CSOs capacity to work with CGD and their confidence in doing so will grow exponentially. To others looking at similar capacity building projects, our experiences indicate an emphasis on learning by doing is a must.   

Poopoozap: a Citizen-Generated Data project for achieving transformation in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas

by Vitor Mihessen and Inés Gortari, Casa Fluminense and Gilberto Vieira, data_labe 

At the end of 2016, we at Casa Fluminense and data_labe began to design a project together – Poopoozap. This partnership was kickstarted after winning the first DataShift Community Seed Funding Challenge, organised by CIVICUS. Our winning proposal combined two global concepts – citizen-generated data (CGD) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by creating a communication channel to denounce, debate and propose solutions for achieving basic sanitation, based on participative maps on waste collection and sewage in favelas and urban peripheries in metropolitan Rio de Janeiro.

The “data revolution” we propose is based on local inhabitants’ commitment and capacity to advocate for public policies. Through WhatsApp, they will be able to send us videos and photos in order for us to locate and make visible the daily challenges of unequal access to public services and infrastructure. Based on the data generated we will create new narratives around the topic, illustrated with infographics, videos and articles. This whole process will include young communicators from low-income areas by involving them in capacity-building workshops and mobilisation initiatives with local organisations from Rio’s favelas.

We believe that through collaborative, horizontal and easily replicable processes, we can construct honest data that better reflects the true state of sanitation in Rio’s favelas in contrast to so-called official indicators used by public authorities. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE in Portuguese), 90% of residences in Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region have waste collection and sewage treatment. We know that this is not true. Citizen-generated data can contribute towards creating legitimate solutions, based on evidence provided precisely by those who experience the poor conditions the official data fails to show.

Civic engagement is crucial to fight for public policies that are more representative and inclusive and that these are elaborated in more integrated and participative ways. “Citizen-generated data” refers to information produced by people and organisations to monitor demand and promote transformations on issues that affect them. Projects aiming for social transformation can be bolstered by crowdsourcing mechanisms or communication initiatives such as this one, taking advantage of the strong ties civil society groups have with local communities.

Without a doubt, constructing databases using information from people’s day-to-day lives is a recent phenomenon that is gaining worldwide momentum. Firstly, because these databases are easy to “feed” from the daily activities that people engage in and who are not always aware of wider political contexts that affect their socio-economic wellbeing. Secondly, and better still, because such databases can activate people’s participation and can raise their awareness on the importance of establishing a culture of monitoring, they can thereby foster more participative democracies.

Given this context, the pilot project Poopoozap will be implemented along the Cunha Channel, where the favela complex of Maré is located, one of the biggest in Rio de Janeiro. It is located between Rio’s international airport and the Federal University (UFRJ), yet its socioeconomic indicators are much lower than the people who frequent these two other areas. The idea is for this project to inspire new solutions for old challenges, by focussing on basic sanitation, but aiming for the sustainable development of the area as a whole.

Let us not forget that our city hosted two United Nations Conferences, Earth Summit in 1992, and, 20 years later, Rio+20 which was where the seeds for Agenda 2030 were sown. Yet we have not yet been effectively monitoring its implementation. We need to become involved in this supra-party discussion and we firmly believe that this will only be possible by including the population in a wide-ranging and transparent manner.

We will use the citizen-generated data to press for policies that are targeted at citizens in their diversity, paying special attention to and guaranteeing the full rights of those who have historically been left behind. However, to realise this vision, our proposal is looking for partners. All types of support are welcome, whether it is building the data and narratives platform, or contributing to the maintenance of the youths’ capacity-building activities, or even suggesting potential partners. We are counting on the DataShift Community and wider data for development network so would be thrilled to hear from you.


Vitor Mihessen, Casa Fluminense: vitormihessen@casafluminense.org.br

Inés Gortari, Casa Fluminense, ines@casafluminense.org.br

Gilberto Vieira, data_labe: gilberto.observatorio@gmail.com 

Data powers Argentine gender equality campaign #NiUnaMenos (“NotOneLess”)

An alarming figure rocks Argentina: one woman dies every 30 hours due to gender-based violence. This is the harsh reality that has been present in our society for a long time, but hidden from view. Unfortunately, no detailed country-wide data exists; for either femicide (a women’s murder due to her gender condition), or any other type of violence; including symbolic and psychological violence which women are subjected to on a daily basis.

“Macho violence” is a fact in Argentina. Recently, Argentinian non-governmental organisation (NGO), La Casa del Encuentro, carried out a survey on the femicide index at the national level, these were however only based on what the media has reported.

This was a problem, not only because there are many others not reported, but also because physical violence is not the only kind; it is the last step in a long chain of silences. Invisible kinds of violence are the most dangerous – these are the ones that women suffer without any questioning because they have become naturalised, i.e. street harassment, inequalities in the work environment and images portrayed by the media, for example, as passive individuals devoted to domestic tasks. Thousands of stories of suffering such as these have not been registered anywhere, as there is no national statistics on the subject.

In 2015, in response, journalists, activists and artists started mobilising around the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (“NotOneLess”), calling for concrete actions to eradicate gender violence and inequality. A diverse cross-section of society adopted this movement and on 3 June 2015, a rally was held at Plaza Congreso.

Buenos Aires

It has been a long campaign which has used a range of actions. On 3 June 2016, one year since the first rally, the group doubled down on their efforts by revealing the environment endured by women through a nationwide citizen index of reliable data. With the movement continuing to grow a further two massive demonstrations under the theme #NiUnaMenos and #VivasNosQueremos was organised and a survey was launched.

The aim of the survey was to generate national statistics on “macho violence” (this term was used to differentiate between victims and offenders) and to visualise this daily problem. The Primer Índice Nacional de la Violencia Machista (First National Index of “Macho” Gender Violence) was established for citizens to collect information on gender-based violence in Argentina. Between 3 June and 3 September 2016, a detailed 186 question survey was made available to women and transgender women across the country.

Within the three month period, over 60,000 responses from women all over the country was collected. On 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) #NiUnaMenos presented the results.

The results were shocking; over 97% of the women who completed the survey have suffered some kind of gender violence, but only 5% had reported it to the police. Over 20% said they were violated. The survey helped those who answered realise that their rights are being violated. It also attempted to attract authorities and civil society’s attention to the fact that this is a problem which requires an urgent solution.

The data is currently being analysed, to be presented to officials to demand specific actions to eradicate “macho” gender violence against women. It is a testament to the scope that citizen-led data-based initiatives can have for demanding changes to public policies on specific problems or monitoring official data.

ProtestThe survey is a successful case study of how to use technology in collecting valuable quantitative data for use as evidence in public awareness raising and advocacy campaigns. The results helped generate 126 articles in national and international media outlets.

The harnessing of data by the movement has played a significant role in enabling the number of broad but perceptible changes in public behaviour. Firstly, the media has stopped calling femicide “crimes of passion”, and show that it is not related to conflicts between partners, but to the place women hold in society. Secondly, the legal concept of “femicide” has been adopted. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, society has begun to become aware of the inequality between men and women in all aspects of social life.

Citizen-generated data for the Sustainable Development Goals: Lessons learnt from SDG 5 monitoring and accountability in Kenya and Tanzania

In this Briefing on Country Level Monitoring of SDGs we share experiences from DataShift’s deep-dive on SDG 5 (achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls) in Kenya and Tanzania. Our work in the region shows that the manifestation of gender equality within the community is directly linked to government service delivery and women’s access to economic opportunities, which is essential for meeting the needs of women and girls.

Using Citizen-Generated Data to monitor the SDGs

Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) Revolution Roadmaps Toolkit

In 2015, the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda appointed by UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, first expressed the need for a “data revolution for sustainable development”. However, in order for countries around the world to embrace this data revolution it is essential to ensure that both governments and civil society organisations have access to the information needed to make the best policy choices, improve accountability and track the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at all levels, so that ultimately, we can deliver on the promise of these crucial global goals.

Citizen-generated data (CGD) is data produced by people and organisations to monitor or campaign for change on the issues that affect them. It can be collected using a simple mobile phone, analysed using free tools and then visualised to tell powerful stories. Indeed, CGD can complement official datasets by identifying and filling data gaps and can provide a snapshot of the issues faced by marginalised people.

CGD can therefore play an important role in monitoring and driving progress on sustainable development at all levels, and the SDG framework provides us with a massive opportunity for scaling up the use of this innovative new data source.

DataShift is working to support this data revolution by building the capacity and confidence of civil society organisations to produce and use CGD to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change.

The DataShift team has therefore developed a “Making use of Citizen-Generated Data to monitor the SDGs” tool, as part of a Data Revolution Roadmaps Toolbox put together by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD).

The tool aims to improve the understanding and appreciation of the value of citizen­-generated data. It has been created for all stakeholders interested in fostering effective monitoring and accountability for the SDGs at national, sub-national and international levels.

The tool provides concrete examples of how CGD is being used in practice to track progress on SDG-­related issues, along with a number of recommendations on how to foster a collaborative approach between governments and those producing the data. The intention is to use CGD to influence government decisions and policies which actively support an inclusive, diverse, and joined up approach to the monitoring of the SDGs and to improve accountability.

In one of the case studies in Indonesia, both national and local government had been looking for ways to collect and understand citizens’ opinions on public services and development to support better evidence­-based policy-making.

Pulse Lab Jakarta, a partnership between the United Nations and the Ministry of National Development and Planning – designed “Mining Citizen Feedback Data for Enhanced Local Government Decision-­Making”, a project that combined data on citizens’ opinions from multiple sources. The project highlighted the potential of using existing datasets, but also the need to integrate new information management systems into national and local governance.

Through this multi-stakeholder collaboration, the project strengthened local governance arrangements by making them more accountable, inclusive and responsive to citizens’ needs. While an initiative of this nature would have a direct impact on SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), it would also have the potential to impact citizen’s feedback on other SDGs, such as education (SDG 4) and health (SDG 3).

This is just one example that demonstrates the potential to harness the power of collective intelligence and individual experience, raise awareness about under-reported SDG-related topics and fill gaps where data is missing against SDG indicators.

To read about further examples and a set of practical recommendations about how to leverage citizen-generated data for SDG monitoring and accountability, the whole “Making use of Citizen-Generated Data to monitor the SDGs” is available here.

DataShift Seed Funding Challenge

communityWe are offering $5,000 seed funding to members of our Community to explore a new collaborative initiative on the  use of citizen-generated data for SDG and/or climate change commitment monitoring.

The project should focus on how citizen-generated data (CGD) can support monitoring and accountability of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and/or the UNFCCC climate change commitments.

As part of our work to foster civil society innovation, collaboration and capacity development on data, we invite members of our growing Community of CGD champions to develop a concept for a new project using this modality of data for SDG and/or climate change monitoring and accountability.

The challenge aims to foster collaboration, experimentation, and innovation on citizen-generated data. Applications will therefore be reviewed against these key criteria, with the successful concept for collaboration being awarded $5,000 seed funding for further development of the idea into a fully scoped project proposal.

The winning collaboration will be encouraged to seek inputs from other Community members during the proposal development process. The DataShift team will also provide inputs and feedback, and explore additional opportunities for promoting the proposal amongst relevant partners and at key events. Unsuccessful entries will still have the opportunity to share their idea with our Community, with a view to identifying additional opportunities for collaboration.

Think you have the winning collaboration? Complete the application form and submit your project proposal to datashift@civicus.org by 19 October 2016 (11:59pm EST). The winning collaboration will be notified by 24 October 2016, with the final project proposal to be completed by 24 November 2016.  

Apply here

Not yet a member of our community? Join the DataShift Community of civil society organisations, campaigners, and citizen-generated data and technology practitioners, by signing up at http://civicus.org/thedatashift/community/ and follow us on Twitter via #Datashift.

About DataShift

DataShift is helping civil society produce and analyse data, especially citizen-generated data, to drive sustainable development. We do this by building capacity, powering campaigns and improving the monitoring of government, resulting in better accountability, policies and services. 

DataShift is an initiative of CIVICUS, in partnership with Wingu, the Engine Room and the Open Institute.

We look forward to seeing your submissions!

The Long Road to a Transformative Data Revolution

The current excitement around the role of data in supporting the delivery of the sustainable development agenda is in itself revolutionary. A few years ago the discussions were limited to a few organisations directly dealing with data. More encouraging now is the flurry of activities in-country by data enthusiasts to mobilise government, civil society, donors, multilateral organisations, academia, and media, among others; to join hands in ecosystems that can harness the data revolution to address a range of data and development challenges.


Full house at the national data revolution roadmaps workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania 12 – 13 August 2016

As part of our work on this agenda, CIVICUS, through the DataShift initiative has joined forces with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD) to galvanise political commitment, align strategic priorities, foster collaboration, spur innovation and build trust in the booming data ecosystems of the 21st century. One of the ways this has been pursued so far is through a series of national data revolution roadmap workshops organised by the GPSDD and led by national governments and partners. The series kicked off in April in Colombia, followed by Sierra Leone in June, and subsequently in Tanzania and Kenya in August 2016.


The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Hon. Mwangi Kiunjuri (third left) during a panel session at the national data revolution roadmaps workshop in Nairobi, 15 – 16 August 2016


The back to back workshops in Tanzania (12 – 13 August) and Kenya (15 – 16 August) – both DataShift pilot countries – explored how stakeholder ecosystems can meaningfully harness data to drive progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level. A unique feature of the workshops was the blending of local and international actors who shared a platform to showcase their work, mull over challenges, share experiences, and brainstorm ways to shape the country-level data revolution agenda. Learning from each other is the best way to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

Challenges with data collection, access, and use that were raised during the workshops had many similarities across the countries. However, the diversity in socio-economic, cultural and political systems makes one realise that we need highly contextualised approaches to data ecosystems. Attending and facilitating sessions at the workshops also reminds one that the data revolution will not happen on its own. Efforts made by the GPSDD and other players to catalyse action, especially at the national level; like the Office of the Deputy President in Kenya, National Bureau of Statistics Tanzania and the Open Data Council in Sierra Leone, need to be fully supported by other governments and additional stakeholders.

Change processes in-country take decades, mindsets have to change, social and cultural beliefs must be reshaped to align to new ways of doing things, and partnerships have to be forged to do the actual work. It is however doable, if we make the right connections – this was demonstrated in the presentations by  Kenya Health Data Collaborative, Kwantu, Open Institute, Kenya Open Data Initiative, #NationNewsplex, Map Kibera and ourselves (DataShift), among others, during the Nairobi workshop. We therefore need to urgently connect the dots and complement one another.

The call to LNOB (“leave-no-one-behind”) will not be as easy as ABC. Significant gaps remain in trying to establish who are in real terms already or at the greatest risk of being left behind. In most places, we have barely scratched the surface (financially, technically, or otherwise) in fully understanding where they live and what their needs are; yet with only 14 years to realise the SDGs, we don’t have any time to waste! DataShift’s exploits with the Open Institute in localising the SDGs at the community level in Lanet Umoja Location, Nakuru County, in Kenya with Chief Francis Kariuki, hopes to demonstrate (at a small scale) the sort of effort needed to reach everyone, including the most marginalised, to better understand their needs and priorities, and the kinds of resources needed by government and others to meaningfully impact their lives.

National Statistical Offices (NSOs) are sounding more progressive and receptive to multi-stakeholder engagements and approaches on the data revolution. They are however, burdened by severe capacity gaps and limited resources. It can never be overemphasised that they need urgent support to define practical mechanisms for coordinating the new age National Statistical System (NSS) of data producers and users. And yes, it’s also time for the political goodwill in our countries to yield domestic resources to fully support these national processes – there’s a limit to what the GPSDD and its champions can do for us.


Over 300 participants attended the community SDG 5 Forum in Lanet Umoja Nakuru County in Kenya on 23 August, hosted by Chief Kariuki. Organised in partnership with the Open Institute and DataShift. It explored ways to domesticate global goals for local impact, with a special focus on gender equality

Political will can be a great tool for mobilising stakeholders and resources. Its absence, however, can also break great initiatives as a result of the push and pull for power, resources, and relevance. The impact of politics, therefore, is not to be underestimated. We need well-defined (and clearly understood) accountability frameworks and rules and responsibilities that apply across the board, not just for government, to effectively overcome negative political machinations.

It can be noted from the engagements thus far, for the data revolution to fully support the delivery of SDGs, it needs:

  1. Policy/legal frameworks and well defined national roadmaps that catalyse reforms, provide visionary leadership and create the infrastructure necessary for integration and implementation in formal government planning and development processes.
  2. A natural home in a core institution or set of institutions (political, technical and financial), that are responsible for coordinating and providing leadership for its delivery, and can be held to account for their actions.
  3. Full ownership by various arms of government (executive, judiciary, and legislature) who commit and allocate domestic money and other resources to support its implementation and concrete action.
  4. Awareness to be raised so that stakeholders, especially citizens and civil society organisations, fully understand it, own it, and are empowered to use it to take action and to hold governments accountable.  

A truly transformative data revolution should be seen as one of several major steps in a long term transition to sustainable development. This must last well beyond 2030 to support whatever post-2030 global framework is adopted. We must therefore do what needs to be done now while also creating incentives, nurturing partnerships, and strengthening institutions through which longer-term visions can be achieved. A special focus on those at the highest risk of being left behind; those in vulnerable, conflict-ridden and fragile states ravaged by chronic and absolute poverty, hunger and instability would be a great starting point. It’s great harvesting low-hanging fruit, but if we are to change the discourse for humanity, then energy and resources need to be channelled to address the structural causes of poverty, instability, and marginalisation. This includes climate change – which is already hitting us all, but the most vulnerable the hardest. But the convergence of technology, sustainable development expertise and citizen voice that the data revolution can foster, offers an incredible opportunity to better understand these challenges, along with how to address them.

Lastly, the affront on civic space across the world is, and will continue to be, a major threat not just to citizens, but to governments themselves. CIVICUS has documented serious violations of civic space in 109 countries last year alone. Unless the tide changes, the rhetoric around meaningful partnerships and data ecosystems amounts to nothing but double-speak. Resources are also rapidly dwindling and the natural instinct for governments is to focus on a few selected priorities (often political). Never has there been a greater opportunity for inclusive socio-economic transformation through the emerging technological revolution, innovation, and citizen empowerment. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are no longer a choice, they are an absolute must.

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