How can civil society collaborate to bolster SDG monitoring?

By Jack Cornforth and Kate Higgins

After nearly three years of intergovernmental discussions and unprecedented participation from civil society and other stakeholders, the outcome document for September’s Post-2015 Summit has now been agreed. The text clearly acknowledges that civil society organisations have a big role to play in ‘Transforming Our World’.  But it lacks clarity about exactly how civil society organisations can support the implementation, monitoring and review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Read more

Calling citizen-generated data projects: we want to support you

Are you working on a project involving citizen-generated data (CGD) in Argentina, Nepal, Kenya or Tanzania? Does your project need some help to get to the next level? Then you came to the right place: the DataShift is looking for citizen-generated data projects to support, to help improve their planning and implementation. Support will vary depending on the organisation’s needs, but will include mentorship, resources, peer exchange and technical support.

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Walking the walk: the DataShift’s direct support activities

In this blog post, we give an overview of our pilot project to provide direct support to organisations working with citizen-generated data.

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What is citizen-generated data and what is the DataShift doing to promote it?

This briefing note helps to clarify what we mean when we talk about citizen-generated data, as something which people or their organisations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them. It explains why citizen-generated data is important, including how it can complement (rather than replace) institutional data. It then outlines what the DataShift is doing to promote the creation and use of citizen-generated data, through both in-country projects and an online Learning Zone.

Join us to Collaborate on SDG Monitoring

The DataShift team is convening a conference call to brainstorm ideas for a more coordinated approach to drawing on civil society and citizen-generated data in the context of SDG monitoring.

The call will be on Thursday 9th July at 09:00 EDT.  We would like any interested individuals or organisations to join us.  This is an open invitation so please feel free to pass it on to any other organisations you think would be interested in participating.

If you would like to take part, please RSVP to Jack.Cornforth@civicus.org by Tuesday 7th July.

A draft background paper has been produced to inform the discussions. Do provide us with any thoughts or feedback.

Post-2015 Negotiations Side-Event on Participatory Governance

On Thursday 21 May the Transparency, Accountability and Participation Network (TAP) and CIVICUS co-hosted
a side-event entitled “Participatory Governance: Laying the Foundation for a Transformative and
Accountable Post-2015 Agenda” with participants and experts present from Member States, civil society and the
UN system. The event took a deeper dive into the role of participatory governance as a critical enabler to successful implementation of the post-2015 agenda.

The event focused on participatory governance initiatives at a variety of levels and highlighted how they are used to hold decision makers accountable, and for effective policy design and implementation. It also highlighted the critical role that citizens and civil society can play in filling data gaps, guiding policy implementation and supporting the monitoring of sustainable development progress. Finally, it explored how an enabling environment for effective participatory governance can be established at the national, regional and global levels in the context of the SDGs.

Full summary notes are available here.

DataShift at the 3rd International Open Data Conference

The DataShift will be co-convening a session at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa, Canada at 10:30 – 11:30 (local time) this Friday 29 May.

The session, entitled Citizen-generated data, open data and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will explore ways to leverage open data and citizen-generated data to foster the implementation, empowerment and accountability of the SDGs from the bottom-up.

Following a welcome and introduction which connects citizen-generated data, open data and the SDGs from the moderator, UNDP’s Serge Kapto, the event will hear from a diverse range of esteemed speakers via a facilitated discussion with the audience.

Speakers:

  • Dietmar Offenhuber, Assistant Professor, Northeastern University
  • Francois Gray, Head of Citizen Science, Citizen Cyberscience Centre, University of Geneva
  • Paula Alzualde, Education and Open Data Manager, Wingu
  • Chukqudozie Ezigbalike, Chief of the Data Technology, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
  • Kate Higgins, Manager, DataShift, CIVICUS

A live webcast of the event is available here.

DataShift begins work in Argentina

By Dorothée Guénéheux, Partnerships Officer, CIVICUS, May 2015

At the end of April DataShift team members from both CIVICUS and Wingu provided a presentation on the initiative to local civil society organisations at a workshop in Buenos Aires organised by RACI – the Argentine Network for International Cooperation (Red Argentina para la Cooperación Internacional). Argentina is one of the three pilot locations were the DataShift will be implemented and the workshop provided an occasion to test the interest of Argentinian civil society in the initiative.

More than 25 participants from foundations and civil society organisations (CSOs) working on issues including youth and education, human rights, freedom of expression and communication, conflict resolution, rule of law and justice, health and environment, took part. They were asked to discuss the strengths and limitations of the DataShift’s approach and in particular its aim to improve the coverage, credibility, comparability and campaigning (the four ‘Cs’) of citizen-generated data in the Argentinean context.

Positive elements included the good ICT coverage in the country and that many CSOs are already working with citizens across a range of themes, while the more problematic aspects raised focused on the challenge of standardising indicators in environments where consensus remains elusive, how few organisations conduct effective advocacy even when they have good data, and how levels of trust between citizens and government are in general weak in the country. For example, official national statistics are increasingly being perceived as politically biased and primarily used to paint a generally positive image of Argentina internally and abroad.

Faced with many questions on credibility, what concrete outputs the DataShift will produce and what needs to happen with the data generated by citizens, both Wingu and CIVICUS staff reaffirmed that the initiative primarily aims to support CSOs in the work they are already doing in better generating, collecting and using data.

DataShift at the ICNL Global Forum

By Susan Wilding, Civic Space Initiative (CSI) Project Manager, CIVICUS, May 2015.

Every five years the International Centre for Not-for-profit Law (ICNL) convenes a global meeting of the world’s leading minds in civil society, government, multilateral institutions and the donor community. ICNL’s 2015 Global Forum on ‘Shaping Civic Space’ took place in Stockholm 10-12 May. The Forum was attended by 200 experts from around the globe. During one of the sessions entitled ‘Beyond three minutes and a mic’, CIVICUS had the opportunity to present to a smaller group of experts on the DataShift. The aim of the session was to educate attendees on a number of innovative methods for encouraging public participation and attempt to answer key questions about the methods as posed by the attendees.

A team of seven experts presented different tools or methods that they had either already utilised or were in the process of developing. The different methods focused mostly on national issues that could possibly be replicated in other countries but the DataShift was the only project presented that intends to be global in scale. Session attendees were then asked to break away into groups and investigate the methods further, asking probing questions to garner more information.

CIVICUS was ‘interviewed’ by three separate break away groups and received questions around the credibility of the data and how the DataShift will mitigate against skewed data, especially in the case of government reprisals. One of the attendees even suggested that the government itself may use the citizen-generated data initiatives to skew data in their favour. Another question, which session attendees focused on, is the language flexibility of the DataShift and illiteracy as an issue in reaching marginal groups. There was a suggestion that the tools for gathering data should be as simple as possible to address these concerns.

Aside from some good investigative questions, session attendants seemed extremely interested in the DataShift and the idea of citizen-generated data in monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015. As is usual with these limited sessions, it would have been good to have had more time to consult further but there will be more occasions such as this and more time to share, question and interrogate to help ensure that the DataShift is as relevant, useful and credible as possible.

DataShift Breakfast Briefing at the Cartagena Data Festival

This side event provided participants with an introduction to the DataShift, an explanation of what we mean when we talk about ‘citizen-generated data’, followed by a frank discussion about how to overcome some of the challenges likely to be faced and an exploration of how participants could collaborate with the DataShift going forward.

From the resulting discussion it quickly became apparent that the DataShift must show how citizen-generated data can have a meaningful impact on policy if the initiative is to receive buy-in from civil society and other development actors.

The credibility of citizen-generated data and its relationship with official data from governments was also a hotly debated topic. While rigour and compatibility are crucial to citizen-generated data being to be used to fill gaps in official data, it was also established that it does not necessarily need to be approved by governments to be credible. On the contrary, citizen-generated data can also be a powerful tool for holding decision makers to account for their commitments and actions (or lack thereof).

A number of strong new connections were made with participants that are working in some DataShift pilot countries, along with those keen to work together to use citizen-data for interventions on specific development issues such as disaster risk reduction and ageing. These practical discussions, along with the strategic issues discussed earlier in the event will now be used to help finalise the DataShift implementation plan for the remainder of 2015.