Conversations about responsible data collection (Part 3)

This is the third in a series of blogs sharing lessons learned from a collaboration between DataShift and the SPEAK! campaign and the resulting conversations about data management practices among diverse organisations working to overcome social divisions around the world. The series aims to show that sound data management is built on common sense and available to everyone, no matter their level of technical expertise; to get readers thinking and talking about data; and to encourage conscious decisions about its creation, use, protection and disposal. Click here to read the earlier blog posts.

 

Responsible data management means acting responsibly at all stages of its lifecycle: creation, use and disposal. Taking a step back to consider data more holistically helps it become something integrated into daily work processes, and not just a technical issue for the experts.

Most of us are familiar with the need to protect data from theft, but we may not always look at the stages before and after. Was the data ethically collected in the first place? Perhaps some of it is superfluous to our needs? What happens to it once it’s out of date? Before thinking of how to protect your data, it’s useful to consider what you choose to collect or create, the reasons behind those choices, and how you ensure that your collection processes are ethical.

During SPEAK! 2018, campaign partners organised dialogue events to overcome division around the world. We used a loose script of questions designed to get them talking about how they work with data, and to help us design support that would meet their needs. The first set of questions in the script dealt with the first stage in the ‘data lifecycle’ – collecting and creating data.

What data do you collect? Is it sensitive or personal?

Data comes in many shapes and forms – numbers, stories, words, videos, images – but is not always recognised as such. Almost all organisations work with at least some data that is personal (meaning it can be used alone or in combination with other information to identify, contact, or locate a single person) or sensitive (meaning it has the potential to harm individuals or communities if exposed unduly).

Having people recognise a wider spectrum of content as data, and to consider the differing sensitivity of different types, can make them more likely to consider it in their strategies for protecting data.

Did you obtain the data subject’s consent to use their data? How?

A person may consent to use their data for one purpose, but not for another. If you intend to store data or use it for other purposes beyond that for which it was originally collected, the data subject’s informed consent should be obtained.

Sensitive data is not limited to data that can identify or harm individuals. For example, releasing violent crime data at a neighbourhood level can cause property prices to drop and harm businesses in a particular neighbourhood identified as having high crime rates; this can then affect employment and exacerbate the causes of violent crime.

Is all of it necessary for the project?

It’s common to assume that the more data we collect, the deeper our insights will be, but less is more. An important principle here is data minimisation: the idea that we should collect the minimum amount of data necessary to complete the task at hand. Take a look at everything that is collected – does all of it serve a purpose? If you can’t give a good reason, perhaps collecting it is counterproductive. Details that aren’t helpful to you can still be harmful if they fall into the wrong hands. Collecting only the data that is really needed is more efficient, and the less data is collected, the less is put at risk in case of loss, theft or another compromise. The best way to secure data is to not have it in the first place.

In 2016 Open Whisper Systems, the company behind the encrypted messaging app Signal, was obliged by a US court to hand over details about a number of its users. But because it had applied the principle of data minimisation strictly in its operations, the company had collected no personal details about its users and did not have any access to their messages. So when the company complied with the court’s request, it was unable to hand over any useful information and its users’ privacy remained secure.

 

 

 

These blogs are based on the publication How to talk about data? Learnings on responsible data for social change from the SPEAK! campaign, and this work was made possible through a Digital Impact Grant by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

 

Why invest time and effort in talking about data? (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of blogs sharing lessons learned from a collaboration between DataShift and the SPEAK! campaign and the resulting conversations about data management practices among diverse organisations working to overcome social divisions around the world. The series aims to show that sound data management is built on common sense and available to everyone, no matter their level of technical expertise; to get readers thinking and talking about data; and to encourage conscious decisions about its creation, use, protection and disposal. Click here to read the first blog post.

Data Journey Talks: Why?

Time and resources are stretched. Why invest time in conversations about data that at first glance may not seem your highest priority? First and foremost, we share a responsibility to mitigate the risks that come with careless use of data. Investing time in assessing the risks helps to make more informed decisions about what data to publish, and how to protect non-published data from loss or attack.

During SPEAK! 2018, campaign partners organised dialogue events to overcome division around the world. SPEAK! staff used a series of open-ended questions to get partners thinking and talking about more responsible data use.

What are the risks?

Data published by organisations in reports or other materials can be damaging, especially if consent was not properly obtained to do so. Even if not made public or used maliciously, lost, accidentally changed or deleted data can obstruct workflows and prevent organisations from meeting their commitments. Data can be used maliciously to target the data subjects.

Unexpected positives

In addition to the responsibility to minimise these risks, there are added bonuses that can emerge from discussions around data. Firstly, media coverage of sophisticated cyber-attacks can be overwhelming, giving the impression that data issues are dauntingly complex and causing organisations to disengage. Practical conversations with real-life examples help to demystify data, put the risks in context, and build confidence to make informed decisions that minimise those risks.

Talking about data management doesn’t have to mean tearing up current policies, buying expensive software or taking up disproportionate amounts of time and energy. Instead, it will often validate existing practices, empower partners to identify areas where changes should be made, and make informed and deliberate decisions to do so. It also leads to collecting leaner and more targeted data in manageable quantities, improving efficiency and use of staff time.

For example, our conversations around data management with an organisation working with Syrian refugee women in Turkey served to validate many of the informal policies they had already developed to protect their beneficiaries’ data, such as only providing access to the organisation’s files to volunteers for specific purposes. Only a few small improvements were needed, but the conversation reassured staff that they were already ‘doing it right’ and made them more confident in their ability to improve where needed.

Before you get to the data…

Before diving into detailed discussions about data with your partners, consider your approach to the conversation. The human factor is vital in bringing people on board with steps to improve data management, and in instilling a sense of agency over decisions: if the partner feels ownership over their decisions, they will be much more likely to commit to and follow through on them than where they perceive a policy as being imposed on them.

  • Self-reflect – Ask yourself the same questions you plan to ask your partners. Taking time to think about your practices will help you understand your partners better as they deal with the same questions.
  • Consider power imbalances – If you are a funder, or you are in any other position of power in comparison to your partner, your questions about data may be perceived as interrogatory rather than supportive and put people on the defensive. 
  • Be transparent – Explain upfront why you are asking questions and explain to partners how you use their data. You may need to refer partners to an expert in some cases (please email us at datashift@civicus.org if you would like to be referred to an expert).
  • Trust is crucial – We found that partners with whom our staff had already built a trusting relationship over time were much more receptive to improving data practices with our support.

The next in our series of blogs will start exploring the questions we used to get people talking about data.

These blogs are based on the publication How to talk about data? Learnings on responsible data for social change from the SPEAK! campaign, and this work was made possible through a Digital Impact Grant by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. 

Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians cook together during a SPEAK! event in Lebanon. Photo credit: URDA

 

 

Citizen-generated data for social change: learnings from the SPEAK! campaign (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of blogs sharing lessons learned from a collaboration between DataShift and the SPEAK! Campaign, which resulted in conversations about data management practices among diverse organisations working to overcome social divisions around the world. The series aims to show that sound data management is built on common sense and available to everyone, no matter their level of technical expertise; to get readers thinking and talking about data; and to encourage conscious decisions about its creation, use, protection and disposal.

The SPEAK! campaign

SPEAK! is an annual global campaign to break down social divisions and political polarisation, getting diverse groups of people speaking to each other, while DataShift is a programme exploring how data can better serve civil society, led by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance. In 2018, organisations and individuals all over the world signed up to organise campaign events via the Speak website, which had resources such as an event planning toolkit, conversation guides, logos and poster templates, and contacts for the campaign support team. SPEAK! culminated around the International Day of Tolerance on 16 November 2018, with over 200 events taking place in 63 countries over three days of action. This offered an ideal opportunity to apply some of DataShift’s ideas in a real-life context.

The collaboration

The collaboration between DataShift and the SPEAK! campaign was an evolving process, and its final shape differed from the original plan. We originally planned for partners organising events to build citizen-generated data (CGD – data that people or their organisations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them) into their event design, and receive training on digital security to protect their CGD more effectively.

Adaptation

As the campaign progressed, it became clear we would need to adapt. The campaign is open to anyone, anywhere, meaning  that many organisers worked independently and did not have in-depth communication with our team, and so opportunities to discuss data and digital security were sometimes lacking. Furthermore, the diversity of partners, ranging from major internationals like Oxfam to tiny grassroots organisations in conflict zones, meant a one-size-fits-all approach would not work. Similarly, for CGD to live up to its name, it must be conceived, owned and managed by citizens and their organisations, but for most organisations it was overambitious for such a process to happen during the short timeframe of the campaign.

So, we adapted our approach, concentrating our efforts on a smaller number of event organisers interested in engaging with CIVICUS on digital security and data management. Instead of looking at these topics as separate entities, we came to realise that they were closely interlinked and pursued a holistic approach. Our digital security expert then developed a loose script of questions to get partners thinking about how they work with data, and to help us design support  to meet their needs. During the calls, our staff took rough notes about our interlocutors’ responses to the questions. Then straight after the call, we added our notes to a shared document along with ideas for possible next steps.

Tailored support

In the Middle East and North Africa region, the organisations interested in improving their data practices had similar needs and levels of understanding, so we designed an online presentation in Arabic that covered the main principles laid out in these blogs, supplemented with advice from a digital security expert.

For Latin American organisations with few established data procedures in place, our conversations helped them to build in good practices from the beginning. In many African countries, connectivity issues made having these conversations by Skype very challenging. Partners in Uganda and Sudan had little IT equipment and worked mainly on paper and at internet cafes, so we referred more technical challenges to our digital security expert, or provided printable PDFs with relevant information.

Arriving at these approaches took time. It was confusing and even frustrating at times, and many ideas were considered and then rejected along the way. Nonetheless, the process taught us many valuable lessons that we will be able to incorporate into next year’s campaign.

Follow the campaign website to get involved in SPEAK! 2019, and we’ll be posting more learnings from our conversations about data on the blog soon.

These blogs are based on the publication How to talk about data? Learnings on responsible data for social change from the SPEAK! campaign, and this work was made possible through a Digital Impact Grant by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. 

1 Young people in Argentina debate discrimination during a SPEAK! event. Photo credit: Asociación Conciencia

 

Data Talks Newsletter – April 19, 2019

In response to feedback from our online digital security course and talks, DataShift has released the monthly “Data Talks” newsletter that looks at recent digital security headlines and links the stories to everyday behaviors. If you are interested in getting the next newsletter in your inbox, please e-mail DataShift [at] CIVICUS.org with the subject line: Subscribe Data Talks.

HEADLINE: Facebook 3rd Party Application

News broke out that over 540 million Facebook records, collected by third parties applications were found to be easily accessible and unsecured, and it took security researchers quite a while to remove the exposed data.

What does it mean for me?

Twenty-two thousand logins and passwords from the third party Facebook application, “At The Pool” were exposed. This situation creates specific risk to unauthorized Facebook login only if you’re reusing the same password for Facebook itself. Other Facebook data leaked was mostly comments, likes, reactions, account names and so on. While the leaked data is a huge privacy problem, the overall security concern may not be as critical as one may think from the alarming headlines.

There are two lessons from this story: keep your passwords unique for each important account and keep third-party applications in your accounts in check because all data and permissions you’re giving them is out of Facebook’s and your control.

HEADLINE: Secret Service Agent

Another story in the news is about the reckless behaviour of the US President’s Secret Service agent who put a confiscated USB drive into his computer, which triggered file installation. His action got a lot of deserved criticism from the infosec community.

What does it mean for me?

Never put an unknown USB in your device, especially if you don’t have full-time tech support to make sure your laptops and PCs are configured correctly and receive timely security updates. Many types of malware are distributed this way and in some cases, the malware can start working without your action or even warning from the system.

HEADLINE: Microsoft Customer Support Tool

And the last but not least – hackers were able to have to get unauthorized access to a number of Outlook, Hotmail and MSN private e-mail accounts using a vulnerability in Microsoft’s customer support tool. It seems that hackers were able to read at least some of the compromised email content.

What does it mean for me?

If you or your organisation is using a paid, enterprise account – these accounts definitely were not affected by this vulnerability. If you’re using a private email account, these accounts probably were not affected unless you’ve got breach notification letter from Microsoft. The company stated that the vulnerability was fixed and compromised credentials disabled.

MERE MORTALS TECH SPEAK: Third-party app

A third-party app is an application created by a someone that isn’t the owner of the website that offers it. Facebook, Google and many other platforms permit many apps that they did not develop to function on their websites. Nowadays users are explicitly asked to give permission to those apps in order to grant them a varying level of access to their accounts. Some of the third party apps may be extremely useful, some of them just fun and some may pose a significant security risk to your data.

Why do I care?

It’s important to remember, that platforms (like Facebook and Google) don’t have control over owners and developers of those apps nor the data they gather from your account.

What can I do?

The rule of thumb in handling third-party apps is to delete or disable every third-party app which you either:

  • don’t know
  • don’t need
  • don’t use for more than a month or two

Where can I check?

You may check what applications have access to your Facebook account go to https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications.

Community Participation can be Extractive: May we be mindful?

By Pradeep Narayanan, Director, Research and Capacity Building, Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices, New Delhi, India

However, after a time, there was a realisation that there is actually ‘nothing next’ for individual participants. They gained a lot of knowledge but could not articulate or envision how to apply this knowledge. The facilitating organisation also had no ideas or plan for individual panelists. Suddenly, the set of highly participatory panel discussions appeared to be very extractive as far as these individual panelists were concerned.”

Community participation   is an important component of situating a community as the champion of its own rights. However, community participation is not always easily achieved, as this requires both facilitating communities to demand for participation spaces, as well as sensitising duty bearers to understand the value of community participation.

Often, marginalised communities are at a stage where they would have given up fighting for their democratic spaces. Hence, to create spaces for their participation and to ensure that they participate ‘voluntarily’ in these created spaces is very challenging.

Challenging narratives

There is also another plane- that of narratives – which often shapes debates around issues for which policies need to be made or implemented. Often, these policy discourses actively exclude voices of the community at margins, and in some cases, even denies the existence of the community identity itself, especially when they are in the wrong side of so-called moralities.

Now, this plane is very hierarchical- characterised by dominance of those identities that are powerful in all domains – social, economic and political status as well as in terms of creation, certification and reproduction of knowledge. For a marginalised community, this space is almost unreachable without the support of such organisations and networks that understand marginalisation and have taken up as their mandate, mainstreaming the voices of the marginalised. The challenge for these organisations is to mainstream these voices as of and by the community itself. With that aim, they tend to mobilise communities through various approaches – so that they speak for themselves in policy making spaces.

Ground level panels

One such effort is the Ground Level Panel. Governments and international agencies often constitute what is called as High-Level Panels, typically comprising members who are considered as experts in various themes or sectors, but invariably these experts are far from the ground. Their views are important as they have studied the issue and have experience implementing related programmes. These panels could even have representation from affected communities, but rarely are they such individuals who currently live in poverty or face discrimination.

Set in the context of the UN’s High Level Panel’s recommendations of what should replace the Millennium Development Goals, Praxis with support from IDS, Sussex, facilitated Ground Level Panels of individuals whose only expertise was that they were currently living in poverty and facing discrimination. Through a four-day process with community members coming from diverse contexts, using various participatory tools was no doubt very empowering for the participants.

The panel during these four days collected data, generated information about various developments from different experts, organised collective analysis of information and made inferences in terms of making informed recommendations on what the goals should be. Further, the panel directly engaged with state officials and UN agencies. Most participants were appreciative of the knowledge as well as the way they gathered knowledge during the period. They felt they gained  a more holistic perspective of India’s development scenario and could demonstrate this knowledge to a range of audiences. It seemed to have raised their self-esteem.

What next?

However, after a time, there was a realisation that there is actually ‘nothing next’ for individual participants. They gained a lot of knowledge but could not articulate or envision how to apply this knowledge. The facilitating organisation also had no ideas or plan for individual panelists. Suddenly, the set of highly participatory panel discussions appeared to be very extractive as far as these individual panelists were concerned. The fact that they were instrumental in pushing voices of the community into policy debates is appreciated, but the fear that the momentum created has no place in the life of each community panelist is worth pondering.

The key learning here is to understand the balance between the intrinsic and instrumental value of community participation. How important is the need for re-engagement with the community? This insight was helpful when we were devising a strategy for the community-led monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals. Here, the precondition was that there is a need for a standing community panel as well as an active community structure that could use the knowledge created by the panels on a regular basis. The challenge is still being worked through.

Participatory methods and approaches are not on their own, empowering. They become empowering only if they start addressing adverse power relationships. This process is fraught with a number of inherent contradictions – which many of us try to ignore in the interest of the larger common good. The need is to understand and take on those contradictions. This may cause us to realise that participation has been very extractive. But then, reflection, is the most significant dimension of praxis.

About Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices, India:  Praxis is a development support organisation committed to mainstreaming the voices of the poor and marginalised sections of society in the quest for equity and governance. Praxis engages in participatory research, capacity-building and advocacy to ensure that the most excluded and vulnerable communities have a say in development. www.praxisindia.org

Llevando al siguiente nivel proyectos colaborativos de datos geoespaciales

Por Javier Carranza Tresoldi, GeoCensos

Muchas organizaciones dateras de base vemos con interés cómo en algunos países los gobiernos están comenzando a utilizar datos de actores externos como los de la sociedad civil, aunque sea a un nivel experimental. La tendencia ha comenzado a desarrollarse desde hace algunos años ya, afortunadamente. En 2014 la UNSD y UNECE  realizaron una encuesta conjunta sobre las iniciativas de Big Data en las oficinas nacionales de estadísticas (ONE) y otras agencias estadísticas de cooperación en países desarrollados. Los resultados demostraron que al considerar nuevas fuentes de datos en el campo de las estadísticas, más del 58% de las organizaciones que respondieron se asociaron con algún tipo de organización externa proveedora de datos, relegando en ese caso la recolección a otros. Aunque muchos de esos socios son proveedores de datos comerciales, un porcentaje importante (10% +) de ellos proviene de productores de datos del sector de la sociedad civil. Si bien incipiente, la tendencia anima a seguir adelante con nuestro trabajo.

Dentro de los proveedores cívicos, las fuentes de datos que han crecido con mayor rapidez son las de comunidades geoespaciales de datos abiertos. Es que abrir datos tiene un valor crucial para fomentar el bienestar y la defensa de los más humildes  en territorios remotos. Algunas oficinas nacionales de estadística (ONE) están innovando en este campo y ya se atreven a probar estas nuevas tendencias dentro de la llamada revolución de los datos, trascendiendo sus enfoques tradicionales y adoptando una agenda más facilitadora que de control, desligándose paulatinamente de la recolección en terreno de datos para concentrarse en la coordinación de infraestructuras de datos allí donde no llegan sus acciones.

Explotar la posibilidad de colaborar entre ONEs y sector civil generando bases geospaciales tiene un potencial incalculable y podría llevar al siguiente nivel los proyectos de datos enfocados en el desarrollo sustentable, haciendo disponibles bases de datos totalmente novedosas y enriqueciendo la cobertura de datos de primera mano. Hoy en día muchos grupos de tecnología cívica como Missing Maps, GeoCensos o HotOSM utilizan la plataforma Openstreetmap generalizando la disponibilidad de geodatos y pasando desde las fuentes propietarias hacia esquemas de datos más abiertos para beneficiar a terceras partes como las ONE, y al mismo tiempo abogando por poblaciones vulnerables a través de mostrar su realidad latente, desentrañando sus hasta ahora desconocidas necesidades y especificidades.

Las bases de datos georreferenciadas que los mapeadores cívicos pueden traen a la mesa están demostrando, cada vez más, la importancia que tiene el valor de contribuir desde los actores que cimientan la base de la pirámide de datos hacia las oficinas estadísticas:

  • Wingu de Argentina y ACIJ mapearon los Caminos de la Villa en la Ciudad de Buenos Aires en Argentina desde la sociedad civil , para defender los derechos de ciudadanos de asentamientos irregulares de acceder a servicios públicos frente al gobierno.
  • TECHO Chile compartió varias de sus geo databases de documentación de poblaciones vulnerables en Chile con INE para ser incluídas en el Censo de población y vivienda 2017.
  • La asociación de datos del proyecto Uganda Open Mapping for Resilience de la comunidad Openstreetmap (OSM) con el Bureau Nacional de Estadísticas, están buscando crear un mapa digital completo en ese país, dejándolo abierto y accesible a todo el mundo.
  • Statistics Canada intentó probar si es posible generar datos de calidad en colaboración con comunidades locales de maperos de OSM para crear un catastro con ubicación y atributos de cada edificio en Canadá.
  • El programa Stats Up de la comunidad GeoCensos se ofrece como una oportunidad para iniciados que quieran formarse en emprendimiento y plataformas de geodatos en colaboración con agencias estadísticas de América Latina y al mismo tiempo fortalecer sus capacidades técnicas.

Estos verdaderos laboratorios cívicos ya están interesando al ecosistema de estadísticas “oficiales” y éste se está probablemente tomando el tiempo de hacer balance de la riqueza que ofrecen estos datasets inclusivos versus sus desventajas técnicas de estándares alternativos. Si la ecuación se revelara como positiva en el tiempo, y en eso confiamos, las organizaciones de tecnología cívica incluso podrían ayudar en el proceso de recopilación de datos oficiales censales, sobretodo si las ONEs se entregan a la tarea de fortalecerlas con habilidades estadísticas básicas que aseguren precisión y profundidad al mismo tiempo en los rincones menos mapeados.

Una sabia estrategia para que los gobiernos tengan éxito en este nuevo tipo de fuentes masivas alternativas debe empezar por decodificar, luego consensuar técnicas y finalmente asimilar las acciones de estos actores cívicos dentro de proyectos serios que contribuyan en el flujo de las estadísticas oficiales,  para beneficiar así a todos. En la medida que sigan surgiendo casos de éxito como los descritos, el uso de bases de datos provenientes de tecnologías geoespaciales cívicas comenzará a ser todavía más popular y las estadísticas oficiales a beneficiarse ampliamente de ellas.

Environmental data, stepping stone for sustainable change

Trash littering Bagamoyo mangroves in September 2017.

Trash littering Bagamoyo mangroves in September 2017.

By Deanna Cook, Administrator, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers

It would be difficult to recognise the beach in the coastal town of Bagamoyo, Tanzania today compared to what it looked like just a few short years ago. While the shore is still spotted with broken fishing nets, plastic wrappers, and household waste that get washed in with the tide, the beach is relatively clean. It’s not spotless, and there’s definitely room for improvement, but it’s come a long way thanks to a local beach cleaning organisation called Bagamoyo Beach Lovers (BBL). Unfortunately, up until late last year, they had no data to support that conclusion.

In September 2017, a local international development consultancy offered to do a pro-bono baseline study and report on the Bagamoyo beach and marine environment. The purpose of the project was multifold:

  • Capture current data and perceptions in order to accurately measure impact over time.
  • Use an action research approach and engage in stakeholder mapping to raise awareness about the various environmental issues plaguing the community and build a robust stakeholder network to effect change.
  • Develop sustainable management structures to build institutional memory and internal controls that make the organisation more effective and accountable.
  • Attract ongoing grant funding, donations and sponsorships by clearly demonstrating the accomplishments, need, and potential for growth.
  • Create a roadmap for improvement and suggestions for the future of the organization.

The project surveyed almost 800 members of the community and helped to raise the profile of BBL’s work through collecting and analysing data about the current state of the environment. There were three different survey instruments developed: one for tourists or visitors, one for workers in the fishing industry, and one for the general community. They also conducted interviews with 11 government offices involved in environmental cleaning and management. Other data collected included GPS coordinates taken along the shoreline every 50 metres for a stretch of 2 kilometres to record tide levels, and photographs documenting physical evidence of the sea breaching the shoreline, such as broken seawalls and fallen palm trees.

The perceptions captured during the data collection were interesting, but not altogether surprising. Survey respondents who were already aware and passionate about local waste management challenges were quite receptive to discussion, and keen to get involved. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum however, who had no interest in the environment whatsoever, were much harder to engage. It’s nearly impossible to change someone’s mind or behaviour in just a single interaction. At the end of the survey, respondents were asked if they wanted to leave their contact information and whether they gave permission to be contacted in the future. Those who agreed were then added to BBL’s contact list, so they were able to reach out to them again to invite them to participate in World Cleanup Day.

The final report amalgamated all of the collected data along with background research on global and local marine and environmental issues. Topics covered included coral reefs, mangroves, eroding coastlines, climate change, illegal fishing, pollution, and Tanzanian solutions, among others.  The report appendices included valuable resources such as the five-year strategic plan for the local livestock and fisheries department and potential partnership or funding opportunities for the organisation. Overall, the report presents a thorough, well-defined picture of the current state of the beach and marine environment and the challenges BBL faces in their work.

Following the completion of the report, BBL attempted to meet with the municipal District Commissioner and District Environmental Officer—the highest members of the local government—to present their findings and seek further support in combating the issues. At the time of this writing, they have still not been successful in securing this meeting. The report has also not aided BBL in securing any additional funding or sponsorships to date, as was initially hoped.

Despite this, the project helped BBL formalise their operations, build out their contact database and network, and encouraged them to finally set up a board of directors. The board of directors consists of a director at a local college, a retired head of the municipal Livestock and Fisheries department, and a prominent anthropologist, all of whom brought a unique perspective and skillset to the table. The board also fosters connections with other networks in the community: the college director provided a link to college students, the Livestock and Fisheries department head was able to speak on behalf of the fishermen, and the anthropologist helped connect the organisation with artistic, recreational and nonprofit groups.

Although the baseline survey and report didn’t quite achieve its intended impact, the process of collecting data, speaking with local stakeholders, and implementing systems was absolutely invaluable to BBL. It helped the small organisation grow and build relationships in ways that are hard to quantify, and raised public awareness about the beach and marine environment. All in all, it was another stepping stone on the path to creating sustainable change in the Bagamoyo community.

Bagamoyo Beach Lovers is a small community-based organisation in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Founded in early 2016 in response to the devastating amount of trash piling up along the shore, the organisation is now the leading beach management unit in the coastal region. Today, they work with local, national and international partners to achieve their goals: cleaning the beaches and oceans, advocating for sustainable consumption and waste management practices, and engaging and educating the community about the environment.

Modifying a global methodology to make data campaign work

Bagamoyo team leaders planning for World Cleanup Day

Bagamoyo team leaders planning for World Cleanup Day

By Deanna Cook, Administrator, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers

The World Cleanup Day campaign and project methodology was designed by Let’s Do It! World, supported by the Let’s Do It Foundation. The movement was born in Estonia in 2008, when 4% of the total population came out to clean the entire country in only five hours. The global leadership team used a hub-and-spoke model to connect with partners around the world; they would communicate with and train national coordinators (in Tanzania, the national coordinator was Nipe Fagio), and then the national coordinators would communicate with and train regional coordinators (like Bagamoyo Beach Lovers).

The basic concept was simple: see it, map it, bag it, move it, and learn it; but of course, the reality was much more complicated than that. Below, we’ll address the five steps to World Cleanup Day, and the challenges we encountered with implementing each one in Bagamoyo.

Five steps to World Cleanup Day Infographic

Five steps to World Cleanup Day

  1. See it!

The first major issue to overcome was trash blindness. Trash blindness happens when people are so accustomed to seeing litter and waste in their surroundings that it becomes the norm. This is a very common problem in Tanzania, with many not even noticing the trash around them anymore. It’s common practice, in fact, to sweep the ground outside of one’s home to “tidy up” the dirt, while ignoring the piles of trash sitting a few feet away. In order to successfully pull off World Cleanup Day in Bagamoyo, we had to bring the issues of waste management and trash blindness to the forefront, and actively engage the community in fighting it. Changing behaviours takes time but having a conversation and discussing the issue is progress. Supplementing these conversations with community-sourced data helps to validate and shape the problem in a tangible, relatable way. It addresses trash blindness at its very core, by quantifying and recording waste, in order to open people’s eyes to what was right in front of them all along.

  1. Map it!

The mapping portion of the World Cleanup Day campaign involved using an app to generate citizen-science data on illegal trashpoints. Data points recorded included a photo and GPS location of the trash, the amount of waste, whether it was hazardous or not, the types of materials identified (i.e. plastic, textile, electronics, etc.), and the origin (i.e. household, non-household, or industrial). The data was then automatically input into World Waste Platform, an open database of illegal trashpoints around the world. World Waste Platform collects data from over a dozen different organizations and apps and amalgamates them in one common location. To date, there are over 260,000 points mapped.

In Bagamoyo, however, the challenge with this model was access to technology. Many people in the community don’t own a smartphone, tablet, or computer. This automatically precludes them from downloading an app and uploading their own data sets and information. Early versions of the app also couldn’t be operated without an internet connection, making it impossible to access in remote or rural areas. As a result, Bagamoyo citizens only mapped 27 trashpoints throughout the campaign—a relatively small number considering the population size and amount of waste in the area. To improve the level of citizen engagement in the future, different measures would need to be taken, like delegating computer-based tasks to select project leaders or designing a system that allows for both online and offline data collection.

  1. Bag it!

Once trashpoints were identified, the next step was to bag the waste. Waste was divided into two categories: trash and recycling, and sorted into different bags as it was collected. To do that, volunteers needed to know the difference between trash and recycling, so that they could  make decisions and categorise the waste out in the field. In a developed country like Estonia, where the campaign was designed, this likely wouldn’t be a major problem. But in Bagamoyo, many people had never even heard of recycling before World Cleanup Day. This meant that before anyone went out to actually bag waste, they had to be educated about recycling and be given examples of recyclable items they might find. Despite these sessions on recycling education, there were, of course, still mistakes made, and people had trouble remembering what is considered trash and what can be for recycling. The Bagamoyo Beach Lovers team then had to go through all of the collected waste to make sure it was properly sorted after it was brought to a central meeting point.

The other part of bagging the waste involved conducting waste and brand audits. Waste and brand audits were carried out with a small sample of the total amount collected so as to identify the main types of waste in the community and the most prevalent brands found. The waste and brand audits were completed and recorded offline, and then later input into a spreadsheet and sent to the national coordinators, so fortunately, that aspect of data collection didn’t present an additional challenge for Bagamoyo Beach Lovers.

  1. Move it!

After the waste was sorted, bagged, and audited, it needed to be transported to the appropriate location. For trash, that’s the government dump, a few kilometres outside of town. For the recycling, though, the nearest collection point is nearly 60 kilometres away in Dar es Salaam. This is managed by a private company, The Recycler, instead of the local government. In places where there is no waste management infrastructure or municipal waste services, it falls on private companies and citizens to step up and solve the problem. This means that the responsibility of transporting the waste, both to the dump and to the recycling center, fell on Bagamoyo Beach Lovers. Although the government was asked to subsidize the costs of the trip, in the end, that never happened. When waste sites are so inaccessible and transport prohibitively expensive for the average citizen, it’s understandable that so much waste is not properly disposed of in Tanzania.

  1. Learn it!

The final step was to learn more about the issue and further promote the campaign message of a cleaner world. Most of the international campaign communication was online and in English, and most volunteers communicated with each other using WhatsApp. The limited access to technology in the community obviously was a challenge again here. Even out of the people who had smartphones, they didn’t always purchase mobile data packages or have access to Wi-Fi, so relying on the internet wasn’t always possible.

Nipe Fagio, the national campaign coordinator, did an excellent job to combat this by producing Swahili language content for radio, television, and print. They also marketed the campaign with posters and billboards in both English and Swahili, and co-hosted a variety of events across the country, like the World Cleanup Day introductory event in Bagamoyo. In addition to the event, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers formed a local WhatsApp group, posted updates on their Facebook and Instagram pages, and distributed Nipe Fagio’s posters around the community. They also recorded the contact information of all project stakeholders and followed up by phone or text if they could not be reached online.

Overall, it was a detailed, well-planned campaign designed to generate citizen-science data and unite people to clean up the world. In order for World Cleanup Day to work in Bagamoyo though, several challenges had to be overcome and modifications made to fit the local context. Only then could it be successful in the community.

Bagamoyo Beach Lovers is a small community-based organisation in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Founded in early 2016 in response to the devastating amount of trash piling up along the shore, the organisation is now the leading beach management unit in the coastal region. Today, they work with local, national and international partners to achieve their goals: cleaning the beaches and oceans, advocating for sustainable consumption and waste management practices, and engaging and educating the community about the environment.

Introducing Data Campaigns: 5 Tips for Events

Yusuph Masanja from Nipe Fagio speaking to assembled stakeholders at the Bagamoyo World Cleanup Day introductory event.

By Deanna Cook, Administrator, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers

In July 2018, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers united a diverse group of local stakeholders for an event introducing World Cleanup Day, an international citizen-science data campaign and environmental movement. Below are five key takeaways from hosting the event, for anyone planning to introduce data-driven initiatives in their community.

  1. Build trust and relationships before jumping into business

The introductory event for the World Cleanup Day campaign started off fairly casually. Guests filed into the courtyard of the eco-hotel in central Bagamoyo, and were offered a selection of beverages and light snacks. They filled out registration forms with their contact information and chatted with the other attendees as they waited for the presentation to begin. Bagamoyo Beach Lovers had been building relationships in the community for years, but this informal mingling allowed those that didn’t already know each other the chance to meet, develop a solid rapport, and build trust for themselves.

  1. Frame the issue in the local cultural context

One of the fundamental goals of the evening was to position the global campaign in the local context. The presenter was a Tanzanian environmental expert from Nipe Fagio, the national coordinating organisation for World Cleanup Day. He successfully negotiated the language needs of the group by speaking in both Swahili and English, switching back and forth between the two and translating as he went. The figures, statistics, and supporting images in the presentation were from around Tanzania, and where possible, the region itself. For example, in 2012, Forbes listed Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, as the 12th dirtiest city in the world. The same 2012 study found that only 5% of waste was collected regularly in the country, while over 90% was illegally buried, burnt or dumped. Placing the issues of waste management and the environment in a Tanzanian context using verified data was essential in connecting people to the problem and helping them visualise themselves as part of the solution.

Tanzania waste collection statistics, 2012.

  1. Supplement facts and data with emotion and human connection

Songs and videos by local artists added an emotional appeal that was even more powerful than the facts alone. Msafiri Zawose, a well-known musician in Bagamoyo, wrote and filmed a music video called “Mazingira Yetu” (“Our Environment”) in honour of World Cleanup Day. Zawose gave his official endorsement, and used his platform to promote the campaign message. Other notable endorsements came from across the country, such as Dr. Jane Gooddall and the Tanzanian President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, and helped lend credibility to the campaign on a national scale.

“Mazingira Yetu,” Msafiri Zawose for World Cleanup Day.

Dr. Jane Gooddall endorses World Cleanup Day

  1. Allow time for listening, feedback and discussion

Following the presentation, attendees discussed what they heard and saw, giving them a safe space to ask questions and air their grievances. The discussion had a ‘town hall’ feel to it, but in a more informal setting. Stakeholders spoke out from across the community, and were answered by representatives from Bagamoyo Beach Lovers, Nipe Fagio, and the District Environmental Office. This conversation and the process of listening to one another was crucial in ensuring people that their opinions mattered and their voices were being heard.

  1. Decide on a course of action and plan for follow-up

Before the evening ended, the event organisers outlined the next steps in the campaign and what could be expected in the coming months. Since the introductory event took place in July, there were still two months to build momentum and gain support before the official World Cleanup Day. The hosts asked attendees to follow Bagamoyo Beach Lovers’ social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, and promised to create a WhatsApp group to stay in touch. Those with smartphones could download the World Cleanup Day app and start collecting data by mapping trashpoints in their area.

They also invited everyone to attend a practice cleanup on the beach the following weekend and encouraged them to share news about the campaign within their own networks. For the school principal, this translated into making announcements to their student bodies and having classroom discussions about waste and the environment, whereas for the business owner, this meant telling their staff about the campaign and giving them some time off work to volunteer. Establishing a framework for future touchpoints and engagement was pivotal, and helped everyone feel a collaborative sense of purpose and direction on the path that lay ahead.

Bagamoyo Beach Lovers is a small community-based organisation in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Founded in early 2016 in response to the devastating amount of trash piling up along the shore, the organisation is now the leading beach management unit in the coastal region. Today, they work with local, national and international partners to achieve their goals: cleaning the beaches and oceans, advocating for sustainable consumption and waste management practices, and engaging and educating the community about the environment.

Trust, first step to using data to clean up Bagamoyo Beach

Bagamoyo Beach Lovers cleaning up the beach in early 2016

By Deanna Cook, Administrator, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers

Bagamoyo Beach Lovers would have had a difficult time motivating the participation of government officials, artists, school principals, nonprofit directors, fishermen and business owners attending and supporting its World Cleanup Day launch without the community relationship building in the years leading up to the event.

Founded in 2016, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers (BBL) is a community-based organisation formed in response to the overwhelming amount of trash accumulating along the Tanzanian coast. The founder, Joanna Turner, had just moved to town to open an eco-hotel, and was horrified to see the beach in such bad condition. Originally from Zimbabwe, Turner had been living in Tanzania for almost a decade, and for the past few years now has called Bagamoyo home. Bagamoyo markets itself as a historical beach town and the perfect weekend retreat from Dar es Salaam, the country’s biggest city. But not only did its trash problem impact the tourism industry, it also had devastating effects on fishing and the local community. So, Turner joined forces with a local partner and co-founder, Salim Omari*, and got to work.

Turner and Omari registered BBL with the Tanzanian government as a community-based organisation (CBO). The CBO registration process was faster and more straightforward than that of a non-governmental organisation (NGO), and allowed her to get started sooner. While NGOs are often more formally-structured and can have wider mandates, CBOs focus on local projects, and should be composed and run by the community in which they work. However, getting buy-in for a joint community effort was not easy despite aligned interests. Bagamoyo Beach Lovers sought local support, formed a committee, and held meetings, but there was no follow through or action being taken. Bagamoyo Beach Lovers needed to prove itself to the local community in order for the CBO to function as intended. And Turner took it on herself to champion the cause.

Initially, the core team consisted of Turner and Omari volunteering part-time, and one full-time beach cleaner. Turner would solicit donations from friends and business owners in the community to pay the cleaner, purchase gloves, bags, and other equipment and rent a trailer to transport the waste to the dump. Even with the direct correlation between BBL’s work and the beachfront hotels and properties, many businesses still weren’t willing to donate to the cause, so Turner covered many of the costs herself and with profits from her own hotel. Because the organisation was so small, establishing trust with these businesses and building a solid reputation within the community was essential to its growth.

Turner began to visit the municipal government offices to discuss her plans and ensure the District Environmental Officer and the head of the Beach Management Unit were kept informed about the efforts to clean up the beach. The officers supported BBL and its mission to clean up Bagamoyo, and promised to do whatever they could to help it succeed. Like many governments, their departments were overstretched and underfunded, so their assistance only extended as far as approving paperwork and attending events, and even then, they didn’t always follow through. Nevertheless, the support of the local government is very valuable to a young organisation like BBL, and the organisation was stronger for it.

Through a partnership with a solar energy company, BBL installed rubbish bins all along the beach, and created Bagamoyo’s first-ever recycling point based out of the eco-hotel. They also painted wooden signs reminding citizens not to litter and put them up on the beach, featuring the BBL logo, which helped to sensitise the local population to the organisation and its services. Just because the bins were in place, though, doesn’t mean they were properly used. Trash blindness was still very prevalent, with many people not even realising there was a problem with the way they disposed of waste. Exposing people to the issue and raising awareness is only half the battle, as lasting change requires patience and continued engagement with groups of stakeholders over time.

As the team grew, they started to be better known around town. One beach cleaner eventually became two, and then Turner brought on another part-time staff member to handle the administration. Growing the team was challenging, as it required further investments of both time and money. The value of this investment was realised, however, in the insight it provided into the overall health of the organisation: for the first time, BBL began to consistently track finances, manage stock, and maintain solid records of its meetings and interactions with the community.

In addition to daily beach cleaning and weekly trash collection from the BBL rubbish bins to the government dump, the team began holding sessions for students and volunteers. They now host workshops on BBL and the environment for groups from primary school to university, and then bring the volunteers out to clean the beach and sort trash and recyclables. In doing this, BBL has managed to both educate young people about environmental issues and form partnerships with several schools and nonprofits in the community.

Because BBL has slowly developed these relationships over the past few years, it made it much easier to rally together such a diverse group of stakeholders together for the World Cleanup Day campaign. Although the campaign and data event came together in a matter of months, BBL’s work in the community had been going on for years. Without laying that initial groundwork, it likely wouldn’t have been possible to accomplish what they did.

*Name has been changed.

Bagamoyo Beach Lovers is a small community-based organisation in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Founded in early 2016 in response to the devastating amount of trash piling up along the shore, the organisation is now the leading beach management unit in the coastal region. Today, they work with local, national and international partners to achieve their goals: cleaning the beaches and oceans, advocating for sustainable consumption and waste management practices, and engaging and educating the community about the environment.