Speaking across divisions: A citizen-science data campaign

Local Bagamoyo stakeholders united in their mission to create a “World Without Waste.”

By Deanna Cook, Administrator, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers

Unusual for this small coastal town in Tanzania, government officials, artists, school principals, nonprofit directors, fishermen and business owners filled the courtyard of an eco-hotel. Divided by status, education and environmental awareness, a citizen science data campaign brought them together to map and collect trash.

The main event of the evening was a presentation hosted by Bagamoyo Beach Lovers, introducing the community to World Cleanup Day, and outlining the various ways to get involved. World Cleanup Day is a global movement striving to be the biggest civic action in human history: millions of volunteers from more than 150 countries joining together to clean up the world. Started in Estonia in 2008, World Cleanup Day uses citizen science to map and collect data about trash, identify and clean illegal dumping sites, and propose and implement solutions to the broader issue of waste management.

As the regional lead for the World Cleanup Day campaign, Bagamoyo Beach Lovers was tasked with bridging divides that separate local stakeholders and uniting them in support of a common goal: using citizen science to gather statistics about waste in the area, and then using that information to build a cleaner, more sustainable society. On a high level, community-sourced data collection can be incredibly effective, and helps to aggregate facts and opinions from across social, political, and economic spectrums. Practically, however, there are so many other considerations to take into account when engaging such a diverse range of participants.

One major challenge was accounting for varying levels of background knowledge and understanding of the topic. Some of the event guests were fairly familiar with concepts like renewable energy and zero waste manufacturing, while others had never even heard of recycling. The government official and the subsistence farmer likely have very different views on waste and the environment, for example. The official might be preoccupied with the industrial waste blocking storm sewers in the town center, while the farmer is worried about people illegally burying household waste in his fields. Both are symptoms of the larger, systemic problem of waste management in Tanzania, but the objective is to meet the audience where they’re at and to present the information in simple, neutral terms that everyone can relate to and understand.

Getting such a disparate group of people into the same room is often the biggest obstacle in planning a campaign of this nature. Bagamoyo Beach Lovers had been building community relationships for years with government, private and public actors. These were very helpful in the hectic weeks leading up to the event. The team brainstormed and sought insight on a guest list that would bring together some of the most significant networks in the community based on personal observation of how informal and formal decisions were being made in the community on environmental issues.

We wrote official invitations in English and Swahili and had them signed and endorsed by both Bagamoyo Beach Lovers and the District Environmental Officer. Receiving the endorsement of the local government was necessary to provide a safe space for participants to gather. Local volunteers delivered the invitations to the guests in person, and recorded their contact numbers in order to send event reminders and confirm RSVPs by phone, text or WhatsApp. Tapping into local networks, gaining the support of key community leaders and following up once or twice with each participant were all crucial tools in getting people through the door.

By then framing the issue in terms of its potential for impact and emphasising each individual’s unique role in the solution, it became possible to break down long-held cultural barriers and create a sense of global solidarity. For the fisherman, the proper disposal of nylon fishing nets and picking up waste along the coastline could mean healthier fish populations and better yields. For the hotel manager, a cleaner town and the preservation of historical sites makes for a more appealing tourist destination. For the school principal, incorporating environmental education into the curriculum empowers teachers and students to take care of the school grounds and to become stronger, more well-rounded citizens. The ability of the event participants to acknowledge these differences while celebrating their shared humanity was inspiring, and is a critical component in effecting real, lasting change. Unlike previous campaigns hosted by Bagamoyo Beach Lovers, the goal with this was to be more inclusive and representative of the local community, raise more awareness about waste management and the environment, and foster connections and partnerships that would long outlast the event itself.

The evening ended on a note of camaraderie and cautious optimism. Everyone pledged to do their part in the upcoming World Cleanup Day and to be ambassadors for greener, more sustainable waste practices. Those with smartphones formed a local campaign-focused WhatsApp group to open up future communication channels and to create a space for further discussion. As a whole, the event was a learning experience for both guests and hosts, and illustrated that despite the challenges, citizens wanting to make positive change in their community can use citizen-science projects to bring diverse stakeholders together.

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.

CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. DataShift is a multi-partner initiative to support civil society organisations to effectively produce and use citizen-generated data to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change.

Attendance at the World Cleanup Day Introductory Event

Type of Organisation Role for World Cleanup Day
  • Tanzania national coordinator
  • Guide and mentor smaller local nonprofits outside of Dar es Salaam to host World Cleanup Day
  • Bagamoyo regional coordinator
  • Raise awareness, build trust and relationships to coordinate Bagamoyo activities
  • Host/sponsor
  • Provide financial and logistical support to Bagamoyo Beach Lovers and host all related activities on site
  • Connect to tourist network
  • Government sponsor
  • Provide logistical support, endorsements and advice
  • Connect to local government and environment networks
  • Sponsor
  • Provide support via in-kind and monetary donations
  • Promoter/entertainer
  • Create media specific to World Cleanup Day and perform at the event
  • Connect to local artist network
  • Participant
  • Connect to tourist network
  • Participant
  • Connect to local women’s entrepreneurship network
  • Participant
  • Connect to fishing industry
  • Participant
  • Connect to youth and artist networks
  • Participant
  • Connect to vulnerable and at-risk girls
  • Participant
  • Connect to local athletic network
  • Participant
  • Connect to local artist and athletic networks
  • Participant
  • Participant
  • Participant
  • Connect to college and artist networks
  • Participant
  • Participant
  • Connect to tourist network
  • Participant
  • Connect to tourist network
  • Participant
  • Connect to tourist network
  • Participant
  • Connect to primary school network
  • Participant
  • Connect to vulnerable and at-risk youth
  • Participant
  • Previous sponsor of Bagamoyo Beach Lovers’ waste bins along the beach
  • Participant
  • Connect to primary and secondary school network
  • Participant
  • Connect to artist and beach networks
  • Participant
  • Connect to fishing industry
  • Participant
  • Connect to fishing industry and beach network
  • Participant
  • Participant
  • Participant
  • Connect to tourist network
  • Participant
  • Connect to tourist network

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.

Navigating data roadmap processes in Kenya and Tanzania

Evidence shows that civic space in Tanzania and East Africa, in general, is narrowing. In a bid to navigate this, DataShift devised an engagement strategy that targeted National Statistical Offices in Tanzania and Kenya.

We signed up the Tanzanian government to the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and as a result, a highly successful national data roadmaps workshop sponsored by the GPSDD was held in the country. The key outcome was a multi-stakeholder steering committee that includes civil society to support the domestication, implementation and tracking progress on SDGs. DataShift is a trusted partner of the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics (TNBS). TNBS has supported a multi-stakeholder process towards the hosting of a national Gender Thematic Forum. Additionally, we are working on a popular version of the Tanzanian Statistics Act to guide civil society that will incorporate guidelines for civil society organisations (CSOs) to improve their citizen-generated data (CGD )collection methodologies, management, and use by policy makers and government decision-makers.

In Kenya our engagements with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, as part of the SDGs Kenya Forum have resulted in the invitation of civil society to contribute to the official Kenya Voluntary National Review of the SDGs that will be presented at this year’s High Level Political Forum (HLPF). We have also been instrumental in technically supporting the Office of the Deputy President in Kenya on a national data for SDGs roadmaps process, advocating for civil society inclusion in the SDGs implementation process.

These engagements have opened doors for creating meaningful civil society partnerships and constructive engagements with government on SDGs in Tanzania and Kenya.


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 

DataShift at the 61st Commission on the Status of Women in New York

DataShift’s Cassia Moraes is in New York (NY) attending the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) taking place at the United Nations Headquarters.

Based on our work on Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5), to “achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”, we will be promoting the role of civil society and citizen-generated data in achieving gender equality.

To tackle today’s global challenges in cross-cutting thematic sectors like health, education, economic opportunities, political participation, and human security, more data on gender is needed. However, we know significant barriers stand in the way of achieving gender equality and inclusivity, particularly of marginalised and disenfranchised groups – even in the most progressive societies. Increased citizen participation in the implementation and tracking progress on 2030 agenda could mark a significant turning point in delivering this ambitious agenda to those who need it the most. Citizen-generated data (CGD) thus offers an opportunity for increasing people-powered governance and development.

CGD has the potential to plug gender data gaps, identify those at risk of being left behind and draw the attention of decision-makers to tackle the issues causing their exclusion and marginalisation. DataShift has been building civil society organisations’ capacity and confidence to produce and use citizen-generated data to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change. We have convened a series of national dialogues on the state of gender data in each of the DataShift pilot countries (Kenya, Argentina, Nepal and Tanzania), with a view to then identifying the challenges and opportunities around using citizen-generated data as part of an integrated, multi-stakeholder approach to spurring action and monitoring progress on SDG 5.

We will be participating in the “Supporting Feminist Movement Building for Planet 50-50 by 2030” on Wednesday, 15 March at noon. This session will look at how data can lead to on-the-ground changes and make real impact in girls’ and women’s lives, as well as the role gender data plays in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals, amongst others.

During events at CSW61, we will be sharing the key findings and recommendations of our Global Gender Thematic Forum which took place in December 2016. The Forum looked at the diverse experiences and ideas that emerged from the above-mentioned national dialogues, bringing together a small group of gender data practitioners from our pilot countries, along with a number of other international experts, working on issues from digital literacy to empowerment of women, to statistics, and  ‘mutually reinforcing’ global advocacy activities.

You can also find us, as well as the CIVICUS delegation, at the following events during CSW:

  • CIVICUS Monitor Workshop for WHRDs, LGBTIQ activists and others in the feminist movement at CSW – 15 March, 10 am – 12 pm
  • Shrinking civic space for the feminist movement –  Wednesday, 15 March, 14:30 – 16:00 at ONE UN Hotel

For more information about these events, click here.

We will also be discussing the findings of some of our resources and reports around our work on SDG 5, including:

We look forward to seeing and engaging you in New York! Be sure to follow our conversations on Twitter @SDGDataShift, @casssia_moraes, #DataShift, #CSW61 and #CSW2017

Citizen-generated data: Facilitating the follow up and review process of the Sustainable Development Goals

On Sunday, 15 January, the first ever United Nations World Data Forum (WDF) officially kicked off in Cape Town, South Africa and will continue until 18 January, 2017. This inaugural WDF provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the commitments world leaders made just over a year ago, upon the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here, diverse data communities from government, private sector, civil society, academia, and techies, among others will engage the rest of the world to share their data and statistics related experiences, ideas, innovations, challenges, learning, and opportunities for collaboration across sectors.

The agenda of the WDF shows that planned side events will focus on a vast array of subjects – all related to the role that data and statistics is playing, or will play in supporting the delivery of the ambitious 2030 Agenda. The level of enthusiasm for this event as demonstrated by its oversubscription is a sign of a new awakening – an awakening that it is difficult to talk about concrete actions and interventions that can lift the world’s poorest out of poverty, in the absence of high quality, timely, relevant and usable data and statistics.

It is important at this point to remind ourselves that the Ministerial Declaration of the 2016 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development pledged that no one should be left behind, especially the most marginalised people, as we implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ‘Leave no-one behind (LNOB)’ must now move from paper to a practical reality; our mantra to hold governments across the world to this promise. After all, the Ministers underscored that the 2030 Agenda is people-centered, universal and transformative and that its goals and targets are integrated, indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.

There’s a caveat to LNOB. As we focus on marginalised citizens let’s not forget there’s an even higher risk to leave behind a special category of people that hold the real power and resources to quickly do something about the World’s poorest; especially in least developed and developing countries. These are members of parliament, political and economic power brokers, elites that control the political class, and technocrats in powerful government ministries, departments, and agencies that are seldom seen as relevant to mainstream development discourses, but who in real terms control entire economies. There’s no better time to bring them on board and target them with the message of change.

The burden of monitoring and reporting on SDGs lies with national governments, and that of compiling data and statistics with National Statistical Offices (NSOs). We are however, fully aware that due to existential challenges it will be impossible for any of them or any other single body to meet the data requirements needed to populate monitoring frameworks and adequately track progress. We must therefore embrace other data communities in order to harness new sources of data in the National Statistical System (NSS). This will build a more robust and accurate picture of progress at all levels, from local to national. Ensuring a more participatory approach that includes people, communities and diverse sectors is one major way of harnessing new, valuable sources of data.

Citizen-generated data (CGD) is one such source. CGD is data that people or their organisations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them. Its data generated by citizens that falls outside the remit of official data for example administrative or civil registration, and statistics gathered from formal government processes like censuses or household surveys. In most cases its production is initiated by citizens or non-state actors through research, social audits, crowd-sourcing online platforms, mobile phone and SMS surveys, phone calls, reports, storytelling, social media, and community radio.

DataShift in partnership with the Open Institute, Chief Francis Kariuki (AKA the Tweeting Chief), and Restless Development Tanzania have been exploring the use of CGD in Kenya and Tanzania. We aim to empower citizens to better understand their development landscape and leverage the SDGs to engage local governments in order to target resources towards their priorities. Our entry point is SDG 5; ‘Achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls’. One of the learnings so far is that CGD is able to convey unique perspectives and reveal issues that may be imperceptible from analysis of other sources of data. Qualitative evidence provided by CGD will be needed to supplement and complement quantitative data, especially that coming from official sources.

We believe creating partnerships at all levels, especially between civil society organisations (CSOs) and National Statistical Offices (NSOs) through the National Statistical System (NSS) will help to fill data gaps, strengthen capacity for data gathering and statistical analysis, raise awareness and encourage knowledge-sharing around the targets and indicators and strengthen advocacy work. Taken together, all of this could help better coordinate efforts around monitoring and tracking on progress on SDGs.

We also hope there will be an opportunity at the WDF to talk about the challenges; challenges that have and continue to plague governments, development partners, civil society, private sector, and academia, among others. It is the only way we can all learn and effectively transform the world’s development and governance discourse over the next 14 years of the Agenda 2030.

Please join us for two these DataShift hosted events at the World Data Forum, where we’ll be exploring how citizen-generated data can contribute to closing data gaps and facilitating the implementation and tracking of progress on SDGs:

Making citizen-generated data work for sustainable development: Incentives, obstacles and the way forward

Day: Monday, 16 January

Time: 17:00 – 18:30

Room: MR2.41

Gender Data: An integrated approach to plugging the gaps with citizen-generated and other data sources to leave no one behind

Day: Wednesday, 18 January

Time: 10:45 – 12:15

Room: MR1.41

Follow our conversations on Twitter @SDGDataShift and #DataShift

Global gender goals: achieving local impact

Significant progress has been made in the long journey towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. We now have a standalone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5) on gender that places special emphasis on the subject and raises its profile to those from state and non-state backgrounds. But raising awareness on this goal is in itself a progressive step towards gender equality.

Disaggregation of data by sex has equally gained momentum, fuelled by the demand for gender data and targeted decision-making and interventions that tackle challenges unique to women and men, or girls and boys. Today, a lot of sex disaggregated data exists in the public, private and development spheres. We have just about enough to get started despite capacity gaps in understanding gender data, its analysis, and packaging in more powerful ways to support advocacy and policy engagement. The growth in information communication technologies (ICTs), especially mobile phone and increased access to the internet are demystifying gender equality and putting information in the hands of people – whether deliberately or not; changing attitudes in ways never imagined before. Mainstream and social media are exerting cultural influences across the world and sharing more and more information by the minute.  

Despite these milestones, we remain fully conscious of the insurmountable challenges and barriers that women and girls face around the world, especially in rural and marginalised areas, and in fragile and conflict situations. Increasingly the “forgotten” boy child and young men are side-lined by increased investments in women and girls and are now falling deeper into crisis in the developing country context. Both men and women are stuck with attitudes and practices that impede progress arising from retrogressive socio-economic, political and cultural factors. Men with the power to exert influence and make a difference are yet to subscribe to the reality that empowering women is akin to empowering the entire community and society at large. While women in power and leadership are still very much perceived to be in these positions by favour, not by merit. Despite the numerical strength, many women don’t support their own (deserving and qualified women) to ascend to leadership positions.

How DataShift is helping to monitor progress and enable change in Kenya

Over the past couple of months, DataShift has partnered with the Open Institute (OI) and Chief Francis Kariuki, the “Tweeting Chief” to domesticate SDG 5 at the community level in Lanet Umoja Location, Nakuru County in Kenya. DataShift is an initiative of CIVICUS World Alliance that builds the capacity and confidence of civil society organisations to produce and use citizen-generated data (CGD) to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change. Through the project dubbed “global goals for local impact” we are working with the community to use citizen-generated data to better understand their gender-related development and governance priorities. Even more exciting, we are moving beyond the collection of citizen-generated data to empower the community to undertake advocacy campaigns targeting local government decision-making and budget processes with a view of attracting resources to initiatives that empower women and girls.

Over time we will measure whether progress is being made or not on SDG 5 targets and indicators. Ultimately our goal is to develop, test, and share widely a model for citizen engagement in domestication and tracking progress on SDGs at the community level; using SDG 5 as an entry point.

We started by convening a women’s-only (young and old) community gender thematic forum with over 100 women groups, training them on SDG 5 targets and indicators. The women’s-only forum created a safe space for them to candidly discuss their challenges, opportunities and priorities. A A follow-up joint thematic forum was then organised to bring the men in the community and local leaders on board, raising awareness among them on SDG 5 and including them in the Lanet Umoja gender committee.



Subsequent meetings focused on data literacy, clarifying contentious issues; such as unpaid care and domestic work, and demonstrating the importance of SDG 5 indicators in measuring progress. We further involved the community in developing the gender citizen-generated data collection methodology and tools. In October 2016, the gender citizen-generated data collection tools were uploaded to mobile phones and distributed to women leaders. The women were trained to use the mobile phones to collect the data – this data collection is currently underway. The data will be available on an online dashboard, visualising it as information the community can use to power campaigns and advocacy.

Lessons learnt

From the community engagements and gender citizen-generated data in Lanet Umoja, we have learnt: the gender-related issues that SDG 5 and its constituent targets, seek to address for example, ending all forms of discrimination, eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls, and recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic work, among others, resonate quite well with people’s every day circumstances at the community level.

Some targets were more relevant than others depending on the magnitude of the problem within the community

In Lanet Umoja for example, target 5.3 on “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation” was less of a priority because the issues it seeks to address are nearly non-existent in the community. While 5.a on “undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance…” was considered higher priority.

Other targets would have to be domesticated or further expanded to address emerging issues

For example 5.2 focuses on eliminating all forms of violence against “all women and girls” in the public and private spheres. Given increased violence against men and boys, the community agreed that this would have to be expanded to read “against all women, girls, men, and boys” in the public and private spheres to ensure the data captures the reality on the ground.    

The community was more interested in indicators they could do something about

For example indicator 5.1.1 reads “whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex”. The community was interested in an additional indicator that could measure “the proportion of those discriminated against”, so they could do something about it.

Gender equality is still largely perceived as a women’s-only issue

We have however witnessed significant improvement in Lanet Umoja since we started involving the men, a lot more campaigning and advocacy is needed to reach those not yet engaged in order to convince them that gender equality does matter to them.  

Half of the households in Lanet Umoja were led by women

The data showed that most of the women  are breadwinners by the age of 40, are more affected by insecurity, and they were more proactive in reporting incidents to security agents.

Gender issues cut across all goals

Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls within the community are measured through targeted government service delivery and women’s access to economic opportunities, along with related issues like women and girls accessing clean water, efficient and timely health services, quality education etc. Gender is therefore a cross-cutting issue not only in the SDGs themselves, but in reality on the ground.

Access to “classified official data” to complement data generated by communities is a challenge

This makes it difficult to understand what government is doing on this agenda and therefore hold it to account. This is likely to be a major challenge for the follow up and review process.

Reaching impact at scale will be a challenge

The scope of gender citizen-generated data, especially at the subnational level like Lanet Umoja focuses on highly contextualised community-specific issues. We have to extract the approach and lessons to formulate a scalable model.

There’s limited capacity and funding to collect more frequent gender data

There’s limited capacity to feed this data into local government decision-making processes at the subnational level, often because government, donors or CSOs are mainly focused on service delivery sectors.

Next steps

From our perspective, mainstreaming gender in sub-national government policy, practice, and service delivery will be critical for targeted interventions which meet the specific needs of women and girls at the lowest levels of the community. It’s now widely acknowledged that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is a precondition for the achievement of the SDGs, however this requires good quality, timely, and accurate gender data, in addition to partnerships and relentless efforts on all fronts.

DataShift’s work on using CGD for delivering the SDGs continues to explore opportunities and challenges associated with harnessing multiple sources of data, particularly citizen-generated data, to monitor, demand and drive sustainable development progress, while facilitating an evidence-based conversation amongst diverse stakeholders. This is being achieved through applied research, collaboration and partnership development and policy engagement, outreach and advocacy primarily in Kenya and Tanzania, and in other DataShift pilot countries – Nepal and Argentina.

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.