By Susan Wilding, Civic Space Initiative (CSI) Project Manager, CIVICUS, May 2015.
Every five years the International Centre for Not-for-profit Law (ICNL) convenes a global meeting of the world’s leading minds in civil society, government, multilateral institutions and the donor community. ICNL’s 2015 Global Forum on ‘Shaping Civic Space’ took place in Stockholm 10-12 May. The Forum was attended by 200 experts from around the globe. During one of the sessions entitled ‘Beyond three minutes and a mic’, CIVICUS had the opportunity to present to a smaller group of experts on the DataShift. The aim of the session was to educate attendees on a number of innovative methods for encouraging public participation and attempt to answer key questions about the methods as posed by the attendees.
A team of seven experts presented different tools or methods that they had either already utilised or were in the process of developing. The different methods focused mostly on national issues that could possibly be replicated in other countries but the DataShift was the only project presented that intends to be global in scale. Session attendees were then asked to break away into groups and investigate the methods further, asking probing questions to garner more information.
CIVICUS was ‘interviewed’ by three separate break away groups and received questions around the credibility of the data and how the DataShift will mitigate against skewed data, especially in the case of government reprisals. One of the attendees even suggested that the government itself may use the citizen-generated data initiatives to skew data in their favour. Another question, which session attendees focused on, is the language flexibility of the DataShift and illiteracy as an issue in reaching marginal groups. There was a suggestion that the tools for gathering data should be as simple as possible to address these concerns.
Aside from some good investigative questions, session attendants seemed extremely interested in the DataShift and the idea of citizen-generated data in monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals post-2015. As is usual with these limited sessions, it would have been good to have had more time to consult further but there will be more occasions such as this and more time to share, question and interrogate to help ensure that the DataShift is as relevant, useful and credible as possible.