Community call recording and summary: Africa’s Voices’ experiences with engaging citizens, analysing local language data, and demonstrating its credibility

On Monday 27 June, we hosted a DataShift community call with Africa’s Voices in which we discussed three common challenges that many organisations working with citizen-generated data face:

  • how to build and sustain citizen engagement,
  • how to collect and analyse local language data, without relying on translation, and
  • how to demonstrate validity and credibility of citizen data.

Below you will find a recording of their presentation, and a summary of the subsequent discussion. Throughout this week, you can ask any additional questions to Africa’s Voices via Twitter by using our #DataShift hashtag. If you are interested in sharing your experience on a DataShift community call, please contact us and consider joining our community email discussion list!

Thank you Claudia Lopes and Rainbow Wilcox for sharing what you’ve learned with us, and for being so open and responsive to questions!

Summary of the subsequent discussion:

On building capacity: Africa’s Voices works closely with partners and radio presenters to build their capacity throughout the project period. Trainings for the radio presenters, for example, are often around engagement strategies, like how to ask questions to the audience in a way that encourages participation from women and hard to reach groups. Africa’s Voices has created this toolkit for radio stations (with Internews). Sometimes the stations continue to run these kinds of interactive shows, which gives them an opportunity to test these new tools. But other times, the costs (fees for short codes for example) is just too high. 

On sharing insights back to the community: After a series of radio shows focused on the topic being researched, Africa’s Voices aims to dedicate the last show to sharing insights back to the community. Members of the community are invited to join the radio presenters for that last radio program.

On impact: Although it is too early to know what impact the UNICEF Somalia pilot project will be, UNICEF is very enthusiastic about the approach and findings, especially as it is difficult for them to gather large scale qualitative and quantitative insights on the ground in Somalia. UNICEF has already requested an additional three radio series to gather further insights about the health beliefs and behaviours of Somali people.

Factors for success:

  • Africa’s Voices pilot research consistently found a bias towards men and more educated audiencesregarding  engagement. But after trying some different approaches (working with a media partner to develop radio scripts, testing with focus groups the wording and cultural adequacy of the scripts and questions, etc), they were able to change this trend across many projects. For the UNICEF Somalia project, 44% of participants were women!
  • They also learned that it is really helpful to get the radio presenter on board from the beginning – if they are excited and engaged, the project is likely to be more successful.
  • In terms of helpful resources and support along the way, Africa’s Voices attribute much if its learning to “learning by doing”, being so closely connected to a University, and road-testing collaboration with partners through pilot studies. Africa’s Voices is interested in continuing to share their knowledge and learnings via their website (see these toolkits), blog, and communities of practice (like this DataShift community).

On finding the right partners: And finally, in terms of finding the right organisations and radio stations to work with, many times it’s the client organisation that determines these partnership, but networking opportunities is introducing Africa’s Voices to new partners. They find that testing new partnerships through small pilots is a great way to explore expectations and ways of working – to know if it’s an effective collaboration. When selecting radio stations, they research things like: the reach of the stations, and their enthusiasm in the project.

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