Everyone Counts: Creating data standards to link citizen-generated data

A group creating a scorecard

A group creating a scorecard

This blog post follows up on a previous post about Everyone Counts, a new initiative founded by World VisionCARE International and Kwantu.  The initiative aims to give marginalised citizens a voice in relation to their satisfaction with public services.  You can read the previous post here.

I ended the last post posing three key technical challenges that Everyone Counts need to overcome.  These are:

Comparability: how can we standardise and compare data coming from different organisations, while still allowing for contextual variations?

Quality of data: how can we ensure that data are of high quality and have enough credibility to be taken seriously?

Getting to scale: how can we take data from the community level up to the national level, aggregating data to build the bigger picture?

This post will share thinking on how we aim to tackle these challenges.

Build standards from the bottom up

To tackle the comparability challenge we plan to lead work to develop a series of ‘micro-standards’ for data collected as part of the community scorecard process.  Think of these as the grandchildren of global standards like the International Aid Transparency Initiative or Open Contracting Partnership.  In our case, micro-standards will cover data that is currently written up on flip-charts by the person facilitating community scorecard workshops with citizens.  It might include things like:

  • Standard typologies of marginalised groups of citizens, broken down by gender
  • Standard ways of recording indicators that citizens develop and the way they score them
  • Standard ways of recording joint actions agreed between citizens and service providers to improve issues affecting quality of service delivery

I’ll publish another post later describing these in more detail.  Everyone Counts is planning a series of country level workshops to develop these standards.  These will bring together any organisation using community scorecards in that country to share information on how they collect data and contribute to the development of a discussion paper.  This will provide the basis for a consultative process to agree a set of common micro-standards for this methodology.

This will be the first step on a long journey, as we extend this work in other countries and identify other important contextual variations that we need to take into account. 

Offline data collection with mobile devices

We know already that different partners use different systems to collect data.  They may also require additional data not included as part of the core standards.  We plan to take a technology agnostic approach that builds on top of what is there.  Partners with existing systems can (as already happens with IATI) map the data they collect to the standards and publish their data.  For partners without a system we will provide a mobile app that works offline.  This will link the data that needs to be collected to key steps in the process of implementing a community scorecard.  This makes it easy to identify data quality problems early on, as we know what data to expect at each step and can review it regularly.

Data from existing systems and the mobile app will then synchronise with the Data Hub.  This will provide a central repository of encrypted data from community scorecards implemented by all partners.  The Data Hub will include tools to analyse the data and generate reports or dashboards.  While each partner will have access to their own data, collective analysis will require partners to share their encryption keys.  This will give control to each partner as to who can access their data.

Building trust and catalysing collaboration

Aggregating data generated by citizens is one thing, ensuring that it is used well is another challenge entirely.  CARE and World Vision already have a strong track record of using data generated by citizens for advocacy and learning.  Everyone Counts will broaden this work, building trust among partners using scorecards to begin approaching learning and advocacy in a more collaborative way (where this is not already happening).

We will work with other initiatives, like the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data and the Open Government Partnership, to identify other ways in which the data can be used to inform policy or planning in relevant Government departments and complement the SDG monitoring process.

What next?

We have identifyed a small group of countries where we can do more extensive outreach.  These include Kenya, Rwanda, Malawi and Zambia.  This will help us begin engaging with the following groups:

  • Other partners that are using community scorecards and would like to join the initiative
  • Government departments or agencies that would like to use citizen generated data in their work
  • Other organisations that are working with citizen generated data or advocating for improved public services

If you’d like to get in touch or learn more about this work, please visit our new website - www.everyone-counts.org