Everyone Counts: Using Citizen-generated data to monitor progress against the SDGs

Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG) recently released it's report - A World That Counts: Mobilising The Data Revolution for Sustainable Development.

The report highlights two big global challenges for the current state of development data:

  • The challenge of invisibility (gaps in what we know from data, and when we find out)
  • The challenge of inequality (gaps between those who with and without information, and what they need to know make their own decisions)

As the global community grapples with these challenges in the context of monitoring the SDGS, I propose a third challenge to consider:

  • The challenge to include the voices of citizens - particularly those often excluded or left behind - in a meaningful way

I’d like to introduce you to a new partnership that we’ve established to try and tackle this third challenge.

Everyone Counts is 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 (as per Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 16.6.2).  In practical terms this means:

  • Assessing to what extent services are meeting their needs and rights
  • Identifying problems with the quality of service delivery
  • Determining if the SDGs are having the impact they are meant to have in their lives

How will this work?  There are some key principles behind the initiative that guide us in our work.

Start with what already works

Our first key principle is to build on what is already working and happening.  This is not about launching a new survey or data collection exercise.  Kwantu, CARE and World Vision have been working for many years on social accountability.  We each hacommunity scorecardsve experience of using a participatory methodology called .  Developed by CARE 15 years ago, it has since been taken up and used by Plan, World Vision, the World Bank and many others.

It is a very straight forward methodology: we ask citizens using a public service (a school, clinic or other type of service) to score the quality of services that they received against a set of indicators that they devise. We get service providers to do the same. And then we bring them together to discuss and come up with an action plan to address the identified issues.

Between CARE, World Vision and Kwantu, we are already using it in almost 40 countries and across more than 1,400 facilities. We already have significant numbers just among the founding partners.  This will grow as other partners join.

Transformative and empowering, not extractive

Our second key principle is to take a transformative and empowering approach, not an extractive one.  It’s critical that data is generated by citizens in a way that is transformative and empowering to them.  Community scorecards take a participatory and deliberative approach to identifying indicators.  This is not about imposing a set of indicators or questions that have been developed by experts.  The process must give space for citizens to determine which issues they feel are important in their own language.  The process also seeks to build a constructive relationship between citizens and those delivering public services.  It’s primarily about finding local solutions to problems. Citizen-generated data is a by-product.

Use technology to connect work across multiple partners to reach scale

Our third principle is to use technology only as a layer on top of what already works.  Technology is a powerful catalyst, but can be a force for positive or negative change.  The community scorecard methodology has been widely used and well evaluated.  We have evidence that it is effective at improving the quality of public services.  We will use technology to make what we know already works, work even better.

Specifically there are three challenges that we will use technology to address:

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?

I'll talk more about how we plan to use technology in a follow-up post.  Meanwhile if you’d like to get in touch please leave us a comment or subscribe to this blog.  We’ll add you to our mailing list so you can get updates on the initiative.