TMG Think Tank for Sustainability
Blog Post

The revolution will be crowdsourced!

Developing new forms of reporting and monitoring for empowerment and accountability.

by David Betge | 2023-08-01

The revolution will be crowdsourced!

The successful restoration of degraded land and forests, nature-based biodiversity protection measures or projects to improve communities´ access to resources all require data for monitoring results and impacts. Reliable and timely data is needed to assess if objectives are being achieved and to ensure no harm is being done to people and nature.

Ideally, people targeted or affected by government programs and development projects can voice their opinion regarding the respective measures and alert implementers and planners if things go wrong.

Top-down monitoring is a bottleneck

Current approaches to monitoring and reporting commonly rely on centralised or ´implementer-driven´ methods for data collection such as surveys, focus groups or interviews. While these methods allow for needs-based data collection, they are biased towards the perspective of those implementing them and, more importantly, they do not allow for real-time collection of data that can raise timely alerts regarding unintended negative (or positive) consequences of specific measures or programs.

Digital crowdsourcing tools to the rescue?

Digital tools can offer a change in perspective and allow for real-time, crowdsourced reporting. The Kenyan election monitoring tool Ushahidi is an example of this. Such tools can connect communities and individual users to central dashboards where data can be sent through mobile phones or via the internet and monitored by dedicated observers who can raise the attention of authorities or other relevant actors. However, such decentralised, bottom-up monitoring and reporting tools are not typically being used in government programs or the development sector at this point. They also come with serious limitations if they require users to own smartphones or access the internet.

The Haki Ardhi Rights Reporting Tool

TMG Research, Kenya Land Alliance and Rainforest Foundation UK have been working on a tool to allow for the crowdsourcing of rights-related data for the past one-and-a-half years. The Haki Ardhi Rights Reporting Tool is being piloted in the context of widespread abuses of women´s tenure rights in two counties of Kenya. It allows users to report land rights abuses by:

Sending tollfree text alerts

Calling local support actors

Physically reporting at local offices with on-site data collection

The tool is integrated with existing local support structures and enables established and trusted community-based organisations to effectively respond to land rights abuses. It also provides a quick and easy referral system for the most serious cases. Through the tool the supporting organisations can:

document evidence,

collect photos and videos,

produce data-based reports.

This way of monitoring and reporting significantly increases the role and agency of those directly affected by specific programs or measures. It contributes to increasing the accountability of duty bearers and the overall transparency of governance.

Building momentum for scaling up

During a recent strategy workshop, the consortium discussed the status of the rollout and way forward with the three community-based organisations hosting the tool. The three partners, Shibuye Community Health Workers (Kakamega county), Taita Taveta Human Rights Watch and Sauti Ya Wanawake (Taita Taveta county), reported very positive reactions from the communities and local authorities. The prospect of collecting real-time data on tenure related challenges and enabling informed decisions on policy development and implementation was enthusiastically received. The communities voiced the strong desire for the process to be driven by local actors and asked the partners to ensure continuous communication with relevant authorities. At the same time, the local organisations as well as key community members, require ongoing support with using the tool, protecting and processing the resulting data and responding to individual cases. Leveraging the data to advocate for better policies and implementation will also require coherent and coordinated strategies.

Data protection and timely response to alerts are key to making decentralised data collection tools effective and sustainable. This means such tools need to have both digital and analogue components, carried by well-established, trusted local actors and supported by actor networks with diverse capabilities and capacities.

Working towards a monitoring and reporting revolution

The Haki Ardhi consortium continues the piloting of the tool over the next months, preparing for scaling-up and expanding the tool towards other areas and issues. Follow-on funding will be sought for which the partners will develop an adapted Theory of Change based on the inputs resulting from the piloting phase. The crowdsourced data resulting from Haki Ardhi´s bottom-up approach turns the current reporting and monitoring approaches upside-down.

In the context of emerging challenges related to large-scale carbon offsetting schemes and major land-based investments in Kenya, a decentralised reporting and monitoring tool holds the promise to significantly contribute to rights protection as well as successful implementation of climate change mitigation and development.

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