Thursday, 10.45-12.15 (Balcony D)

Technology in citizen generated data: Trading efficiency over inclusion? Kristin Bodiford and Jonna Bertfelt, HelpAge; Sarah Hennessy, Feedback Labs; Marc Maxmeister, Keystone Accountability; Neda Zohdy, Open Gov Hub
This interactive session will invite participants to help identify and co-develop solutions that support inclusion and participation in MERL activities. We will begin by sharing several case studies highlighting challenges organizations have faced in balancing inclusion and participation with efficiency and use of technology/ digital data collection. Then we will engage in a World Café process to explore the following questions:  What are the implications on citizen voice for making a shift to digital data processes? How might this be either a barrier or an enabling factor for inclusion? How might we design workflow solutions that best enable citizen voice, and what role can technology play? What are the different considerations? What makes a data workflow inclusive? 

Session Level:

Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

Session Details:

This interactive session will explore how technology is being used by citizens to collect data on the implementation of government services, and the challenging trade off this creates between efficiency and inclusion.

Please join this World Café conversation to explore strategies for how the use of technology might support empowerment of citizen advocacy and avoid unintended consequences that take away ownership and voice. Social accountability is an approach to sustainable development which has been around for the past two decades. It enables citizens to express their opinions about government decisions, and hold officials to account to deliver services. Citizens commonly collect data about government services using exit surveys at the service point or short household surveys. The data is then used to generate reports and open space for discussion with public officials and service providers. This formerly paper-based approach enables marginalized groups to participate in data collection, and in simple data analysis calculating scores by hand. On one side this process is empowering as it enables the most marginalized to participate, on the other the impact of this data is limited to community level, and faces issues of rigor and bias.

Recently HelpAge has been supporting citizens to experiment with digital data collection. Whilst this has vastly improved data quality and made data available to a wide variety of government and non-government stakeholders then was ever imagined possible, it is showing signs of a disempowering effect by taking the data out of ordinary citizens’ hands. Participants will engage in a World Café dialogue to explore strategies that support empowerment of citizen advocacy through the use of technology. – How might digital data collection support empowerment of ordinary citizens? Is disempowerment of ordinary citizens an avoidable consequence of digital data collection? – How might we leverage the power of digital data collection to support voice and advocacy? – How can we enable citizens to have easier access and feel ownership of the data in digital form? What can be done to lessen unintended negative consequences of reduced access and ownership of data?

Session Resources:

Slides from the session.

Session Leads:

Kristin Bodiford is a Health Advisor for HelpAge USA. She works to develop global health strategies and build corporate and foundation partnerships for HelpAge USA. Kristin supports teams in data digitization and collection, global analysis and visualization, and data-informed and human centered design of program and policy responses working to improve health of over 50,000 older persons and their families in low- and middle-income countries. Kristin holds a Ph.D. from Tilburg University and an MBA from University of California, Davis. More about Kristin here and follow her on Twitter @kjbodiford. More about HelpAge here.

Jonna Bertfelt, HelpAge International. Jonna is the Program Manager for the Health Outcomes Tool, a community based health and care M&E tool that collects data around healthy ageing, with a focus on older people in low and middle income countries. The tool aims at informing HelpAge’s programmes and policy work around health in older age. Jonna has a bachelor degree in Public Health and a Masters degree in International Health from Uppsala University, Sweden. She is passionate about data driven and evidence based work and ICT4D. More about Jonna here and about HelpAge here.

Marc Maxmeister, Chief Innovator, Keystone Accountability. Marc Maxmeister is a PhD neuroscientist who helps coordinate the GlobalGiving Storytelling project, an experiment to provide all organizations with a richer, more complex view of the communities they serve. He is also part of GlobalGiving’s i-team, a group tasked with defining and measuring GlobalGiving’s impact on other organizations. He focuses on learning from experimentation. He was formerly a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia and did a Fulbright research project around the impact of computers and the Internet on rural education in West Africa. He loves to teach, and has taught graduate-level Neuroscience at Kenyatta University in Kenya and Python to middle school students in London, UK. He blogs at and is the author of several books, including Ebola: Local voices, hard facts (2014) and Trello for Project Management (2015). More about Mark here, on Twitter @marcmaxson or at Keystone Accountability.

Sarah Hennessy, Chief of Staff, Feedback Labs. Sarah manages the organization and day-to-day strategy and function of Feedback Labs, including member management, outreach, development, event organization, and more. She also manages LabStorms and Sprint Relays. Sarah likes to think about how we can use feedback not only to make better decisions in aid and philanthropy, but how citizen voice can be an important tool for highlighting, amplifying, and codifying voices in the present minority. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in epidemiology and public health, Sarah somehow managed to leave behind the palm trees and 70 degree winters to return to the east coast, where she got her start in DC working at Ashoka. She now splits her time between Feedback Labs and GlobalGiving, where she works with the impact team to explore and design incentives around behavior changes toward greater organizational effectiveness (via feedback!). Off the clock, Sarah enjoys rock climbing, trying new flavors of decaf coffee, reading SCOTUSblog, and listening to lots and lots of podcasts (check out Tiny Spark!). Learn more about Sarah here, on Twitter @FeedbackLabs or at Feedback Labs.

Nada Zohdy, is the Director of the Open Gov Hub. Nada oversees all operations of this social enterprise that supports NGOs promoting government transparency, accountability and citizen engagement around the world. She also leads efforts to promote collaboration across the Hub’s 40 organization member network. In 2015 she received an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she focused on linking  democracy/ governance with social entrepreneurship/innovation. She also performed research on nonprofit collaborations, published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Prior to that she worked for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), where she created a program that supported a dozen local watchdogs and think tanks in several Arab countries in the wake of the Arab Spring. Over the last decade, she has supported 50+ nonprofits in several capacities. These experiences fuel her passion for social impact and civic innovation, globally and locally. She is a 2009 Truman Scholar. More about Nada here and about Open Gov Hub here.