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Posts Tagged ‘mapping’

This is a guest post by Daniella Ben-Attar (@dbenattar) who consults for international development agencies, NGOs and corporations on areas relating to youth participation, governance, municipal capacity building, ICT4D and peace building.

by Daniella Ben-Attar

Youth in Mali with local authorities.

Youth in Mali with local authorities.

ICTs are increasingly being looked to as holding great promise for improving participatory governance and citizen engagement. Mobile phones have been a game-changer in this sphere, with nearly seven billion mobile-cellular subscriptions worldwide, including 89% penetration in the developing world. Youth are at the center of these developments, both as drivers and consumers of technological innovation.  This is particularly true in developing countries where the young generation is leading the way in the usage of technology to overcome social, political and economic exclusion to begin driving positive change in their communities. The largest cohort in history, youth aged 15-24 number more than 1.2 billion worldwide, with an estimated 87% living in developing countries.  They are almost twice as networked as the global population as a whole, with the ICT age gap more pronounced in least developed countries where young people are often three times more likely to be online than the general population.

The combination of the “youth bulge” and “mobile miracle” has great potential to enable new responses to the longstanding challenge of youth engagement in governance across the developing world. Young citizens are utilizing simple mobile technology to innovate new platforms, tools and mechanisms aiming to amplify their voices and influence government. Youth are being proactive to play a greater role in governance through mobile-based communication avenues, user-generated information, tools tracking government accountability, anti-corruption platforms, crowd-sourcing and more. This is a dramatic shift from the days when the only way to gain the attention of a government official was through slow and cumbersome bureaucratic processes and official meetings in government offices.

A Growing Youth-Local Government Disconnect

Ironically, the impact of these efforts appears to be more pronounced at the national level than at the local level of government. Indeed, ICTs seem to be strengthening communications between youth and central government instead of enhancing connections with the closest level of governance where young citizens can be resources for community development. Applications and innovations in cooperation with government that address local issues have largely been the product of national government bodies. Most youth-led initiatives have not been successful in securing local government partnership, limiting impact. A communications gap has widened between young citizens and their local governments, which are often staffed by individuals with far less digital experience than their youthful constituents. As a result, youth and their local leaders often seem to be speaking in different languages through different media.  Local government deficits in capacity and resources continue to exist as barriers, as well as the need for sensitization to youth engagement as a priority outcome of adopting and shaping ICT-enabled practices.

Most young people using technology as a way to influence governance will tell you a similar story. When expressing themselves through social media outlets and ICT-enabled mechanisms, it is usually the national political figures that are more attuned and responsive. Local leaders are far behind their national counterparts in ICT capacity and usage. National ministers and officials often use Twitter accounts, blogs, SMS and websites to engage with their citizens, who by default are largely young. While this is a positive development, it also elicits frustration from young people who feel that their voices are ignored or unheard by elder leaders at the local level where chances are greatest for tangible impact in their day-to-day lives.

President Kagame of Rwanda is a stark example.  Youth have described how the president directly interacted with young citizens via Twitter and addressed concerns relating to many issues, from police violence towards youth to business ideas for urban tourism.  No such possibilities existed for these same youth to approach the local authority with these locally-based needs.  Even more significant, Kagame merged the national ministries of Youth and ICT in 2012 and appointed a Minister of Youth and ICT.  This is a groundbreaking move both in terms of ICT and youth, with youth ministries commonly grouped with sports or culture. However, these extraordinary national developments are not reflected in the policy and practice of local government in Rwanda.

Digital mapping initiatives have been in the spotlight as a new youth-driven tool drawing attention to local issues often overlooked by government officials.  While communities are benefitting from these processes, youth leaders report that these maps often do not gain the attention of city hall. For example, Kenyan NGO Map Kibera has seen its maps utilized by national ministry committees, better equipped with the capacity and mindset to absorb digital data, while city council has not been responsive to ICT-based approaches. Young leaders in Kandy City, Sri Lanka are working to bridge the “youth-local government ICT gap” which they have identified as a major barrier in engaging youth in local development. These young leaders are training municipal officials in computer skills and creating new ICT platforms for citizen-local government interaction as part of a UN-HABITAT supported youth-led training and education program run by YES – City of Youth.

Building Local Government Capacity for ICT & Youth Engagement

Partnership with local government is viewed by stakeholders as a key missing ingredient in enabling governance technology applications to have tangible results at the community level. The importance of “closing the engagement loop” and early local government buy-in is emphasized time and again by stakeholders in the field as a vital lesson learned through pilot programs. Youth organizations like Youth Agenda and Sisi ni Amani have achieved successful governance results by engaging local leaders as partners from the preliminary stages, highlighting the benefits they can gain through mobile solutions that increase civic engagement, enhance service delivery, fight corruption and bridge between local government and citizens.

Bridging the youth-local government gap will require sensitizing local officials and encouraging them to see the advantages of “listening” to youth ICT platforms, to bring them to where the majority of youth are voicing their opinions, and enable them to take responsive actions. National governments should be encouraged to help local governments be better equipped to address youthful concerns at the local level through capacity building for both youth engagement and ICT4G.  This can be supported by integrating local ICT components in national ICT plans, or increased “decentralization” and integration of both youth and ICT strategies, bolstered by budgetary allocations and devolution of authority. When seeking to utilize ICT to deliver positive governance outcomes for young people, “local gov” must be part of the “ICT4Gov” equation.

This blog post draws on findings from a UN-HABITAT Report entitled “ICT, Urban Governance and Youth” co-authored by Daniella Ben-Attar and Tim Campbell.

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The February 5 Technology Salon in New York City asked “What are the ethics in participatory digital mapping?” Judging by the packed Salon and long waiting list, many of us are struggling with these questions in our work.

Some of the key ethical points raised at the Salon related to the benefits of open data vs privacy and the desire to do no harm. Others were about whether digital maps are an effective tool in participatory community development or if they are mostly an innovation showcase for donors or a backdrop for individual egos to assert their ‘personal coolness’. The absence of research and ethics protocols for some of these new kinds of data gathering and sharing was also an issue of concern for participants.

During the Salon we were only able to scratch the surface, and we hope to get together soon for a more in-depth session (or maybe 2 or 3 sessions – stay tuned!) to further unpack the ethical issues around participatory digital community mapping.

The points raised by discussants and participants included:

1) Showcasing innovation

Is digital mapping really about communities, or are we really just using communities as a backdrop to showcase our own innovation and coolness or that of our donors?

2) Can you do justice to both process and product?

Maps should be less an “in-out tool“ and more part of a broader program. External agents should be supporting communities to articulate and to be full partners in saying, doing, and knowing what they want to do with maps. Digital mapping may not be better than hand drawn maps, if we consider that the process of mapping is just as or more important than the final product. Hand drawn maps can allow for important discussions to happen while people draw. This seems to happens much less with the digital mapping process, which is more technical, and it happens even less when outside agents are doing the mapping. A hand drawn map can be imbued with meaning in terms of the size, color or placement of objects or borders. Important meaning may be missed when hand drawn maps are replaced with digital ones.

Digital maps, however, can be printed and further enhanced with comments and drawings and discussed in the community, as some noted. And digital maps can lend a sense of professionalism to community members and help them to make a stronger case to authorities and decisions makers. Some participants raised concerns about power relations during mapping processes, and worried that using digital tools could emphasize those.

3) The ethics of wasting people’s time.

Community mapping is difficult. The goal of external agents should be to train local people so that they can be owners of the process and sustain it in the long term. This takes time. Often, however, mapping experts are flown in for a week or two to train community members. They leave people with some knowledge, but not enough to fully manage the mapping process and tools. If people end up only half-trained and without local options to continue training, their time has essentially been wasted. In addition, if young people see the training as a pathway to a highly demanded skill set yet are left partially trained and without access to tools and equipment, they will also feel they have wasted their time.

4) Data extraction

When agencies, academics and mappers come in with their clipboards or their GPS units and conduct the same surveys and studies over and over with the same populations, people’s time is also wasted. Open digital community mapping comes from a viewpoint that an open map and open data are one way to make sure that data that is taken from or created by communities is made available to the communities for their own use and can be accessed by others so that the same data is not collected repeatedly. Though there are privacy concerns around opening data, there is a counter balanced ethical dilemma related to how much time gets wasted by keeping data closed.

5) The (missing) link between data and action

Related to the issue of time wasting is the common issue of a missing link between data collected and/or mapped, action and results. Making a map identifying issues is certainly no guarantee that the government will come and take care of those issues. Maps are a means to an end, but often the end is not clear. What do we really hope the data leads to? What does the community hope for? Mapping can be a flashy technology that brings people to the table, but that is no guarantee that something will happen to resolve the issues the map is aimed at solving.

6) Intermediaries are important

One way to ensure that there is a link between data and action is to identify stakeholders that have the ability to use, understand and re-interpret the data. One case was mentioned where health workers collected data and then wanted to know “What do we do now? How does this affect the work that we do? How do we present this information to community health workers in a way that it is useful to our work?” It’s important to tone the data down and make them understandable to the base population, and to also show them in a way that is useful to people working at local institutions. Each audience will need the data to be visualized or shared in a different, contextually appropriate way if they are going to use the data for decision-making. It’s possible to provide the same data in different ways across different platforms from paper to high tech. The challenge of keeping all the data and the different sharing platforms updated, however, is one that can’t be overlooked.

7) What does informed consent actually mean in today’s world?

There is a viewpoint that data must be open and that locking up data is unethical. On the other hand, there are questions about research ethics and protocols when doing mapping projects and sharing or opening data. Are those who do mapping getting informed consent from people to use or open their data? This is the cornerstone of ethics when doing research with human beings. One must be able to explain and be clear about the risks of this data collection, or it is impossible to get truly informed consent. What consent do community mappers need from other community members if they are opening data or information? What about when people are volunteering their information and self-reporting? What does informed consent mean in those cases? And what needs to be done to ensure that consent is truly informed? How can open data and mapping be explained to those who have not used the Internet before? How can we have informed consent if we cannot promise anyone that their data are really secure? Do we have ethics review boards for these new technological ways of gathering data?

8) Not having community data also has ethical implications

It may seem like time wasting, and there may be privacy and protection questions, but there are are also ethical implications of not having community data. When tools like satellite remote sensing are used to do slum mapping, for example, data are very dehumanized and can lead to sterile decision-making. The data that come from a community itself can make these maps more human and these decisions more humane. But there is a balance between the human/humanizing side and the need to protect. Standards are needed for bringing in community and/or human data in an anonymized way, because there are ethical implications on both ends.

9) The problem with donors….

Big donors are not asking the tough questions, according to some participants. There is a lack of understanding around the meaning, use and value of the data being collected and the utility of maps. “If the data is crap, you’ll have crap GIS and a crap map. If you are just doing a map to do a map, there’s an issue.” There is great incentive from the donor side to show maps and to demonstrate value, because maps are a great photo op, a great visual. But how to go a level down to make a map really useful? Are the M&E folks raising the bar and asking these hard questions? Often from the funder’s perspective, mapping is seen as something that can be done quickly. “Get the map up and the project is done. Voila! And if you can do it in 3 weeks, even better!”

Some participants felt the need for greater donor awareness of these ethical questions because many of them are directly related to funding issues. As one participant noted, whether you coordinate, whether it’s participatory, whether you communicate and share back the information, whether you can do the right thing with the privacy issue — these all depend on what you can convince a donor to fund. Often it’s faster to reinvent the wheel because doing it the right way – coordinating, learning from past efforts, involving the community — takes more time and money. That’s often the hard constraint on these questions of ethics.

Check this link for some resources on the topic, and add yours to the list.

Many thanks to our lead discussants, Robert Banick from the American Red Cross and Erica Hagen from Ground Truth, and to Population Council for hosting us for this month’s Salon!

The next Technology Salon NYC will be coming up in March. Stay tuned for more information, and if you’d like to receive notifications about future salons, sign up for the mailing list!

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policy forum

This past Monday I had the opportunity to join Engineers without Borders (EWB) in Calgary, Canada, at their Annual Policy Forum on Global Development to discuss “How can open government contribute to community and economic development?”

Morning panels covered some examples of open government initiatives from Finland, Ghana and Canada. In the afternoon we heard about some of the challenges with open data, open government and the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Table discussions followed both of the panels. The group was a mix of Canadian and African government representatives, people from organizations and groups working in different countries on open government and open data initiatives, and young people who are connected with EWB. The session was under Chatham House Rule in order to encourage frank conversation.

Drawing from such documents as the Open Government Partnership’s Open Government Declaration, Harlan Yu and David G. Robinson’s “The New Ambiguity of “Open Government,” Beth Noveck’s What’s in a Name? Open Gov and Good Gov and Nathaniel Heller, A Working Definition of ‘Open Government’, the following definition of Open Government was used to frame the discussions.

EWB Definition of Open Government

Below (in a very-much-longer-than-you-are-supposed-to-write-in-a-blogpost summary) are the highlights and points I found interesting and useful as related to Open Development, Open Data, Open Government and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)

1.  Participation thresholds need to be as low as possible for people to participate and engage in open government or open data initiatives. You need to understand well what engagement tools are most useful or comfortable for different groups. In some places, to engage the public you can use tools such as etherpad, wiki platforms, google docs, open tools and online collaboration spaces. In other places and with other populations, regardless of what country, you may be more successful with face-to-face methods or with traditional media like television and radio, but these need to be enhanced with different types of feedback methods like phone calls or surveys or going house to house so that your information is not only traveling one way. Community organizing skills are key to this work, regardless of whether the tools are digital or not.

2.  Literacy remains a huge challenge hindering access to information and citizen engagement in holding government accountable in many countries. This is why face-to-face engagement is important, as well as radio and more popular or broad-based communication channels. One participant asked “how can you make open government a rural, rather than an urban only, phenomenon?” This question resonated for participants from all countries.

3.  Language is still a critical issue. Language poses a big challenge for these kinds of initiatives, from the grassroots level to the global level, within and among countries, for citizens, governments, and anyone trying to share or collect data or information. It was noted that all the countries who have published data to IATI are publishing in English. All the IATI Standards are in English, as is the entire support system for IATI. As one participant noted, this begs the question of who the information in IATI is actually designed for and serving, and who are the expected users of it. Open data initiatives should consider the implications of language they publish in, both politically and practically.

4.  Open data can serve to empower the already empowered. As one speaker noted, “the idea that everyone has the potential to make use of open data is simply not true.” Access to digital infrastructure and educational resource may be missing, meaning that many do not have the ability to access, interpret or use data for their own purposes. Governments can also manipulate data and selectively release data that serves their own interests. Some questioned government motives, citing the example of a government that released “data” saying its unemployment rate was 10% when “everyone knew this to be false, and people grumbled but we did not feel empowered to challenge that statement.” Concern was expressed over the lack of an independent body or commission in some countries to oversee open data and open government processes. Some did not trust the government bodies who were currently in charge of collecting and opening information, saying that due to politics, they would never release any information that made their party or their government look bad.

5.  Privacy rights can be exploited if data is opened without data protection laws and effort to build capacity around how to make certain data anonymous. Citizens may also not be aware of what rights are being violated, so this should also be addressed.

6.  Too much open data discussion takes place without a power analysis, as one participant commented, making some of the ideas around open data and open government somewhat naïve. “Those who have the greatest stake will be the most determined to push their point of view and to make sure it prevails.”

7.  Open data needs to become open data 2.0. According to one participant, open data is still mostly one-way information delivery. In some cases there isn’t even any delivery – information is opened on a portal but no one knows it’s there or what it refers to or why it would be useful. When will open data, open government and open aid become more of a dialogue? When will data be released that answers questions that citizens have rather than the government deciding what it will release? The importance of working with community groups to strengthen their capacity to ask questions and build critical consciousness to question the data was emphasized. A counter point was that government is not necessarily there to start collecting information or creating data sets according to public demand. Governments collect certain data to help them function.

8.  Intermediaries working on open government should be careful of real or perceived bias. Non-profits have their own agendas, and ‘open data’ and ‘open information’ is not immune to being interpreted in non-objective ways. Those working on civic engagement initiatives need to be careful that they are not biased in their support for citizen initiatives. One presenter who works on a platform that encourages citizens to be involved in petitioning new laws for contemplation in Parliament said “Our software is open source so that anyone can set up a similar process to compete with us if they feel we are biased towards one or another type of agenda.”

9.  Technology-based engagement tools change who is participating. Whether in Finland, Canada, Ghana or Malawi, it’s critical to think about reaching those who are not active already online, those who are not the typical early adopters. To reach a broader public, one speaker noted “We are going to remote places, doing events in smaller towns and cities to see how people want to influence and take part in this. Making sure the website is accessible and understandable.”

10. Technological platforms are modifying how political parties and democratic processes operate. This may or may not be a good thing. Normally priorities arise and are discussed within political parties. Will people now bypass the party process and use ‘direct democracy’ channels if they are passionate about an issue but do not want to enter into negotiation around it? Will this weaken political processes or longer standing democratic processes? One speaker considered this change to be positive. People are not happy with being able to vote every 4 years and they want opportunities to participate in between elections cycles and direct voice in how priorities are decided. Others questioned whether bypassing official processes can lead to less participation and more apathy overall on national issues. Some questioned whether within fairly long-standing democracies, open data will have any real impact, considering existing levels of apathy and the lack of political participation.

11. Strong information, statistical, monitoring and evaluation systems are critical for open data and open government processes and to ensure more effective management of development results. This is still a challenge for some countries that need to review their mechanisms and improve their tools and processes for data collection and dissemination. If there is no data, or no current data, there is not much point in opening it. In addition, there are capacity and technical competency challenges within institutions in some countries. One participant mentioned a lack of current government geological information about gold and oil deposits that weakens government capacity to negotiate with the private sector extraction industry and ensure partnerships and earnings will contribute to national development. In addition more evidence is needed on the impact, use, and outcomes of open data. At the moment it’s quite difficult to say with any real authority what the outcomes and impact of open data and open government have been.

12. IATI (International Aid Transparency Initiative) needs more partners. Government representatives noted that they are opening their data, but they can only open the data they possess. In order for data on aid to be useful, more data is needed, especially that of NGOs who are implementing programs. Not many NGOs have published their information to the IATI standard at this point. “The really interesting thing will be when we can start mashing up and mapping out the different kinds of information,” as one speaker noted, “for example, this is the goal of the Open Aid Partnership. It will involve combining information from the donor, development indicators from the World Bank, and country information, and this will open up amazing possibilities once this is all geo-coded.” There are reporting challenges related to IATI and open government data, however, because at times countries and NGOs do not see the benefits of reporting – it feels like just one more top-down administrative burden. There are also issues with donor governments reporting their committed intentions and amounts, recipient governments reporting back, and communications with citizens on both sides (donor and recipient countries). One example that was reported to be enjoying some success was the multi-donor budget support initiative in Ghana, where development partners and government work together to establish development indicators and commitments. If the government delivers on the indicators, the development partners will then provide them with the funding. Development partners can also earmark funding to particular areas if there is government agreement.

13. We need more accountability towards ‘beneficiaries’.Currently many of these initiatives are perceived as being focused on donors and donor publics. As one participant noted, “the interesting thing is less about government and more about getting regular people involved in these processes. When you engage the public you’ll engage government leaders in thinking they will need to change to respond to what citizens are asking for.” Another noted that the essential issue is the link between transparency/accountability and citizens and their own governments. In addition, as one participant asked, “How can you strengthen capacity among citizens to ask the right questions about the data that’s being opened?” For example, citizens may ask about the number of schools being built, but not ask about the quality of education being provided. Public education was a strong focus of discussions around citizen engagement during the policy forum.

14. Should citizens be consulted on everything? however, was one big question. The public at large may not understand the ramifications of its own deep misunderstandings on particular issues and may be inputting from a viewpoint that lacks scientific evidence or fact. “It’s one thing to have an opinion about whether your child should be able to drink energy drinks before age 16, it’s another to input about technical programs like the best policy for green energy,” commented one group.

15. Can citizens really have greater participation if government is still in control of data? was another big question. An example was given of an open consultative process that became unwieldy for a local government, which then shut down the consultation process and changed the nature of the documents to ‘administrative’ and therefore no longer open. Others asked why governments pat themselves on the back over being part of the Open Government Partnership yet they do not have Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) or they prosecute those who open data in alternative ways, such as Bradley Manning and Aaron Swartz.

16. If citizens don’t get a response from government (or if they don’t like the response, or feel it’s biased or manipulated), apathy and cynicism will increase. It’s important to make sure that ‘open government’ is not just a box that gets ticked off, but rather a long-term change in mentality of those in power and deeper expectations and efforts by citizens for openness and participation in conversations of national importance.

The conclusion was that Open Government is somewhat of a paradox, rooted in aims that are not necessarily new. Open Government strives to enable leaders in their communities to create change and transform their lives and those of people in their communities. It is a complex process that involves many actors and multiple conflicting goals and interests. It’s also something new that we are all learning about and experimenting with, but we are very impatient to know what works and what the impact is. In the room, the feeling was one of ‘radical pragmatism,’ as one participant put it. Open Government is a big idea that represents a big change. It’s something that can transform communities at the global level and there is a great deal of hope and excitement around it. At the same time, we need to acknowledge the challenges associated with it in order to address them and move things forward.

I’ll do a follow up post with the points I made during the panel as this post is clearly way too too long already. Kudos if you are still reading, and a huge thanks to the organizers and participants in the EWB policy forum.

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This post is copied from an email that my colleague Kelly Hawrylyshyn sent to me. Kelly works on disaster risk reduction (DRR) with Plan UK. If you work on DRR and gender, go on, get yourself on the map!

Women and girls make a major contribution to disaster risk reduction and yet their role and involvement often go unacknowledged. In recognition of this gap, the Gender & Disaster Network, the Huairou Commission, Oxfam International and Plan International are facilitating the greater visibility of women and girls as part of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), October 13th, 2012.

Gender inequalities around the world mean that women and girls are most severely affected by disaster. However, they also have significant experience and knowledge to contribute to disaster prevention and to the resilience of communities.

With this in mind, our efforts aim to move beyond portraying women and girls as mere victims of disasters and to provide spaces and opportunities for women and girls to connect and partner freely with local governments and organizations. We aim to showcase how women and girls around the world are carrying out disaster reduction and prevention actions; engaging and leading in climate change awareness activities; taking part in demonstrations and simulations; promoting resilient cities initiatives; and mapping risks.

Using crowdsourcing and crowdmapping tools, we aim to generate greater visibility and recognition of local initiatives by women and girls worldwide for disaster risk reduction.

Visit our map and report your own examples, in advance of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13th, 2012.

We need your help to “put on the map” the numerous research initiatives, media events, publications, training materials, advocacy, workshops, networks/associations, and other activities that are happening and need to be made VISIBLE!

Contributions from both individual women and girls and organizations engaged in DRR are welcomed.

And who knows, you may get to find out about some interesting work taking place in your country, or miles away from you!

Join Us to make visible Women and Girls on the Map!

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This is a guest post by Alana Kapell. Alana has recently joined the Office of the Special Representative on Violence against Children as the children’s participation expert. As part of her work to further define a child participation strategy and identify key opportunities for learning and collaboration, she is researching projects and initiatives related to the UN Study on Violence against Children (UNVAC) specifically focused on involving children in preventing violence.

Six years after the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children (2004-2006) and in preparation for the 2012 Statement to the General Assembly, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children is currently assessing progress made since the Study recommendations were released in 2006. This is a strategic occasion to gain perspective on progress achieved and to reflect on good initiatives, factors of success and define opportunities for further advancement.

Many initiatives, projects, networks and advancements were born out of the process, including continued efforts to support children’s participation. In order to gain further insight into children’s own efforts and perspectives, partners are invited to help inform the analysis of ‘progress made’ by sharing information (reports, publications, videos, research, etc.) about children’s own efforts to end and prevent violence.

Contributions should be current (e.g. developed from 2007-2012) and focus on ‘progress made’ with children or how children themselves perceive violence in their lives and communities.

Additional areas of interest include:

  • Research: any research or data collection done with children.
  • Links to UN Study: initiatives that were started as a direct result of the UN Study process.
  • New forms of Violence: material or details where children have identified and/or addressed new, hidden or emerging forms of violence.
  • Prevention: examples of initiatives undertaken by children to raise awareness in their communities and projects aimed at preventing violence against children.
  • Evaluation: information that measures the impact or outcomes of children’s participation and efforts related to ending violence against children.

In addition, there are numerous partners and networks supporting and facilitating children’s participation to prevent and end violence. Community, national, regional and international efforts exist to ensure children’s views, opinions, realities, recommendations and actions are informing and shaping our collective efforts.

We would also like to update our contact lists and map the individuals, organizations, children’s groups, etc. who are supporting children’s participation to prevent and end violence. We want to reconnect with groups who were involved with the UN Study process, including the follow up and to also identify new partners who are doing innovative and important work.

We are looking to connect with both adult led organizations and child led organizations and initiatives working on issues related to violence against children and children’s participation.

Please be in touch with me [akapell at unicef dot org] if you have any information to share!

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This is a guest post from Jamie Lundine, who has been collaborating with Plan Kenya to support digital mapping and governance programming in Kwale and Mathare.

Throughout October and November 2011, Plan Kwale worked through Map Kibera Trust with Jamie Lundine and Primoz Kovacic, and 4 young people from Kibera and Mathare, to conduct digital mapping exercises to support ongoing youth-led development processes in Kwale county. One of the important lessons learned through the Trust’s work in Kibera and Mathare is that the stories behind the mapping work are important for understanding the processes that contribute to a situation as represented on a map. To tell these stories and to complement the data collection and mapping work done by the youth in Kwale, the Map Kibera Trust team worked with the Kwale youth to set up platforms to share this information nationally and internationally. Sharing the important work being done in Kwale will hopefully bring greater visibility to the issues which may in the longer term lead to greater impact.

Sharing stories of local governance

To support their work on social accountability, the Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium (KYGC) mapped over 100 publicly and privately funded community-based projects. The projects were supported by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Local Area Development Fund (LATF), NGOs and private donors. As one channel of sharing this information, the Consortium set up a blog called Nuru ya Kwale (Light of Kwale). According to KYGC the blog “features and addresses issues concerning promotion of demystified participatory community involvement in the governance processes towards sustainable development. We therefore expect interactivity on issues accruing around social accountability.” This involves sharing evidence about various projects and stories from the community.

One example is the documentation of the Jorori Water project in Kwale; through the mapping work, the Governance team collected details of the constituency development fund (CDF) project. The funding allocated to upgrade the water supply for the community was 6,182,960 ksh (approximately 73,000.00 USD). From their research the KYGC identified that the Kenya Open Data site reported that the full funding amount has been spent.

A field visit to the site however revealed that project was incomplete and the community is still without a stable water supply, despite the fact that the funding has been “spent.”

Jorori Water Project, built using approximately 6.2 million shillings (73, 000.00 USD)

Read more about the questions the team raised in terms of the governance of CDF projects, including the detailed the project implementation process and some reflections on why the project stalled. This is information on community experiences (tacit information) that is well-known in a localized context but has not been documented and shared widely. New media tools, a blog in this case, provide free (if you have access to a computer and the internet) platforms for sharing this information with national and international audiences.

Addressing violence against children and child protection

Another blog was set up by the Kwale Young Journalists. The Young Journalists, registered in 2009, have been working with Plan Kwale on various projects, including Violence against Children campaigns. The group has been working to set up a community radio station in Kwale to report on children’s issues. Thus far, their application for a community radio frequency has encountered several challenges. New media provides an interim solution and will allow the team to share their stories and network with partners on a national and internal stage.

The Kwale Young Journalists worked with Jeff Mohammed, a young award-winning filmmaker from Mathare Valley. The YETAM project not only equips young people with skills, but through peer-learning establishes connections between young people working on community issues throughout Kenya. The programme also provides young people with life skills through experiential learning – Jeff reflects on his experience in Kwale and says:

Jeff and the Kwale Young Journalists shooting a scene from “The Enemy Within”

“My knowledge didn’t come from books and lecturers it came from interest, determination and persistence to know about filmmaking and this is what I was seeing in these Kwale youths. They numbered 12 and they were me. They are all in their twenties and all looking very energetic, they had the same spirit as mine and it was like looking at a mirror. I had to do the best I could to make sure that they grasp whatever I taught.”

Jeff worked with the Young Journalists on a short film called “the Enemy Within.” The film, shot with flip-cameras, tells the story of 12-year-old girl who is sold into indentured labour by her parents to earn money for her family. During the time she spends working, the young girl “falls prey of her employer (Mr.Mtie) who impregnates her when she is only 12 years old.” Jeff reflects that “early pregnancies are a norm in the rural Kwale area and what the young filmmakers wanted to do is to raise awareness to the people that its morally unacceptable to impregnate a very young girl, in Enemy Within the case didn’t go as far because the village chairman was bribed into silence and didn’t report the matter to higher authorities.” This is a common scenario in Kwale, and the young journalists plan to use the film in public screenings and debates as part of their advocacy work in the coming months.

Jeff and the Kwale Young Journalists shot the film in four days – they travelled to Penzamwenye, Kikoneni and also to Shimba Hills national park to shoot 7 scenes for the movie. Read more about Jeff’s reflections on working with the Kwale Young Journalists on his blog.

Sharing ecotourism resources

The Dzilaz ecotourism team – a group that encourages eco-cultural tourism in Samburu region of Kwale county — also integrated social media into their work. During the last week (November 8th-12th) the group set up a blog to market the community resources, services and products. They also plan to document eco-culture sites and the impact that eco-tourism can have on the community. As of November 10th, 2011 the Dzilaz team had already directed potential clients to their website and thus secured a booking through the information they had posted.

The importance of telling the stories behind the maps

One important component to mapping work is to tell the stories behind the map. The three groups in Kwale are working to build platforms to amplify their grassroots level work in order to share stories and lessons learned. The information documented on the various platforms will develop over time and contribute to a greater understanding of the processes at a local level where youth as young leaders can intervene to begin to change the dynamics of community development.

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This is a guest post/cross post from Jamie Lundine who works with Map Kibera. The original is posted on Jamie’s blog Health Geography.

The Youth Empowerment through Technology Arts and Media (YETAM)  project is a joint initiative of Plan International and local partners in 6 African countries (Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal). The project was initially funded by Nokia but is now supported by the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs via Plan Finland. In Kenya, YETAM is being implemented in Kwale County, with youth from 3 districts receiving training in digital media, including audio recording, visual arts, and various new technologies.

In Kwale County, the YETAM project has thus far empowered young people to employ video, audio recording and radio programmes to explore issues of child protection and child rights. Youth have also used information communication technology (ICTs) including Facebook to connect and explore governance issues and discuss accountability within local and national institutions.

Through the YETAM methodology, technology, arts and media are used to “start the conversation” about community issues – a strategy that has also been employed by our teams– through work that started first in Kibera and expanded and evolved in Mathare Valley with the support and mentorship of Plan Kenya.

Our team was first approached by Plan Kenya in July 2010 to support a 3 day mapping and new media training which were components of a week-long training and reflection for the YETAM project.

On October 3rd, Primoz Kovacic, Jamie Lundine, Zacharia Wambua and Maureen Omino joined Plan staff, members of Plan Kenya’s partner youth groups, and District Youth officers from Kwale County to begin a process of youth-led community mapping.  The purpose of the mapping is to support the on-going YETAM project and feed into youth-led advocacy work in the 3 districts. We were very conscious that we did not want to do “mapping for the sake of mapping” but rather hoped to add value to existing projects and programmes through supporting the collection of issue-specific information that could be used together with other information

The first step in the process was a “feasibility assessment.” Our work in Mathare, Kibera, Mukuru and some rural areas (Taita Hills, Mt Elgon) had given us the technical skills and understanding of the opportunities and challenges of digital media, particularly in relation to the type of youth-led advocacy work that Plan Kenya supports, however we were not familiar with the particular environment in Kwale. The first week we spent in Kwale, 30-some youth and Plan Kenya staff convened together at the Kaskazi Beach Hotel in Ukunda (south of Mombasa).

The mapping process involves young people from three of Plan Kwale’s partner organizations. The groups are:

  • Kwale Youth and Governance Consortium – with representations from the National Youth Councils from the 3 districts in Kwale
  • Kwale Young Journalists – a coalition of 14 organizations in Kwale distrct who have been trained to produce audio clips and are working on licensing for a radio station to deal with children’s issues.
  • Dzilza eco-tourism group – a community based organization based in Samburu along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway

We spent the first day of the feasibility assessment going over expectations and exploring the concept of mapping, with practical examples of our work in Kibera, Mathare and Primoz’s work in Taita Hills. The expectations from the youth included “meet new friends” & “exchange ideas”, “know more about mapping”, gain “more skills on ICT and mapping”, understand “the impact of mapping to the community” and “how to contextualize mapping and social life.”  It was clear from the expectations that the youth were excited about and interested in the process we were about to embark on and had come prepared to embrace mapping and digital technology as part of their toolset for advocacy and action within their communities – it is up to us to impart our knowledge to further empower them in their work.

After a morning of discussions, we needed to start to understand the geographic environment and social issues facing the young people in their communities.

This would help us facilitate the mapping process and organize the 3-5 weeks of data collection and field work.

First we asked each group to prepare a presentation of their group including, who they are, where they work, the main issues they deal with and activities they undertake. We also wanted to know the stakeholders they engage with on the various issues and during activities they carry out.

The youth were asked to draw a map of Kwale county. They divided into the three groups – Kwale Young Journalists, Kwale Youth and Governance Constorium and Dzilza. The exercise took longer than expected but the teams had interesting and thoughtful discussions of what features to include on the map and how to represent the entire county – which proved to be more challenging than anticipated.

Realizing the challenges of mapping the entire county and that each group needed to narrow down a smaller geographic region and specific issue to map – on Day 2 we asked the youth to break out into groups and draw the 3 districts that make up Kwale County. Interestingly, they divided themselves into groups based on who lived in what district instead of going into teams based on the region in which their group worked.

The smaller geographic region and the previous days experience made the paper-mapping much easier. The maps were more specific and clear than on Day 1!

Kinango District Paper Map

The youth also identified a wide ranging list of approximately 10 issues for each District. In Msambweni for example, the youth discussed child abuse, sexual exploitation and child trafficking (in relation to the tourism industry in and around Ukunda), drug abuse, disasters such as floods and drought, poor academic performance in schools, early marriages and pregnancy, deforestation, lack of birth registration and ID cards, environmental pollution and squatters. This wide range of issues are important to note and discuss – however for focused advocacy work and 3-5 weeks of data collection it would be unmanageable.

Kwale District Paper Map

So at the risk of discussion fatigue, we took the youth on an afternoon of setting up GPS devices to prepare for field work – to introduce GPS data collection and start to understand the scope of the issues we could focus on.

On the third day we focused on the major issues within each group. We asked the young people to come up with the main issue or challenge their work was trying to tackle, their proposed solution, the action steps required (including relevant stakeholder engagement) and the data required to work toward the proposed solution.

Kwale Youth and Governance Council

The main challenge/issue identified by KYGC was social accountability (or lack of accountability due to poor governance and leadership). Their proposed solution involves “empowering society” through community forums, sensitization of the community on social accountability and “participation and inclusion [of community members] in decision-making process.” This will include activities such as stakeholders meetings, participatory planning & implementation of government projects, community involvement in monitoring and evaluation of projects, involvement of the community in the mapping, making recommendations and impact assessment. The team wants to focus on devolved government funds, including the Constituency Development Funds (CDF).

The data the team requires to support their work in social accountability are the following:

  1. Number of projects (aggregated from the data collection process)
  2. Budget allocation for each project
  3. Community participation (identification, place, project, proposals , capacity project committee)
  4. Relevance
  5. Impact (no of beneficiaries, workmanship, quality)
  6. Observations
  7. Project Categories
  8. Recommendations

Kwale Young Journalists

The Kwale Young Journalists chose to focus on two issues related to child protection: child labour & early pregnancy. The tean proposed that these issues can be tackled mainly through increased awareness of children and parents about the importance of education.

The action steps or activities for this proposed solution include 1) reporting cases of child labour and early pregnancy to the administration and the voluntary children officers 2) guidance and counselling of children and parents 3) holding barazas with the community through the administration 4) introducing life skills clubs in schools and villages (for example music, accounts, and journalisms clubs, etc)

Data required

  1. Reasons and vulnerability to child labour
  2. Forms of child labour
  3. The number of children involved in child labour
  4. The number of parents not taking care of the children
  5. The number of people
  6. The number of orphans
  7. The most vulnerable areas
  8. Family status
  9. Blended families
  10. Number of pregnant girls
  11. Reasons of vulnerability to early sex
  12. Number of schools most affected
  13. Number of girls who have gone back to school after giving birth
  14. Data on the number of reported cases
  15. Data of the effects of early pregnancy

When mapping child protection issues, we are aware that some of this data may be extremely sensitive and has the potential to result in further victimization of children and families if publicized. We suggested to the team to focus on publicly available information, such as information on schools, cases, cases of school-drop out, qualitative and quantitative information on the reasons for school drop-out and safe places for vulnerable children.

Eco-tourism in Samburu

The major issue that the Dzilaz group in Samburu will focus on is eco-cultural tourism and human-wildlife conflict. The causes of tension between tourism and culture, as well as wildlife conservation is exacerbated by the conditions in the semi-arid area, where the Dzilaz group operates. Poor government policy, animal migration and poaching and killing of animals are related issues the group is concerned about. The solutions proposed by the group include a combination of advocacy, participation in policy and livelihood activities. They suggested the community work on afforestation and reforestation, installing proper fencing eg electrical fence along animal migratory routes, enforce good governance policy through community participation with other stakeholders, liaise with the relevant authorities for technical support, for example lobby with KWS to permit us to introduce watching, animal hunting of antelope. Actions toward these solutions include door to door campaigns, awareness meetings, seminars/trainings, empowering communities on policy development, identifying resources for exploitation and meeting stakeholders.

Data required

  1. Points of human-wildlife conflict
  2. Number of people affected by the human wildlife conflict
  3. Distance of one school to another
  4. How many have been compensated for human-wildlife conflict
  5. Degree of damage to people, crops, properties

The brainstorming of data/information that the 3 groups hope to collect is a great start, however several concerns arose – including issues of privacy and child protection. Our on-going work focuses primarily on public datasets so we encouraged the youth to think about public assets rather than private data. We also realized that the type of information the teams are interested in is a combination of qualitative and quantitative information – GPS data collection will be only part of the information solution for this work. This week, Primoz, Zach and Maureen are working with each team to create data collection forms to concretize this information and decide on the strategy for further documentation to support GPS data collection and mapping.

Field work – Mapping Ukunda

The final two days of the feasibility assessment involved data collection and practical field work with the GPS devices. This was to begin to build skills, excitement and a better understanding of the practicalities of mapping.

The team of 30 youth split up into the three teams and divided the area to be mapped among them. Some walked along the main strip along Ukunda beach – from Kaskazi hotel to Congo Mosque – including the small village of Gombado, others mapped the area between the beach front and Ukunda town and the last team mapped Ukunda town itself.  Three hours of walking through the area and collecting data in the hot sun proved to be quite tiring for everyone. In two afternoons of field work the teams collected over 350 points of interest and mapped several roads and paths that were not previously mapped. The youth also learned how to digitize over the GPS points and tracks they had collected in the field to contribute data to OpenStreetMap and begin making a map!

Mapping Ukunda

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This is a guest post by Jamie Lundine. Jamie is a health geographer who works with Map Kibera in Kenya. We first met about a year ago when Plan began thinking about using digital mapping as an element of the Youth Empowerment through Technology, Arts and Media (YETAM) project and we started discussing how we could work together. Since then it’s been exciting to see how Plan Kenya and Map Kibera are collaborating to bring together child-centered community development work and ICTs in programs such as YETAM, youth and governance work, and community led total sanitation (CLTS) programs. Globally Plan is committed to building its capacity to use ICTs where appropriate in its work and to support youth, communities and local governments to use ICTs where useful for their goals. Plan Kenya is one of the offices that is leading the way in ICT4D at Plan, and there is much that the rest of us can learn from their approach and experiences.

Jamie’s original post appears on her blog Health Geography as ‘Documenting a participatory digital mapping workshop with Plan Kenya‘ and on the Map Kibera blog. Michael Warui, Plan Kenya’s ICT director, sent me the workshop report and I was planning to write about it here, but Jamie’s already done all the work, so I’m re-posting.

Map Kibera Trust recently facilitated a 3 day training to introduce participatory digital mapping to target staff at Plan Kenya. The participants in the workshop included programme staff and ICT staff from the Kenya Country office and regional offices around the country. Participants came from Homabay, Kisumu, Kilifi, Kwale, Tharaka, Machachos, Bondo, the Kenya Country Office and the Urban Programme (Nairobi). Their backgrounds ranged from ICT support staff, to Child Rights & Gender Advisor, to M&E Coordinator, to programme staff in 4 of Plan’s 5 focus areas (Protection and Inclusion, Health, Education and Governance).

The training was planned at the beginning of the implementation of the new Kenya country strategic plan (CSP) 2011-2015 for Plan Kenya. Building on the success of Plan Kenya’s work in Kwale on universal birth registration and also from digital mapping work with POIMapper and Map Kibera Trust, the new CSP highlights the importance of ICT in the improved efficacy of Plan’s work. Plan Kenya has chosen to place an explicit focus on participatory ICT in its work. This is in line with Plan International’s focus and leadership in ICT4D globally.

In this context, the workshop aimed to:

  • Introduce participatory digital mapping theories, techniques and tools that Map Kibera Trust employs in its work
  • Provide hands on experience in GPS data collection and data editing using Open Street Map
  • Learn more about how Plan Kenya programmes use information and communicate
  • Brainstorm ideas about how to integrate ICT into programme work

We began with an introduction to Information Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) by exploring some questions to consider before introducing ICT into programme work. The questions were (and are) meant to stimulate discussion and encourage participants to think systematically about the integration of ICT into new and existing programmes. The questions identify the reasons why you would use ICT, assess what constraints and opportunities exist in the framework you are working in, and explore how people are communicating in order to design appropriate and sustainable systems to build upon existing channels of communication. The questions are modified from Linda Raftree’s post “7 or more questions to ask before adding ICTs,” so thanks to Linda for the inspiration!

  1. Why are you considering the use of ICT?

The Plan Kenya staff identified that using ICT, particularly mobile phones and the internet, has become a desired lifestyle choice that the majority of Kenyans around the country have embraced. This was an important point that the participants wished to build upon and capture in their use of ICT in various communities. The group generally agreed that ICTs are available and can be accessed by many Kenyans. The staff also mentioned that ICTs could improve communication and be used to easily mobilize communities (for example sending one SMS to many people to attend a meeting). ICTs are flexible and can improve accuracy and consistency in information, which can then be easily stored and shared. There was also mention of improved efficiency in programme work through the collection and processing of real-time information.

  1. What are the programme goals or programme framework you are working within?

Most of the participants identified the new country strategic plan for the organization as the overarching framework that Plan Kenya staff are working with. The country strategic plan identifies 5 areas of focus: Health, Livelihoods, Education, Protection & Inclusion and Governance.

  1. What are your specific information and communication needs?

The information needs of Plan Kenya staff members were largely related to programme work. The needs included collecting accurate data for baseline surveys for Monitoring and Evaluation and thus to assess programme impact. There were some suggestions of improving communication through digitizing information that can more easily be shared to large numbers of people. The group suggested that this could improve accountability to other staff members, donors and to beneficiaries in communities. ICT can also improve the ability of Plan Kenya staff to analyze information and make decisions.

  1. How are you already using information and communicating?

In order to integrate ICT into existing programmes within communities, it is important to know how staff members are already using information and communicating in their daily lives. The group came up with a long list of communication tools: email, internet, intranet, websites and social netoworks – namely Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace), applications (Skype, Yahoo Messenger), SMS and telephone calls, radio, and television. The group is using information during baseline data collection. Some are involved in a project that integrates SMS applications into the birth registration process in Kwale District.

  1. Who are the actors involved in the particular issue you are seeking to address with ICT?

 The Plan Kenya staff won’t be (and aren’t) using ICT in isolation. There are important stakeholders they work with on particular issues, programmes and projects. These include the general community – with a particular focus on youth and children. Important sub-sections of the community include teachers, school administration, Government of Kenya, civil society organizations, Plan Kenya partners (such as Childline Kenya, Community Cleaning Services), the media and private sector actors. Different groups of people use technology differently, and depending on the answer to question 1) and question 6 (below) the staff may need an ICT strategy that is diverse enough to reach the various stakeholders.

  1. How do people use ICT already?

This list of the ways in which Kenyans are already using ICT is a testament to the idea that the group tapped into when answering question 1. The use of ICT in Kenya, specifically mobile phone applications, has become a lifestyle choice. Kenyans use phones for mobile money transfer, SMS, calling, accessing the internet, paying their bills, paying for goods, calling toll-free lines (e.g. Childline call centre, police hot lines) and for data collection and dissemination. Kenyans also listen to the radio, use computers, blog, email, chat, shop online, bank online, join online discussions and news groups and use various forms of social media. They do this for work, but also for pleasure. These were the means identified by the group, however this is not an exhaustive list.

  1. How do people access technology already?

This was a sub-section of question 6 and the group answered: mobile phones (including GPS enabled and internet enabled phones), street phones, computer, internet connection in office and homes, internet modems, cyber cafés, radios, TVs, toll free lines, and resource centres.

  1. How will you close the feedback loop and manage expectations?

How do you make sure the information you are generating, no matter the medium or tool you are using, gets back to the community? How do you promote the use of technology without seemingly presenting a silver bullet solution (even if you don’t intend to do so)?

These questions were answered in several ways. One idea about both closing the feedback loop and managing expectation was to network  with other organizations and partners in the community to share information and raise awareness about the use of ICT and the opportunities and limitations of ICT4D projects.

Another option for closing the feedback loop was to both collect and disseminate information on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

A third suggestion was to close the feedback loop and manage expectations through an informed resource person and/or resource centers and staff having sessions with the community.

Finally, there was the suggestion to start the integration of ICT in development work by outlining and communicating clear expectations and at the end have feedback sessions to monitor the whole process.

  1. What is your sustainability plan?

The final question, and likely the most difficult (we only had a one hour brainstorming session and did not expect participants to come up with final answers to this question but simply consider it as an important component to any project with an ICT component).

One idea was to equip community members, and particularly youth, with skills that will be applicable beyond the program (or project) timeline. The YETAM project (youth empowerment thorough arts and media) was designed in this way and the group agreed that this design was beneficial to the young people involved in the program.

Another suggestion was to involve the beneficiaries/community in the entire process of choosing/customizing appropriate ICT tools that suit their needs and for further development so that it is community owned process and will in theory continue beyond the project/program lifecycle. Other ideas included:

  •  Build partnership with Government and NGOs.
  • Integrate fund raising or income generating activities into the project.
  • Use affordable technology (free and open source)
  • Ensure follow-up mechanisms are built into the project

We discussed the use of mapping, open information and ICTs for development. We also used two of the three training days to focus on hands-on training and skills building. We facilitated training in handling the GPS devices, collecting data and using Java Open Street Map (JOSM) and Potlatch to record open spatial information into the OpenStreetMap databases. As we’ve found in the past, the hands on training is exciting and motivating. The theorietical discussions, combined with the practical field work inspired discussion and debate on ideas on how to integrate participatory digital mapping andICTs into programme work.

The following are ideas generated by the Plan Kenya staff:

  • Ushahidi could be useful for referral partners mapping and identifying the hot spots of child abuse
  • Use of SMS for communication with hearing and speech impaired within the community
  • Using reports and sharing the same information to various media channels. E.g. PPM, a in-house system that is used to track and monitor information and projects progress
  • In governance as a tool for enhancing social accountability, where ICT can be used to track projects
  • Digitization of data collection e.g. in sponsorship (especially photography), child abuse hotspots
  • Involving children in participatory community mapping by mapping schools using walking papers
  • Using blogging as a tool for youth to document governance issues in the new good governance project for the Urban Programme
  • In Kilifi the team is doing a 2 year study on Open Defecation Free villages and health outcomes. They could use mapping and spatial statistics to document findings.
  • Mapping and other ICT4D tools could be used to document and share participatory activities that Plan already undertakes, such  as transect walks and participatory situational analyses

The training ended with a note of caution – the team recognized the potential tension between the processes that are needed for ownership of a community map (and any other ICT4D project) and the haste of development partners to use the budget and report progress to donors. In this case, many projects (ICT4D, mapping and any other project) may “leave the community behind.”

It is thus important to ask the following questions and consider the answers carefully when designing projects:

  • For whom are we doing the mapping (or any project really)? And whose map is it?
  • Of what use is the (spatial) information, what will it compliment?

After another successful workshop with Plan Kenya, we look forward to building on the excitement and enthusiasm generated during the training! Let’s see some of the great ideas turned into reality!

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This is a second guest post by Paul Goodman who is supporting Plan Benin to solidify their SMS Reporting and Tracking of Violence against Children (VAC) project. More on the overall project and process via the links at the end of this post.

Future proofing? Wishful thinking! There is of course no way to “future proof” an ICTD project. There are ways, however, to ensure that an ICT project has a fighting chance at sustainability. Here in Benin we’re revisiting the entire VAC Benin workflow in an effort to document the non-technical aspects of the project so that each person that touches this system fully understands the way that information moves through it. In addition to supporting training, this small but critical step will help drive consensus around how the project should and can work well into the future.

A succinct overview of this project:

The beginning of any development initiative is often marked by energetic optimism. At the onset, when a project enjoys the attention and enthusiasm of its creators and supporters, it is easy to forget that over time this attention will wane, priorities will shift, and critical personnel will undoubtedly take on new responsibilities or even different jobs. Purposeful problem definition and documentation can minimize the impact of these eventualities and only with a thorough understanding of the problem is it possible to discuss appropriate technology-enabled responses. And yes, in the real world, the problem often shifts over time as the situation changes or new information comes to light. But with a well-defined problem you have clarity around your intent and can face new challenges head-on.

Once defined, the problem and corresponding solution must be documented so that others may benefit from the insight gained during this process and apply that insight systematically. This seems elementary, of course, but in years of ICTD work I’ve found that the documentation of both technical systems and non-technical processes is often neglected in the rush to deploy or as a result of over-reliance on a few knowledgable individuals. Furthermore, in international development, documentation sometimes plays second fiddle to the production of reports and case studies.

Now I’ll happily get off my soap box and get back to business in Benin.

After sketching out the various aspects of the information flow with my colleague Elsie, I documented the workflow in a way that can be used to inform, train, and guide others as they interact with this project. I’m working on reference materials of different shapes and sizes including a number of graphics. Several of the graphics appear below; these are drafts and will be revised with Elsie, translated, distributed to the team, and revised again. These graphics represent the way we would like the system to work and are intended to be living documents.

In this graphic I included all the critical actors and their key responsibilities:

 

In this flow chart, I illustrated the way that messages should be processed:

In this graphic, I illustrated the way that reports should be created:

Finally, this flow chart will support report approval and verification:

Related posts:

Update from Benin: charting a course forward (also by Paul)

Revisiting the SMS violence reporting project in Benin

Tracking violence against children in Benin video

Community-based child protection

Tweaking: SMS violence reporting system in Benin

Finding some ICT answers in Benin

7 (or more) questions to ask before adding ICTs

Fostering a New Political Consciousness on Violence against Children

Related links:

Text messages to help protect children against violence

Plan International case study: Helping children report abuse in Benin

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Forget that show “Off the Map.”  Real live on the map is way more interesting.

Last July via the Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media project, we did some GPS and Open Street Map (OSM) training with Ernest Kunbega in Bamenda, Cameroon. I left for Kenya to attend a similar training with Map Kibera, and Ernest continued working with staff, local partners and youth in Ndop, Okola and Pitoa over the next several months to make maps of the 3 areas where the project is being implemented.

I got an email this week from Ernest and I was thrilled to hear that maps of the 3 areas have been completed. They did a fab job, too. Check these out.

This is what you used to find when you looked for Ndop on Open Street Map, and what you will still find on Google Maps (eg., not much):

and this is what you’ll find now if you look for Ndop on Open Street Map (close up):

This is what Okola looked like before on OSM, and what you will currently find on Google maps:

And what Okola looks like now on OSM (close up):

But in addition, they mapped out the chefferies in the larger Okola area:

And I’m pretty sure this is the youth’s work because nothing else around is mapped in this level of detail:

And lastly we have Pitoa as it is on Google/was on OSM:

And Pitoa after Ernest and the youth mapped it on OSM (close up):

And the chefferies in the whole area of Pitoa:

And Pitoa (on the right) compared to Garoua (lower left):

For more background on the training in Cameroon, check out this post: A catalyst for positive change.

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