Citizens/civil society data as an advocacy tool to change public institutional data collection?


Hello everyone!

Open Knowledge is currently working with The Datashift on some research looking at how data from citizens/civil society groups can be used as an advocacy tool to change what public institutions measure.

This follows on from the discussion paper we published earlier this year on Democratising the Data Revolution.

We’d like to highlight some of the best examples of how data generated by citizens and civil society organisations can be used to change data measured by public institutions – as well as what kinds of strategies, technologies, methods and practises were used in these projects.

The Migrant Files from J++ and The Counted by The Guardian both illustrate how data collection can be used to highlight gaps in official forms of measurement and to illustrate how institutions can measure things differently.

We’re also looking into citizen data, crowdsourcing, drone journalism, data journalism, data activism, civic tech and other kinds of data projects that might be used to intervene in official data collection practices.

If anyone knows of any examples that might be relevant - we’d love to hear about them (either in this thread or by emailing

All the best,



Hi Jonathan,

Is nice to have this conversation. We, in our tech empowered communities (a local hackerspace, HackBo and a collective for civic rights in digital spaces, RedPaTodos ) as also in our research group, are making some activist research, which could be aligned with your inquiries. As a hacktivist and a PhD researcher, I am kind of a bridge between two worlds: grassroot communities and academics. We’re not changing properly public institutions measurements, but we’re approaching to them critically and increasing the community capabilities for understanding, participation and problem solving by using data (specially visualization) and we’re influencing the way data infrastructures are disposed and negotiated. For me, this insertion in the public discourse, using data and digital infrastructures and spaces, can be a way of influence public institutions, even measurement in the future. This will be a quick overview of what we’re doing in both fronts (community and research) to see if there is any contact places between yours inquiries.

In our research group we’re inquiring about “smart cities” from a biopolitical point of view, i.e. taking data as political construct. We have some categories of analysis and questions on them.

  • Government programs in the form of specific bills and contracts which makes the government visions of smart cities crystallize;
  • Infrastructures for data: which data are published?, how much open they’re?, which is its social value?, for who?
  • Community generated data / Grassroot data: which communities are generating data?, how and what are they doing with it? how can be empowered?

In the community front we’re making two things at the moment:

  • Influence the way government defines requirements for some data infrastructures for dealing with personal citizen data.
  • Making workshops and developing flexible, understandable, “pocket infrastructures” to empower communities with data. Mostly is done face to face and in Spanish, but a longer English explanation of the last incarnation of this approach can be found in the Data Kitchen Project.

So may be if this is not what you’re looking for, the could be contact points between Datashift, Open Knowledge and what we’re doing here.




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  • Alex