DataShift is an initiative that builds the capacity and confidence of civil society organisations to produce and use citizen‑generated data to monitor sustainable development progress, demand accountability and campaign for transformative change. Ultimately, our vision is a world where people-powered accountability drives progress on sustainable development.


Citizen-generated data is data that people or their organisations produce to directly monitor, demand or drive change on issues that affect them.

It is actively given by citizens, providing direct representations of their perspectives and an alternative to datasets collected by governments or international institutions.


In late 2013, CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, began thinking about how citizen‑generated data could be used to track progress and hold decision makers to account on sustainable development, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In early 2014, CIVICUS consulted a range of national campaigners, international civil society organisations, donors and researchers to assess the opportunities and challenges for promoting the role of citizen-generated data in sustainable development.

During these consultations, we found a broad consensus that there was demand from civil society organisations for an initiative like DataShift. We also learned some of the challenges that civil society faces when attempting to leverage technology for people-powered accountability – struggles comparing data, scaling successful efforts and building capacity in a sustainable way.


There is an urgent need to build the capacity of civil society in the global South and around the world to produce, analyse and use citizen-generated data in a systematic way. DataShift is a global movement to empower a broad, multi‑stakeholder platform for sharing skills, strategies and technologies to identify and document existing citizen reporting mechanisms, data gaps and perceived needs. Sustained support and development of these mechanisms encourages responsiveness to local contexts, facilitates sharing and uptake between groups, and builds a scalable methodology for mobilising citizen monitoring resources.


By addressing the challenges of coverage and comparability, powerful new tools for monitoring progress can be deployed. This approach of focusing on citizens and meeting needs from the bottom up provides the missing link between the data revolution and the call for greater accountability and transparency in development. Through the creation of collaborative standards and innovative resources, DataShift is building a global landscape of interconnected datasets to provide strong evidence‑based tools for promoting people‑powered accountability.


Much work needs to be done to promote the comparability of citizen-generated data across issues and countries. Historically, official data such as GDP figures and aid information have only been made comparable through painstaking processes of standards‑building. DataShift is poised to take advantage of these processes and new approaches to promote comparability of citizen-generated data that will feed into a national and global evidence base. This framework of comparability will harness the opportunities of harmonising data streams and the possibilities of standardising collection of locally-generated and context-specific data.


By helping citizens and their organisations access and adopt more rigorous methodologies for the collection and use of data, DataShift will help to build the credibility of citizen-generated data. Targeted resources and capacity building activities will be collated and developed to help civil society organisations ensure that citizen-generated data is considered legitimate and reliable.

About DataShift

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