Beads - Passion for Facilitation

Capacity development, learning, change, poverty/power/progress

Blog about learning/change, facilitation, systems: small groups and large scale processes, and poverty/power/progress.


I was reading Ian Thorpe's latest blogpost on Open data - experience needed. Insightful as usual, weighing the pro's and cons of the fact that more and more development data are being made available publicly.

Indeed, ever more data are available, but very difficult to access for those who may benefit from interpreting it. I notice all sorts of knowledge brokers springing up that jump into such opportunities for meaningful work. Here I see the need for analysists who can broker between the data and potential user groups. Somebody observed: Who will pay?

It made me wonder if there are brokering initiatives like this emerging in the M&E profession? Many development organisations still have their own M&E department, but with dwindling funds for AID this may soon become a luxury. Pulling resources and outsourcing then become interesting options. Clever analysts might want to seize the opportunity now! And clever investors/donors might want to try incentivising the emergence of ‘free analysts- data brokers’.

Convergence of knowledge brokers is begining, for instance in the climate change community, where there are just too many portals doing too much of the same for too few users. --  Fascinating to follow such processes, which always seem to have just a few driven individuals at the heart of it. -- Maybe that's a place were data brokering can emerge?

What also matters is engaging with potential users at the start of data collection. I have gotten myself into a very big survey (Social Network Analysis) that will generate lots of data, more than I can analyse. I'm now at the survey design phase, and I'm already exploring the opportunity of sharing 'my data' with others who I believe can benefit from doing their own analysis with the same data. Doesn't cost more, but has much greater effect than if I were to keep it all to myself. I could crowd source it too / but no experience yet.

Let's see how much interest I can generate for 'my' data without too much effort. To be continued... 

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Comment by Lucia Nass on October 6, 2011 at 12:10
Some of this blog was a reply to Ian Thorpe on his blog, to which he replied:

@lucia – thanks for your comment. For the M&E convergence you are talking about one concrete step would be pooled or shared rosters – but getting the various big players to agree to do this would probably be quite challenging. Let’s hope they can get together to see the value of doing this. Professional evaluation associations could possibly play a strong role in this.
I think the issue of too many portals on a specific topic will worsen in the shorter term as a result of open data as it will be relatively easier for people to make a portal using other people’s data. In the longer term better portals (more comprehensive, higher credibility, more timely, better designed) will become more popular driving out others who can’t do the job as well. It will be interesting to see whether this happens as a result of competition or co-ordination or both. It will also be interesting to see whether new brokers emerge or whether in the end the major existing information providers continue to dominate.
Comment by John Cropper on October 6, 2011 at 13:01

Thank you for an interesting post - and the chain. I think they are valid points and we are clearly still learning about data, data analysis etc. in the development sector. There are clearly synergies and points of convergence. One example would be synthesising data on a theme (such as child mortality) and/or a geographical area. It amazes me that we still commission studies as if no research had ever been done! There are also areas where research has been done - and I would add - the case has been proven. Take putting girls through school as an example. The case has been made. Job done! We know it works and we know why! Let's not spend large amounts of other people's money making the case again!


All this ignores, however, the politics behind data and research. Wouldn't it be interesting to contrast an NGO that works with a whole load of ex-pat staff and one that really tries to recruit locally.... clearly, there are a lot of vested interests in development and I think these are often at the iNGO level, where many people have become very comfortable over a long time!


My hope is that as data frees up, local NGOs are able to use this to strengthen themselves and replace iNGOs.... maybe this is an area to focus on for cap. development work???

Comment by Lucia Nass on October 7, 2011 at 6:57
Thanks John, and nice to see you here. You know, for a while I was very busy with 'localisation'. Vested interests indeed! No amount of capacity development will suffice to deal with that. The AID crisis will hopefully wake up some organisations; force them to hire locally, and help them to become more outward looking, and more appreciative of the work of others. As you read through my blogs 'collaborative learning and action' is an important theme. I believe this doesn't happen automartically, but the capacity to collaborate, learn and act together can be developed. We need more people that can help develop such capacities: Local Capacity Builders / relationship brokers / information brokers etc.

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