Small Data for Sustainable Development Goals: Community Level Action and Indicators Monitoring

This project explores Small Data approaches to data analysis, in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, to highlight the complementary role Small Data plays in informing development action and social indicators monitoring.

The strategies and action towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are informed and to a large extent depend on the capacity of national data ecosystems to provide relevant indicators data and metrics for development progress monitoring. Social indicators serve to inform the public and policymakers with insights regarding social wellbeing phenomena. These insights not only enable and support individual and community level development action, but also allow for a nuanced understanding of the complex human development phenomenon.

This research project aims at making a contribution to the effective implementation of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development through investigating mechanisms for capacitating individuals and community-level actors with relevant Small Data tools and platforms for human development progress monitoring.

Small Data connects people with relevant and actionable insights from data through adopting an approach of analyzing data and packaging it to be actionable at the level of its finest granularity i.e. at the same level at which it is sampled. We believe that only through a synergistic interaction between the Small Data approaches and the traditional social indicators approaches within mature data ecosystems, can the full value and utility of data for development be achieved and delivered. The current trajectory, wherein significantly more effort, partnerships, and interventions are being initiated towards the utilization of Big Data for SDGs, while missing the opportunities around Small Data, represents an overall risk to the SDG monitoring effort. This is a risk that directly affects the very principle of “leave no one behind” which is core and foundational in the articulation of the SDGs.

This research seeks to address the following questions:

  • What locally relevant, grassroots data do individuals and community level actors (e.g. NGOs) use towards their development and well-being?
  • What Small Data tools would enhance individual’s capabilities and support community level development action?
  • What role does Small Data play to facilitate the linkages between grassroots development and effective national development Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation processes?

Different methodologies are adopted to address the following key research objectives:

  1. Identify, through ethnographic engagements with specific communities, locally relevant human wellbeing data sources and proxy metrics.
  2. Develop, through participatory methods, innovative Small Data solutions to support community level actors and individuals (as well as national and multilateral development agencies).
  3. Undertake capacity building activities on the use of technology solutions for community wellbeing monitoring and action.
  4. Investigate quality assurance frameworks and procedures to streamline the adoption of crowd-sourced Small Data into official statistics.
  5. Develop, using the Design Science, a capability maturity model to support the evaluation of the effectiveness of national data ecosystems for the production of official social indicators data.

This project will be undertaken through a series of engagements with the two sets of key stakeholders: Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and Community partners, as well as National Statistics Offices (NSOs) and development agencies.

The initial interaction with the NGOs and community partners will be an exploratory research to discover the current use of social indicators data by these stakeholders. This phase will also make use of interviews, focus groups, as well as embedded observations to identify novel, locally-relevant data sources. This will be followed by the development of small data software artifacts through participatory approaches to enhance and augment the current use of social indicators data by the NGOs and community level partners

The engagement with the NSOs and development agencies will be evaluation research that addresses the suitability of alternative data sources for adoption into official statistics. Subsequently the engagement with the NSOs will ensue towards the development of a Capability Maturity Model.

Small Data, Sustainable Development Goals, Social Indicators Monitoring, Data Ecosystem Maturity, Data for Development

Mamello Thinyane, Ignacio Marcovecchio

Click here to download a short document with research details about the project.


This project is part of the Small Data Lab.
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