Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech

Roundup: formal organizations campaign more online, instructive failure in scaling engagement, and weedsy methods for measureing #open



Social media voicing: A new Knight Foundation report on black twitter provides data on how social media provides voice and representation, while also engaging mainstream media in feedback loops to disseminate and amplify content. Meanwhile, NGOs with higher degrees of institutionalization appear to be more active online, and when it comes to mobilizing action and generating revenue, prefer websites to Facebook. This from analysis of NGOs’ online repertoires, based on a stratified sample (n=320) of organizations with consultative status to ECOSOC (n=4164).

Collaboration in the public sector: Analysis of survey data suggests that of US government managers choose collaboration because they want to improve relationships with external stakeholders, and because many of them see it as “the right thing to do.” Meanwhile, corporatizing municipal public services has negative effects on the transparency and accountability of those services, according to a study of publicly owned companies providing municipal services in Sweden. Even less surprisingly, action research in the rural Netherlands suggests that  for open data to lead to collaboration, “communication between government and stakeholders over public problems […] essential…” Yup.

Messy mobile feedback: Analysis of three field experiments in Uganda showed surprising differences in uptake between national and local initiatives to provide SMS-based mechanisms for communicating with political representatives. The analysis suggests significant potential for increasing political engagement of marginalized groups via mobile platforms, but raises challenging questions about the effect of large-scale initiatives and collective action problems, and about the differential effect of engagement appeals made over radio and in-person.


.@random_walker ‏ offers advice on how to constructively review a research paper, while this paper proposes 10 guidelines for assessing research impact, and claims to do so on the basis of “insights from over 450 experts and practitioners from 34 countries.”

Carnegie’s Civic Research Network has solicited reflections from 10 activists on civil society legitimacy and shrinking civic space and @mstem lays out 10 problems with impact measurement in civic tech.

Meanwhile, Hewlett Foundation has a call to help African policy researchers in getting evidence used by governments and IDS is offering a course on building effective public and civil society partnerships for teaching and research.

FUNDING!: The Economic and Social Research council has large grants for research on trust and governance (£1 million and £2.5 million, deadline 28 June, must be lead by a UK institution)

Resources and Data

There’s also an update to the World Intermediary Liability Map, which captures the “rapidly changing laws and developments shaping online speech and platform responsibility around the world.”

Hopefully useful: @DIAL_community and @echo_mobi have a new report on how messaging apps are used in development. Based on (50+) interviews but without any sort of method, they highlight “four common use cases where messaging apps have been effective” (One-to-One Matching of People With Resources, Group Peer-to-Peer Learning and Behavior Change, Information Broadcast, and Crowdsourced Reporting and Feedback), and offer a number of recommendations and heuristics for developing similar projects.

Weedsy resources

@GmoCejudo and colleagues present a method for assessing open government according to metrics on observable transparency and participation, and constructing indices that apply those measures across government institutions. They validate the method through application to the Mexican case.

The Web Foundation has also released a Measurement Guide for the Open Data Charter.

I’ll revert with a summaries on these later in the week.


Blockchain for tracking the spread of disease. Always nice to see a use case that kind of makes sense.

Add Comment

Methodical Snark critical reflections on how we measure and assess civic tech