How to crowdsource the sustainable development goals

My twitter timeline today was full of people talking about #post2015.

This is another label for discussing what should follow the Millennium Development Goals -whether that’s sustainable development goals or whatever – essentially it’s about setting the global agenda for the next 30 years.

Today’s stuff was sparked by UNDP’s seminar in New York with Amartya Sen (admittedly, great), and post2015 has been on the agenda this week after the UN Sec-Gen announced a High Level Panel on the matter (and civil society pipes up with suggestions) of which UK Prime Minister Cameron is apparently the chair, etc.

But all of this ignores the importance of public participation. The post-MDGs planning offers a great opportunity for creating a legitimate set of goals – i.e. involving the people who the goals will affect – hopefully everyone.

I’ve blogged about why you’d want to crowdsource the next global goals before. Below, I try to guesstimate how it might be done.  Continue reading How to crowdsource the sustainable development goals

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The next generation MDGs or SDGs – it’s not what, but how

The Millennium Development Goals were supposed to be met by 2015. There have been some successes, some failures. Whether the goals actually caused the improvement in some of the indicators is unknowable, but Claire Melamed and Andy Sumner argue that they certainly changed the debate, and that they changed aid spending and political priorities. 

And the thousands of people assembling at Rio+20 this summer will be discussing the idea of sustainable development goals, with the idea of merging social, economic and environmental goals. At Rio they’ll have to agree on some basic priorities. But post-Rio, agreeing on indicators to measure performance on these goals is not going to be easy.

But in all the talk about what should follow in the second round of MDGs or SDGs, nobody’s grasped that the world has changed since the late 1990s when the first goals were drafted.

First – are goals the most appropriate tool for what we’re trying to achieve? See Melamed and Sumner again for a thoughtful range of questions on this subject.

Second – assuming they are – this time they’re likely to be global goals. They will be universal – applicable not just to poor nations. This time, environmental and social goals must be tackled alongside eradicating poverty. Or goals should be found that satisfy all three elements of sustainable development.

So we all have a stake in the goals, and we all have a responsibility to help meet them. Does it not follow that we all should have a say in them?  

Ergo – let’s crowdsource the next round of development goals.

Charles Kenny, top aid-protagonist at CGD, actually referred to the next round of goals as MDGs 2.0, without going into the 2.0 aspect. Ben Leo, of the ONE campaign, used the same phrase to argue that the poor must decide on the next round of MDGs. 

The debate is underway across twitter and the aid blogosphere. But it has to go beyond the experts, practitioners or academics. Everyone should be invited to think about the “future we want” and have the opportunity to contribute.

So, UN, this is your task. Your website frontpage says ‘it’s your UN’. The first line of the Charter says ‘we the peoples’. Let’s live this – get the world together online to start talking about what the next round of goals should be. Build a platform that allows for drafting, commenting, voting. 

This is an amazing opportunity for public participation and engagement with the goals. The greater the participation, the greater the buy-in from the global public, the greater the chance we’ll meet the goals next time. 

The UN could combine digital crowdsourcing with offline participation opportunities to host the world’s greatest participative agenda-setting event. This would help the UN position itself as the go-to platform for global participative governance. 

We’ve got 3 years to go.

(Start by following #SDGs and #MDGs on twitter)

Flickr credit: MT_bulli

How do you solve a massive mapping problem in Somalia? With massive 2.0 solutions of course. @refugees

This story about UNHCR crowdsourcing is pretty damn awesome. Found via Firetail’s weekly briefing.

UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – wanted to know the location of informal settlements in a corridor of land in Somalia. With this information they could better plan for large movements of people. But, not surprisingly, access to Somalia isn’t easy. So they look to satellite imagery.

They partnered with a range of techie types to crowdsource a solution for analysing a vast quantity of imagery provided by DigitalGlobe.

Using a tech platform already realised, a volunteer geography professor got his undergraduate class to carry out the human work – tagging the images where they saw settlements.

Eventually they ended up with 168 volunteers who took 5 days to process nearly 4,000 satellite images – tagging 250,000 settlements. 

This is a great example of global public service delivery managed by the global public. Talk about participatory global governance. Or about 2.0. Or about a revolution.

The project is detailed here, and information on the technology behind the human work here, from Patrick Meier at iRevolution.

I’d love to hear from UNHCR staffers on the results of this work.