Open research, open data, open development

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, gathering resources, printing out stuff to read. Waiting for the right time to pull it all together into a tidy package. Well forget it. Instead I’m going to dribble it out bit by bit. It may be confusing to follow along as I muddle through. You may get lost with me. So be it. Let’s begin with the basics: a preliminary list of assumptions —

  • Good policy and practice depend on good information. Policies are the “big bets” about how to structure things and what to support, generally made by “big” decision-makers: governments deciding about the rules of the game — laws and regulations — and how to allocate resources, and donors deciding what/who to support, and how. Practice is the way we work: nitty-gritty processes, how we design and implement projects, how we structure and manage organizations.
  • Good information emerges from the sharing and analysis of processes, experiences, learning, and data. It emerges from getting things done and researching how things work. What matters here? They types of questions we ask, how we ask them, who asks, what we decide to count, the way results are communicated (making evidence edible by highlighting the “so what”, creating visualizations and infographics, layering, etc.). Understanding people/groups and the relationships between them matters here. As does power relations and connections, incentives, and our relationship to failure (see here and here.). Especially incentives — often they are mis-aligned, effectively killing access to good information.
  • If development information is generated using public funds then the results should be publicly available in the right formats. (See Tracey’s post on for some ideas on what that formats might look like.) A big caveat here is respect for people’s privacy. But you get the idea.
  • Communicating about development is an aid effectiveness issue. Communications in the broadest sense includes all of the above as well as stuff like knowledge sharing or knowledge mobilization or knowledge management for development or whatever you’re calling it this month. Seriously folks, we need to get beyond creating insipid lessons learned pieces with points like “take the local context into account” or “plan for sustainability from the outset” — Really? Ya think?

Okay, so here are a few — very few! — things I’ve read or am reading or following lately. Yes I know there’s way way more. Please make suggestions — or even better read it for us, post the 500-word summary, and send on the link!

I’ll add more links for the last two later. But now I have to stop blogging.