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Citizen Sensing Toolkit

The Citizen Sensing Toolkit was produced as part of the Making Sense project, which draws on nine citizen sensing campaigns in Amsterdam, Kosovo and Barcelona in 2016 and 2017. Based on that experience, we developed a framework, methods, and tools for citizen participation in environmental monitoring and action. Their approach is bottom-up and participatory, and we call it "citizen sensing".

The Making Sense Framework

About the framework

The Making Sense project presents a framework for citizen sensing projects. The framework includes key stages and principles, specifically geared towards projects aimed at supporting community action. The stages are flexible and can be done in any order, and the principles are co-creation, empowerment, openness, and changemaking. The framework will help community organisers, project teams, community members, or individual citizens to develop and deliver a citizen sensing project successfully. The framework stages are explained in more detail in the book chapters, along with their examples in action, and they should help gather the necessary resources to engage people, deliver the project, and navigate common challenges.

Download the full book PDF to learn more.

Cross-cutting Principles

1. Empowerment

The feeling of taking control or increased responsibility for yourself and your environment. This can be encouraged with a combination of collaborative approaches and openness using technologies and data which address individual and community issues. This can lead to improved quality of life and greater power for changemaking in corporations and governments.

2. Co-creation

The practice of collaborative development, and a way to describe an approach in a project using methods and tools for people to work together on a level playing field. Co-creation is a collaborative process between multiple individuals using a wide range of resources and ideas to create new actions and objects.

3. Changemaking

Our aims at changemaking stretch beyond creating awareness of the development of purely technological solutions. This involves change in individuals, communities, institutions and/or cultures, and in thinking, attitudes, values and consciousness. We embrace community-led change.

4. Openess

This applies to the transparency of the campaign’s organisation, as well as its data and actions. It also extends to strategic priorities in: Open design Open science Open technology and data Open to the world

Framework Steps

1. Scoping

At this first stage, the important issues are discovered, mapped and discussed by the key participants. Information is gathered by internet searches; collecting articles, news reports and literature; or by conducting surveys and interviews. At this time existing communities are found and new ones start to form. Scoping has no time limit; it can take a few weeks, or can develop over years.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Team, Community Members and The Public
  • 🛠️ Tools: Geographical Mapping, Commons Mapping and Collaboration Pilot Schedule

2. Community Building

The aim of Community Building is for all participants to come to a shared understanding of the issue, the goals of the campaign, the organisation of the project and how to document activities. This is the stage when the skills of the participants are identified and new skills are developed, and it is also when others are brought on board if there are any skills or expertise missing.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams and Community Members
  • 🛠️ Tools: Onboarding, Empathy Timeline and Recruitment

3. Planning

Planning sees participants collectively decide on the project goals, on sensing strategies and on protocols for collecting data. This includes a plan for collecting other types of indicators. It is when the sensing tools are created or developed from existing resources and are tested and calibrated. Participants learn about sensors and are introduced to approaches for understanding data.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams and Community Members
  • 🛠️ Tools: Community Level Indicators, Sensing Strategy Canvas, Calibration and Targeted Measurements

4. Sensing

Sensing is the phase in which everyone collects data on the issue i.e. environmental pollution. The data can be uploaded to a publicly accessible online platform. Participants can also take notes and record observations about how their lives are affected by the issue. Collecting these indicators can support the sensor data and be used to demonstrate the impacts to external individuals and government officials.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams and Community Members
  • 🛠️ Tools: Sensing Guides, Data Journals, Operation Manual and Open Hardware

5. Awareness

Using all the data and complementary indicators gathered during the sensing phase, the information is analysed and discussed amongst the community. Bringing this information together is important for identifying areas for action and change. The aim is to build a collective awareness from the data. The analysis stage can include activities such as data visualisation, and people from professional science or academia.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams, Community Members, Data Visualisers and External Experts
  • 🛠️ Tools: Awareness Sheet, Data Discussion Sheet and Data Dashboard

6. Action

Once awareness has been raised on the issue at hand, participants work together to propose courses of action. The aim is to devise, organise and deliver an action, or series of actions, that can generate recognition of the issue, make an impact and make change. Actions can range from an individual change to public-facing activities (e.g. a protest) aimed at widening awareness, or even policy change.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams, Community Members, Media Outlets and Government Officials
  • 🛠️ Tools: Digital Presence, Future News Paper and Co-creation Assemblies

7. Reflection

Participants reflect on the process to date, and consider what worked well and what could be improved. This can include looking at the data and seeing if there was change as a result of the action. This might require the participants to repeat stages, or return to previous phases (such as ‘Sensing’).

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams and Community Members
  • 🛠️ Tools: Questionnaires, Pilot Appraisal and Graduation Ceremony

8. Legacy

A legacy is created by looking towards the future of the project and making a plan for lasting impact. Plans for sharing information and news should be included to ensure that the project is sustainable, the project’s tools are being reused, and uptake continues. For community organisations, this is a phase for writing reports and publications, as well as for sharing project assets that might be useful for other initiatives.

  • 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 Key Participants: Community Organisers, Project Teams, Community Members, Academics and External Experts
  • 🛠️ Tools: Storylines and Train The Next Generation

Book Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Making Sense Framework
  • Toolkit
    • Scoping
    • Community Building
    • Planning
    • Sensing
    • Awareness
    • Action
    • Reflection
    • Legacy
  • Case Studies
    • Amsterdam
      • Gammasense
      • Urban Airq
    • Kosovo
      • Pilot 1
      • Pilot 3
    • Barcelona
      • Beta Pilot
      • Gracia Sounds Pilot
  • Key Insights
  • Glossary
  • Acknowledgements