Ground Truth 2.0 Week 2019 – Day 4

On Thursday, 4 October 2019, the Ground Truth Week celebrations transitioned from the earlier virtual tour to a Face-to-Face conference at the premises of IHE Delft, The Netherlands. Dr. Uta Wehn, Project Coordinator of Ground Truth 2.0, opened the program with a short introduction to the Ground Truth 2.0 Project, to the co-design methodology and the seven citizen observatories that Ground Truth had helped to set up over the past 3 years. This session also marked the launch of the official Ground Truth 2.0 project video, which will be made available online shortly.

During the day, participants followed the Ground Truth 2.0 journey that the seven citizen observatories had taken. The first session explored the contexts in which the Ground Truth 2.0 team had worked with local communities and stakeholders to develop meaningful citizen observatories in six countries in Europe and Africa. These contexts differed not only in terms of climatic conditions and environmental challenges, but also technical infrastructure and the extent of public participation ‘readiness’ by authorities as well as citizens. The session also served to highlight that the Ground Truth 2.0 co-design methodology can accommodate differing real world conditions in which to embed citizen observatories.


Continuing the journey, the second session featured the citizen observatories now up and running. At a market place of the seven citizen observatories, participants could get to know the thematic focus, purpose and achievements of each citizen observatory; in what ways they differ from ‘normal Citizen Science’; and how they allow communities of citizens, scientists and policy makers to jointly monitor and manage their environment. This session sparked lively discussion by participants with both, the CO stakeholders and the Ground Truth team supporting each citizen observatory.


After lunch, participants convened in a ‘fishbowl’ setting to discuss the impact of each citizen observatory from the different stakeholders’ perspective. In the first round, the representatives of different authorities discussed the connection of the citizen observatories to the daily activities of the decision makers. The authority representatives from the Kenya and the Zambia citizen observatories both mentioned the devolution of power and the lack of data for spatial planning or natural resource management in the face of deforestation, poaching etc. Digital data helps a lot with the speed of reporting and reacting to the situations. The representative from the waterboard in Altena explained that in the Grip of Water Altena citizen observatory in the Netherlands, there was actually a lot of data available, but this was not shared with citizens. In the same line, there is also an awareness gap about the measures taken by the waterboard and the problems that exist, or what citizens can do to help. She mentioned that the citizen observatory can help with information sharing, allow the authorities to reach out to citizens for help and thereby contribute to problem solving. The representative of the authorities in the Spanish citizen observatory mentioned that, in the case of Spain, where data is openly accessible to everyone, decision makers do not always ‘listen’ to the data. Others illustrated that some authorities would like to retain the power to decide what data is shared publicly and what is not. Participants agreed that raising awareness among politicians is a common point across the citizen observatories.

In the second round of fishbowl discussion, the citizens representing the different observatories discussed the value of their citizen observatory was for them. A citizen involved in the Zambian demo case described the introduction of the citizen observatory as a game changer since the digitization of their log books has helped in speeding up the reporting of incidents to the authorities. The citizen representatives from the Belgian and Swedish citizen observatories agreed that data – and especially good quality and open data – is needed in order to communicate with authorities and decision makers. Open data means their evidence cannot be put away and ignored. A Maasai from the Kenyan Maasai Mara Citizen Observatory mentioned that not many people in his community have smartphones. In his area, human-wildlife conflicts are an issue and compensation is often not being paid to local citizens; the citizen observatory will help them us record and report incidents and make a case to the government, with hopefully faster response and compensation. Overall, all citizens involved in this discussion agreed that their citizen observatories were of great value to their communities.


In the last round of the fishbowl, scientists and data aggregators of the Ground Truth 2.0 team discussed how the quality of citizen observatory data can be ensured. It was agreed that in most cases, time is needed for instruction or training, but that after that, data is usually of good quality. Additionally, sometimes there is simply no better alternative to citizen science data, as for example in the case of open street maps. Therefore, it was suggested that it is always better to share the data and to let the user judge whether it is perceived as good enough to use or not.

In the last session of the day, the journey of citizen observatories beyond the Ground Truth 2.0 project was explored. In small groups, each citizen observatory team discussed sustainability challenges, what kind of lessons they learned and their concrete plans for the future. There was agreement among most observatories that keeping both the citizens and authorities involved was difficult, but that finding and encouraging ‘champions’ was helpful in this regard. Nevertheless, all citizen observatories had plans to continue their future work.


The day ended with an outdoor, hands on activity and a conference dinner. On the way to the restaurant, participants had the opportunity to try out the different Citizen Science tools and apps of the Ground Truth observatories.

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