The Human Rights Information project, in which I am involved, is a joint initiative of the OSI Human Rights and Governance Grants program and the Information Program. In our grantmaking work, we’ve become increasingly interested in the question of how, in an age of rapid and pervasive information flow, human rights organizations respond to the need to understand and analyze large amounts of data.
Human rights groups tend to experience some common problems when it comes to their data, particularly in verifying information and in keeping it safe. They also increasingly find themselves needing to target new audiences; as rights mechanisms become moving targets within development organizations, and information (and disinformation) become more accessible to the public, the adoption of new tools has become critical for the survival of the human rights movement.
Our project aims to understand how to help human rights organizations manage and use their vast repositories of important public policy data. We’re hoping to track how these organizations, large and small, address their needs in systems and staff to manage their information internally, and how they develop the skills to turn well-structured information into powerful advocacy. We’re interested in how the information gets to the advocacy stage, and where it’s stored along the way; we’re also interested in supporting organizations choosing to marshal new advocacy tools and tactics alongside traditional approaches to advocacy.
Going forward I plan to use this blog to share new and interesting uses of data in the human rights and governance fields, as well as address the host of issues we’re now dealing with – including data security, ethics of visualization and representation, and case studies of visualizing and mapping techniques. Topics can range from “How do you keep your information safe?” to “How can an organization manage the breadth of information gathered in the history of its existence, and make it relevant for the policy questions of the day?” I’ll also try to link to inspirational articles, videos, and posts by my colleagues in this field.