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Data for Action: Bringing Responsible and Secure Data Practices to Community Surveys


[ess_grid alias=”civicus”]

Project Overview

CIVICUS-DataShift utilizes best practices in e-learning to develop an organizational shift from using data for reporting to using data for action. This project seeks to improve our secure and responsible data lifecycle practices and release the program into an open, online platform. We address a noticeable-gap in effective use of digital resources in civil society by bringing small to medium organizations with access to internet but not-yet effectively accessing it. CIVICUS is a global alliance of civil society organizations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world. CIVICUS received a 2017 Digital Impact Grant for the project “Data for Action: Bringing Responsible and Secure Data Practices to Community Surveys.”


To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), substantial financial and capacity development investments are needed to collect data to monitor SDG progress. The mounting emphasis on capacity development has coincided with an unprecedented rise in the availability and variety of open online training courses in the last ten year, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Despite high enrollment rates, studies of MOOCs have shown low average completion rates, ranging from 1.7- 12.5%.

CIVICUS has developed a capacity strengthening model which provides CSOs with a facilitated online course in survey methods. This applied course trains CSOs to collect and use their own data for action towards the SDGs with the targeted support of a specialist. The model has proven successful, with a completion rate of nearly 95%. Plans to scale this capacity development model anticipate reaching more than 200 CSOs within a two-year period.

During the pilot phase of the program, however, it became clear that partner organizations required additional training in responsible data practices and digital security for both survey collection and in general. As civil society actors are increasingly collecting and storing information online, their personal and work mobile phones, computers, email accounts, and databases all become targets for cyber-attacks and exploitation. These technologies can be powerful tools for activists, but can also make them more vulnerable.


Hannah Wheatley presented the work of CIVICUS at the Data on Purpose conference at Stanford University in February 2019.

2017 Digital Impact Grantees from Stanford PACS on Vimeo.

Outputs and Progress

  • Digital Security – Starter
  • Published and available digital security modules free to public:
    • “Doable” Digital Security
    • Troubles with Passwords
    • 2FA – Road to Safety
    • Public WiFi – Navigating Dangerous Waters


  • Trusted relationships are needed to begin the conversations about actionable, doable steps that the non-expert can start to better protect for the physical and digital data on themselves and the communities they are working to support.

Next Steps

  • We are testing a premium version of the digital security online course.
  • We are re-packaging the online course into smaller content pieces to reach an even wider audience.
  • We are completing the public upload of the following modules for the general public: see “Digital Security starter course” below.
  • Coming soon:
    • Devices – Main Points of Defense
    • Backups – Never Forget
    • Data Management – In Desperate Search

Learn More