ByÂ Dayo IbitoyeÂ
PIND is the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta. It aims to achieveÂ peace and prosperityÂ among local communities byÂ bringing together people concerned with sustainable development in the region, sharing information and insights, and encouraging innovative partnerships to support equitable economic growth.Â PINDâ€™s activities are focused in four programme areas: economic development; capacity building; peace building; and analysis & advocacy.
NDLink â€“ opening up projectÂ information
When it began working in the Niger Delta, PIND found thatÂ little development information existed, and what was thereÂ was often inaccurate,Â outdated and not generally shared.Â To begin to tackle these issues and help organisations co-ordinate their development activities, PIND createdÂ NDLink â€“ an online advocacy, information and communications platform. Geared speciï¬cally to development practitionersÂ and communities in the Niger Delta, NDLink promotes collaboration across the region, helping to address current inefï¬ciencies and supportingÂ organisations to build partnerships, expand capacity, and coordinate with one another to achieve sustainable development.
Many development organisations in the Niger Delta region have historically been culturally averse to sharing information about their activities, particularly what works and what doesn’t. They may feel exposed and see little benefit in this kind of reporting. Through theÂ NDLink platform, PIND aims toÂ influence thinking around sharing knowledge,Â hopefully resulting in a sea changeÂ in perspectives around open data, transparency and accountability for work donor agencies do in the region. The ultimate aim is to reduceÂ confusion and avoid duplication of effort, resulting in more effective programmes and faster, more sustainable development.
The NDLink team are working with local organisations to help them understand the benefits to the region of opening up their information and sharing it in an effective, accessible way. This is a complex and lengthy process.Â As NDLink project manager Ese Emerhi explained in anÂ interview: “Whenever we go out and speak about the vision of NDLink, conceptually everyone is in alignment, but where it gets tricky has been in the actual implementation of that vision. Ultimately, itâ€™s been about empowering local civil society organisationsÂ to take the data of their projects to tell more compelling stories of their work, and that, quite bluntly, means restructuring the power positions â€“ a thing that is never easy to do and which takes serious diplomacy and time.”
It’s not enough to publish – information needs to be used
When Akvo’s partnership with PIND began in July 2014, NDLink was just a few months old. It contained a wealth of dataÂ about more than 1,000 projects taking place in the region, but people were not using the information. EmerhiÂ reported that people found the quantity and the unintuitive format of the information intimidating. It was also difficult to download asÂ internet access in the region is slow and unsteady. What wasÂ neededÂ was a better way to help theÂ growing NDLink community easily access informationÂ toÂ make better decisions around grants and development projects in their local communities. Akvo RSR was identified as a good solution to make the information more accessibleÂ and keep it perpetually up to date.
Akvo is helping PIND bring around 1,000 projects online on the NDLink platform usingÂ Akvo RSR, and training PIND staff and partners to maintain their projects online and post updates.Â This is a substantial effort which involves collecting detailed project information in the Akvo RSR format and adding it to the RSR database as well as supporting partners to developÂ a culture of openness.
At the end of 2014,Â the first project batch with 47 of NDLink’s projects in the Niger Delta wasÂ published in RSRÂ andÂ showcased on the NDLink website. To date, 479 projects involving 66 organisations have been added to the system.
At the beginning of September 2015, a refresherÂ RSR training course was help in Port Harcourt, Niger Delta, for 40Â more people from 20 of PIND’s localÂ partner organisations, as well as five people from PIND and NDLink. This provided an opportunity to get to grips with RSR’s new project editor functionality.
NDLink’s vision of a development sector openly sharing timely project information is closely aligned to Akvo’s own mission to makeÂ international development and country governance more effective, transparent and collaborative. Technology can certainly facilitate this process and it’s essential to haveÂ the right tools to share data and knowledge, but cultural change is also necessary and that takes time to happen. PIND and NDLink are making substantial inroads in this area with more instances of collaboration between civil society organisations in the Niger Delta region and an increased willingness and capacity across the sector to share information for the greater good.
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