Collective intelligence on social needs during COVID 19

Beyond tracing, testing and contagion of the immediate health crisis we are facing, there is high uncertainty on what will be the social and economic effects on people. The ‘second epidemic’ will see varied and fast-changing social needs across countries, and we are looking to help governments be highly responsive in this context, by helping them leverage the collective intelligence and actions of citizens who can help. 

In the days following the outbreak of COVID 19 in Europe, Citibeats has begun launching collective intelligence ‘observatories’ in more than 12 countries, to bring real-time views on social needs to governments, companies and people. By analyzing millions of opinions every week, it is possible to use ‘citizens as a sensor’ for where there are unmet, rising, or outlier social needs that should be a priority to respond to.

(Explore the public observatories for yourself –here is the Latin American and Caribbean observatory with the Inter-American Development Bank:
To make these observatories as socially useful as possible, together with our clients we’ve been launching public sites to open up the collective data contribution, use of the analysis, and recommended actions.
Impact Report 2019

Impact report

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Encouraging anonymous data contribution

In order to respond with optimal coverage quickly during the crisis, these observatories are set up to monitor Twitter, forums and blogs, typically covering millions of relevant civic opinions per week per region –from which Citibeats creates an aggregated and anonymized view on social needs.
In order to engage citizens in this process, the public observatories include anonymous survey forms. We are seeing that these civic inputs are generating hundreds or thousands of additional opinions per area, and although they are small compared to the existing data online, they are an important anchor for validating that the openly available online content is representative of how citizens express themselves through surveys.

Turning text into open data for anyone to use, as ‘data collaboratives’

While our clients – local, regional, national governments and international organisations – are using Citibeats to inform their own decisions, we together want to make this data available and useful for any organisation or person working on their own responses. This is why on our public sites, not only are we visualising the data, but all the processed, aggregated data can be downloaded by anyone.
Here, we’ve been inspired by the Data Collaboratives movement led by GovLab. Data collaboratives are designed to open up data traditionally held by private companies or governments and make it accessible as a public good. In this case, we are turning survey responses, Tweets, and online content, and rather than sharing the text data (which could be personal), processing it, anonymizing it, and aggregating it, into numbers that can be shared.
On the one hand, this makes text data, which is not traditionally easy to use data, being put into a numerical output that is easy to use. On the other hand, it means text sources which could not be shared openly(e.g. in the case of Twitter, need to pay to analyse tweets; or in the case of a government helpline, privacy of the text data), become publicly useable assets.
Anyone can download the processed data from Citibeats in GitHub repositories, via links in the public sites.

Recommend local civic actions

While our clients are using Citibeats analyses to take organisational decisions such as where to invest resources, or what to communicate to give more information to citizens, we’ve seen that there is valuable information in the ‘collective intelligence’ that could help inspire civic actions too.
Within the data being analysed, Citibeats is detecting proposals, ideas and innovations from local people, who around the world are finding creative ways to respond to their community’s social needs. Through our analyses, we are seeing huge willingness from people to help, though much of the time they don’t know how (especially from within their own home). However, by detecting local initiatives, and sharing them on the public sites, we are hoping to give visibility to the creative and inspiring people who are starting actions that could be replicated by others.
How can you help? Citibeats public sites share inspiration generated by citizens and governments on how people can contribute to the local needs identified in their area.
Through the COVID 19 observatories, our main hope is that these sites are able to provide valuable information and inspiration to people who can make an impact. By making the data collection, data usage, and action recommendation as open as possible, the idea is to make all the collective intelligence and collective willpower to respond as utilised as possible.
If you have ideas for adding data sources, creating new analyses, or applying Citibeats in new areas, we would love to talk with you. Please contact and we will connect you with the right person in the team.

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