The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative focuses on building high-level policy and public and private institutional support for open data. This focus on advocacy, convincing stakeholders in agriculture and nutrition of the potential benefits of open data, is vital but, on its own, is not enough. GODAN Action supports the wider GODAN initiative by focusing on the capabilities of data users, producers and intermediaries to engage effectively with open data in the agriculture and nutrition sectors.
Our analysis of the barriers that might inhibit the potential of open data to address food security and nutrition challenges suggested the need to focus our work in three areas. These focal areas provide the focus for our work on the project.

Focal Areas

Focal Area 1 STANDARDS.
Enhancing data standards and promoting best practice in agriculture and nutrition to improve interoperability. This should improve service delivery and enable the creation of data-driven businesses.
This focal area is about enabling producers and users of food and agriculture open data to work more effectively with more coherent, more inter-linked and more agreed-upon standards and especially related interoperability services that facilitate their use. The focus of this area is on facilitating the use of standards in data management and information systems. We expect the core of our work to be on improvements, mappings, tools and APIs that facilitate the use of the standards, starting with needs arising from the identified use cases.
The specific objectives of this Focal Area are:

  1. To map currently available standards to map of standards in use for the exchange of key data on agriculture and nutrition and identify gaps that inhibit the effective use of these data to gap analysis
  2. To increase collaboration and facilitate exchange of lessons in this area
  3. To identify and scale up existing successful research pilots working on agricultural and nutritional open data standards and interoperability
  4. To carry out research into the improvement of standards and their usability to achieve better interoperability between different data sources
  5. To implement pilot interventions that will develop and promote open data standards and interoperability systems

Identifying and improving tools and methods for evaluation of the impact of open data usage in agriculture and nutrition. This should help create a better enabling environment for more effective investments in data based business, greater innovation and better evidence-based policy making.
The objectives of this focal area are:

  1. Give potential users access to a consolidated and contextualized knowledge reservoir of relevant initiatives, methods, tools, datasets and case studies.
  2. Develop, implement and test a general method for mobilising and using this knowledge reservoir in impact evaluation of open data initiatives and investments specifically targeted at improving agriculture and nutrition in a developing country context.
  3. Develop and implement a general method for mobilising and using this knowledge reservoir in  impact evaluation of open data initiatives and investments specifically targeted at creating an environment that triggers innovation in agriculture and nutrition in a developing country context.
  4. Promote an iterative, transdisciplinary and interactive process of shared learning between researchers and stakeholders in accordance with the digital design principles.

Focal Area 3 CAPACITY
Building the capacity and diversity of open data users and intermediaries, leading to increased understanding and more effective use of data in tackling key agriculture and nutrition challenges.
The objectives of this focal areas will be to:
1.  Assess existing training needs, incentives and barriers, and map the capacity building landscape to identify key partners.
2.  Develop a capacity building working group in partnership with GODAN, to make the most of the significant contribution and resources of its international members working with open data.
3.  Support and build on (not duplicate) existing training and capacity building initiatives and share materials openly
4.  Develop an action plan to deliver appropriate training courses for target user groups (intermediaries and researchers/data producers) mixing face-to-face, e-learning, self learning and workbench approaches to learning to maximise inclusion for hard-to-reach communities address the digital divide and strengthen participation from women and young people

Adaptive learning

The approach taken by the GODAN Action partners is underpinned by a theory of change that describes how we think the proposed activities and outputs of the project will enhance the contribution of open data to improving the agriculture sector and addressing food security and nutrition challenges.

GODAN Action Theory of Change diagramOur intention is to continuously test the assumptions we have made in the theory of change and to monitor the impact of our activities for end users, so that we can learn as the project progresses and adapt our approach as we go along.
To achieve this requires a number of things which are crucial components of our approach.
First of these is a detailed understanding of our key stakeholders that is sensitive to issues of inequality, such as gender and the digital divide, which might influence their ability to engage effectively with the project’s activities.
Secondly we need to identify robust qualitative and quantitative measures needed to be able to monitor progress and measure performance.
Finally we need a means to identify and target our activities at the distinct communities of stakeholders, working actively in different areas of the wider agriculture and nutrition sector, where we think we have the opportunity to make the most significant contribution.
We term this our “thematic approach”.

Thematic approach

The activities undertaken in each of the focal areas will be connected through a shared focus on a series of three thematic topics worked on consecutively over the course of the project. These themes will target distinct communities of stakeholders working actively in different areas of the wider agriculture and nutrition sector.
The themes were selected from a proposed shortlist of six based on a scoping and evaluation methodology that enabled us to describe, evaluate and select the themes that offered the strongest potential for impact from the work in the three focal areas.
The methodology specifically looked at the identification of stakeholders, network coverage and strength, synergies with global policy agendas and appraisal of expected impacts. Selection was made based on an assessment of these criteria by three evaluators to summary theme report.  The three selected themes are as follows:
Theme 1 (Year 1) - Weather Data
Weather data and services derived from weather data have a high potential to enhance support for smallholder farmers in taking operational decisions on farm management.

This theme will explore the potential for open data approaches to enhance the use and reach of weather data and support the development of innovative farm management advice services by intermediaries such as extension workers, service providers and farmers unions.
It will look at a number of possible interventions to assess their potential to improve farm incomes and ultimately livelihoods. These include:

  • Encouraging release of weather data as open data to stimulate intermediaries to develop farm management services. In practice this might mean advocacy and capacity support to national governments to release weather data as open data.
  • Supporting co-development of farm management services by improving the capabilities of intermediaries to work with available weather data and to collaborate with data providers

Theme 2 (Year 2) - Global Nutrition Report
The Global Nutrition Report (GNR) acts as an intermediary, providing data on nutrition to multiple stakeholders from international agencies to governments and civil society. Currently much of the data collected is either not available or not easily accessible. This theme will explore the potential to improve the utility of this data and to address current data gaps.
Possible interventions include:

  • Encouraging the release of nutrition data as open data to allow intermediaries to more effectively present trends and help governments to act in a relevant and timely manner to target evidence-informed policies and programmes to address malnutrition. In practice this might means capacity development aimed at governmental stakeholders and advocacy to convince policymakers of the benefits of open data.
  • Standardising the collection and format of open nutrition data to improve its interoperability and utility for GNR stakeholders. This might involve capacity support for data producers and developing a set of global standards to work to based on the needs of data users.

Theme 3 (Year 2) - Land Data
Access to good quality data on land governance, land rights and related issue is crucial to the process of developing more accountable, improved and transparent land governance systems globally. This theme will explore the potential of open data to improve sustainable land use
planning, to facilitate access to justice, to address rural employment through and to build collective bargaining potential among farmers and the organizations that represent them.
Possible interventions include:

  • Encouraging organizations and institutions to expose land-related data and information as open data through capacity development of civil society, researchers, journalists and policymakers
  • Advocacy and support for greater transparency of decision making processes with regard to land use from governments, agencies, and other organizations that utilise open data practices.