Projects producing citizen-generating data (CGD) to provide evidence and to drive change
have increased considerably in the last decade. Many of these initiatives build on multi-actor
collaboration and are often supported by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the public
sector, businesses or community-based organisations. The joint efforts of these actors are
often necessary to provide the resources and the support that citizens need to produce data.
In return, organisations can harness the data to support their objectives. The recent growth
(or up-scaling) of CGD projects has created opportunities, as well as challenges for capacity
building and sustainability. These challenges can affect the continuity and effectiveness of
these initiatives and, in turn, the quality and utility of collected data. This paper analyses two
CGD projects to consider their social implications and the measures necessary to increase
their capacity, up-scaling, spreading, and sustainability. The case studies on noise monitoring
and invasive alien species describe, respectively, a bottom-up approach at city level and a
top-down approach at the European level. Regardless of the approach, capacity building
requires a process of infrastructuring that engages different actors, responds to matters of
concern, assesses community capacities and needs, and develops a vision and action plan.
Further, the appropriation and repurposing of technical systems is required to scale up and
spread CGD projects. In this process, participants’ activities are shaped by technologies,
while the meaning and effects of technologies are shaped through participants’ activities.
ESADE-Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain
Copyright: doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-00851-5 © The Author(s) 2021