By Emelia Williams, Civic Voice Archive Fellow

This blog explores some of the political concepts and context, like legitimacy, trust and governance and their intersection with information and data systems so that we can situate the role of a Civic Voice Archive .

United States democracy undeniably suffers from a legitimacy crisis; a marked decline in the public’s confidence in leadership that results from structural failures of the state to respond to the citizenry’s expectations and needs. From the bottom-up, civic voice — through testimony and commentary — has fallen away from the center of lawmaking processes.

A July 2020…

By Lorelei Kelly, Georgetown University Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation

With civics making headlines every day, Americans cannot help but notice that elections power the direction of leadership in our democracy. The current moment — during a contested presidential transition — is a good time to remember that while elections are the leadership engine, it is the governing process that makes up the gears of our democratic system. Civic data — information located and centered around communities across the USA — is the fuel that generates motion. And if the presidency is the Grand Prix race, lawmaking in…

By Elizabeth Tyson, Lorelei Kelly and Shannon Dosemagen

The vision for a Civic Voice Archive (CVA) is to strengthen our democratic resilience, trust and governance muscles. It is nestled among the goals of modernizing congressional information flows , providing more legitimacy-via-information , and improving the impact of public commentary.

The CVA is a way of connecting local congressional districts to federal legislative lawmaking. It will provide a streamlined and accessible method for engaging with community data. Importantly, it will also provide a repository for authentic community input. …

Written by Kevin Lunzalu, Country Coordinator of the Kenyan Youth Biodiversity Network

This blog is part of the ongoing series “The Anatomy of Environmental Decision-Making”.

The effectiveness of any strategic environmental law and its contribution to the achievement of intended objectives is only as good as its formulation process. Data plays a critical role in the fabric of environmental policy formulation and management in Kenya. Policymakers, legislative bodies, members of the public, and draftspersons depend on reliable data to inform legislation and day-to-day interaction with natural resources. The design and architecture of how environmental data and information flows within decision-making…

Written by Adam Calo, PhD James Hutton Institute, Scotland, UK

This blog is part of the ongoing series “The Anatomy of Environmental Decision-Making”.

Public participation in science may deliver democratised understanding about what is happening on the land, but often struggles to account for who ultimately has the power to make decisions about land use. This is especially important in the study of agricultural systems, where actions taken by private farmland owners are the drivers that press environmental and social outcomes in the public interest. The power to make changes to agricultural practices often lies in the hands of land…

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The creation of environmental policy is based on formative research about environmental problem areas. This policy then guides how decisions are made in reference to natural resources, environmental protection and mitigating environmental damage. While there has been a rise in environmental data, collected by and about people who are most affected by environmental issues, it is not being incorporated into the body of research that informs environmental policies. Therefore the policies that guide decisions impacting communities and their landscape are rarely accurate to the experiences or needs of these complex ecosystems.

While there are a plethora of reasons for this…

Written by Ahou Rachel Koumi, Centre de Recherches Océanologiques Abidgan

Pour lire cet article en français, veuillez visiter:

This blog is part of the ongoing series “The Anatomy of Environmental Decision-Making”.

Plastic wastes which pollutes and degrades the environment, ecosystems, rivers and the ocean is a critical problem in Côte d’Ivoire, a coastal country in West Africa. Population pressure is increasing in this country and accompanied by a weak development of infrastructures for the management of organic, chemical and solid pollution. By 2025, it is predicated there will be 500,000 tonnes of poorly managed plastic waste.

In Côte d’Ivoire…

Written by Alandra Kahl, Penn State

This blog is part of the ongoing series “The Anatomy of Environmental Decision-Making”.

In late 2014, I received an unusual voicemail. The person on the other end was a fisherman, and wanted to know about the health of the local waterway. He had found my name via our university website and thought I might be able to help. I returned his call and we spoke for about an hour about fishing, the weather and the local waterway. He was a member of Trout Unlimited and wanted to know if there was a way to…

Written By Alandra Kahl, Penn State

This blog is part of the ongoing series “The Anatomy of Environmental Decision-Making”.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has a history as the city of steel. As a center of industrial manufacturing on the East Coast, it consistently ranks among the worst cities for air quality. In the American Lung Associations’ State of the Air report, Pittsburgh ranked as 8th most polluted for airborne particle pollution or soot.

There are more than ten sites that affect local air quality in the Pittsburgh region, so it is important to have a broad monitoring strategy to help capture data…

This blog was originally posted as a three-part series on the Open Environmental Data Project blog.

Part I

Part one of this series explores a brief introduction to why the approach of collaborative governance is interesting and attractive in the environmental context and then defines the different types of governance models being discussed today.


Environmental problems are considered “wicked,” consisting of different complex systems interacting with each other and necessitating a diversity of approaches for solving. They categorically call for decision-support tools like environmental data and information, alongside principles on how best to use the knowledge products. The complexity of environmental…

Open Environmental Data Project

Building environmental hardware interoperability while changing the way data is shared, verified & used. Learn more at

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