Building Your Citizen Science Community

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Cover Photo: Rios Saludables de Osa, Costa Rica

You or your organization have decided to get involved in citizen science. Great! But where do you begin? Should you start by creating a brand new project around an idea your boss mentioned? Should you join an existing project and add to their data collection efforts? How many volunteers do you need? Who is your audience for the project? What science question are your trying to answer? Does anyone in your community care about your idea?

Anyone can create a citizen science project (that’s kind of the idea, right?) but creating citizen science projects with results that matter to your community isn’t always a straight-forward process. We know because we’ve been there. Many times. But there are tools and processes you can use to increase your chance of success and we can help get you there.

Finding your Citizen Science Value Proposition 

When people come to us for advice about where to begin their citizen science project journey, we always start with the same advice. Go talk to your community and ask them questions. And listen carefully to the answers. 

Listening to the needs of your community before you begin planning will provide you with a much better chance of creating a citizen science project or program your community will care about and participate in. You’re also more likely to create a project that produces meaningful results. We coach project managers through the use of a variety of tools including Customer Discovery, Situation Analysis and Stakeholder Assessments (SASA), and surveys to help you create a solid foundation for your citizen science.

What is Customer Discovery?

Customer discovery, simply put, is the process of getting to know your community and their needs by getting “out of the building” and really listening to your community. Taken from the business start-up and entrepreneurial world, we use an adapted customer discovery process to help project managers create meaningful and successful citizen science projects. Before you ever start making/building/creating your project, we help you discover what your audience actually needs – what are their pains? What would they hope to gain from participating in your project? Or from the scientific research that results from your project?

What is Situation Assessment and Stakeholder Analysis?

Similarly, SASA is the deliberate process of identifying and planning goals, future steps, collaborations, common interests and potential challenges that might be faced by a new or ongoing community science project. Well-thought-out SASA processes provide a thoughtful foundation for carrying out inclusive and ethical engagement and research co-creation. This helps ensure project goals are in line with stakeholder needs, and that people and study subjects are included and protected. The SASA process builds a foundation for citizen science project success. 

Contact us for help designing your next citizen science project

Through the Customer Discovery and SASA process, we help you identify your stakeholders, determine where your community wants to start, and how to design relevant projects that include your own motivations and research questions. We find that by starting with de facto motivating topics, success unfolds more easily. This process is iterative and may reveal new stakeholders and needs throughout the course of a project. We encourage our partners to maintain an open dialogue with their communities throughout the life of the project to fill in gaps and follow newly revealed pathways.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you design citizen science projects your community will want to be a part of.

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