Community Data for Change

by James Tayler

Written by: Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE) and Federation for the Rural and Urban Poor (FRUP), Malawi

“Community Data for Change” constitutes one of the three thematic areas of CCODE’s current work in Malawi. At CCODE/FRUP, we believe that change occurs when people collectively know and understand their problems, because this is how they get to the right solutions that directly address their challenges. We want to empower organisations of the poor with skills and knowledge to generate data about their communities through situational analysis: community profiling, mapping and community-led enumerations. We want more organisations of the poor to know their communities through these initiatives and use evidence to progressively engage with their local authorities and other duty bearers. We want to see communities using data in a more informed way to advocate for change. 

The work that we do in Malawi under the theme of “Community Data for Change” (CDfC) aims to create awareness amongst organisations of the poor on the challenges they face. The data is not an end in itself; it informs community planning processes and resource distribution. CDfC reinforces community voices in planning and development. The data is used by communities themselves and other stakeholders to improve access to basic services, leverage funding for community priorities, raise awareness about community issues and enhance service delivery at local level.

The goal of our CDfC activities is to develop a critical mass of proactive communities, conscious of their needs and taking steps to address them in a holistic fashion. We are aware of development complexities of this time and that increasing people’s knowledge and awareness about issues affecting them, gives them a greater say over their destiny. Knowledge is power; it is this power that will drive communities to demand and proactive be part of the change they seek.

CCODE and the Federation of the Rural and Urban Poor currently work together on the following key activities under the CDfC theme in Malawi:

  • Community profiling and enumerations
  • Participatory mapping and planning studios
  • Developing community strategic plans and databases
  • Participation in budgeting and planning at local and national level
  • Stakeholder engagements
  • Negotiations with local authorities and planning committees
  • Creation of thematic working groups
  • Budget tracking
  • Dissemination and publication of data on ‘Know your Cities’

To date (August 2014), we had mobilized communities and developed community profiles for 85 settlements across the country, completed enumeration and mapping processes in seven of these settlements, with other two currently undertaking enumeration and further seven settlements with mapping work currently in progress. Physical and development planning is currently being undertaken in many of these settlements and will continue to reach all of them. A planning studio has been taking place since 2011 in a settlement in Mzuzu (the northern region), in collaboration with Mzuzu University.


To achieve the goal of expanding the critical mass of empowered communities with knowledge about their settlements, we have developed the following strategies, which will inform our work in the area for the coming years:

  •  Expand our community activities to enlist and organise poor people’s organisations.
  • Enhance community profiling, enumerations and mapping as tools for negotiation
  •  Increase community participation in planning and budgeting at local level
  •  Expand our training programmes and exchanges on community-led planning, implementation of projects and monitoring

The ultimate impact of our CDfC activities is to help create more proactive organisations of the poor to be influencing and demanding responsive service delivery. We have set a number of targets in the Strategic Plan for the Organisation looking at the next five years. In terms of our work in CDfC, our targets for the next five years include:

  • To compile a database regarding all informal settlements in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu cities.
  • Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu city urban poor networks to use data for decision making and engagements with stakeholders.
  • Community generated data to be used as a tool for planning, development and monitoring in 11 districts.