TIMBY is a suite of digital tools that helps streamline evidence-based communication and monitoring between individuals working in the field and influencers: lawyers, policy-makers and journalists.
TIMBY (This is My BackYard) is a reporting and monitoring system that involves three interconnected digital tools: an encrypted app, a searchable dashboard and a drag-and-drop story/report maker. All may be used on their own, together or with other apps/data collection mechanisms and visualization tools, through APIs. For a full description of the TIMBY tools, please visit SEE ALL
TIMBY (This is My BackYard) is a reporting and monitoring system that involves three interconnected digital tools: an encrypted app, a searchable dashboard and a drag-and-drop story/report maker. All may be used on their own, together or with other apps/data collection mechanisms and visualization tools, through APIs. For a full description of the TIMBY tools, please visit timby.org.
The Mobile Reporting App
The encrypted app enables individuals to collect geo-referenced and time-stamped audio, video, photographs and other structured and unstructured data in both online and offline areas. TIMBY is heavily color and icon-based to facilitate reporting for semi-literate groups. All data on the application is encrypted for security, and widgets allow reporting without having to sign in,, for increased security.
The dashboard helps groups verify, add context to and collate reports through time. You can view/search reports in List (Timeline) or Map view to find meaning and trends in the data. Reports become the building blocks later on. TIMBY has different permissions to enable parts of the group to see as much or as little of the data as is necessary for their work. You can upload shape files of global or local concessions or lands straight into the dashboard to the “Map View” to ensure your reporting is informed.
The Storytelling Tool
Users can drag and drop verified reports into the tool to write updates to investors or managers, create press releases destined to governors, legislators and the media, or create community content (for better community engagement). The stories and reports can be published online or sent by mailing list (RSS) or email through a private link. You can click and download all the original data (photos, videos, documents), for easy sharing. TIMBY is currently being used in around 25 countries for everything from land tenure to health service delivery and is available in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Filipino, Swahili and Arabic.
TIMBY is growing rapidly. It is currently available in 10 languages and is being used in 25 countries on projects as varied as documenting illegal resource extraction in Liberia to monitoring projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a major development bank.
Communication with Communities, Monitoring & Evaluation and Data Collection/Needs Assessments
Communication with Communities, Monitoring & Evaluation and Data Collection/Needs AssessmentsSEE LESS
Development challenges in areas such as service delivery, governance and accountability, require the collaboration of numerous stakeholders: from community groups to local and national organizations, legal associations, policy-makers, corporates and investors. But communication among these groups (who may be hundreds or thousands of miles apart) can be a real challenge as databasing, backing-up and sharing information can be difficult; a lot of crucial information can get lost on a shelf or virus-ridden computer, preventing the long-term work required to make change in this space.
Specifically, ensuring that documentation from the frontlines (of projects and issues) is easily and safely collected, collated and shared with decision-makers, is crucial to this process. Similarly, there’s a need for information from the top (contracts, audits, assessments) to be shared with groups working on the ground.
TIMBY helps streamline communication between frontline staff and affected communities, and stakeholders – however removed they may be. The TIMBY tools include a mobile application for collecting geo-referenced reports; a moderation dashboard to verify, search through, and collate reports; and a storytelling tool to generate reports, press releases, blogs, court-ready documents, RSS feeds and more. Everything can be done with a few clicks of a button for long-term investigations and sharing over space and time.
All data on the mobile application is encrypted to ensure field reporters and data stay safe. The system is heavily icon-based and colour-coded for use in literacy-challenged situations. Maps and layers (including community-generated content) can be uploaded, or imported from global repositories like Global Forest Watch. We’ve worked with activists, companies, paralegals and more, to design a system to handle verifications, triage issues of importance, and handle grievances effectively. Of course, the key is in the set-up, to ensure the system is impact-driven. Each group works with the TIMBY team of designers and data specialists to build a custom site based on their needs.
TIMBY was born out of grassroots work with community groups and civil society organizations in Liberia and continues to be used for grassroots monitoring of environmental, social and human rights issues and more. The most rapidly expanding arms of TIMBY, however, have been with: (a) investors and corporate groups working on corporate social responsibility projects in the developing world (conflict with communities makes for bad business); (b) development agencies and banks monitoring field projects; (c) international legal and investigative journalism collaborations (which require the combined knowledge of international issues/standards/audits and on-the-ground reporting); (c) institutions that self-report to better their service delivery.
We currently operate projects in 20 countries, including the Central African Republic, Chile, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Egypt, Ghana, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Panama, Philippines, Senegal, Solomon Islands, South Africa and Syria.
TIMBY’s founder, Anjali Nayar, was an environmental journalist for over a decade. During this time, resource issues – such as land grabbing – cropped up in her copy again and again. She always questioned why the majority of environmental reporting happened after the damage had been done – after huge swaths of land had been handed to foreign actors, and thousands of people had lost their land. Many of the affected communities had been aware about the issues for months if not years, they just didn’t have a way to meaningfully participate in policy conversations. When they got to the table, the questions always surround whether something had actually occurred rather than what to do about it.
TIMBY is made up of a collective of designers, technologists, security experts, mapping experts, journalists and activists that want to break boundaries to solve some of the world’s most difficult issues. The suite of TIMBY tools was designed iteratively from the ground up, with developers deep in the Liberia bush. It’s a solution for the Global South designed and built IN the Global South, to ensure groups living and working of the frontlines of these global issues participate in decision-making.
More broadly, in our corporate, investor and institutional work, our vision is that accountability makes sense. Protests and breakdowns of trust aren’t good for communities and aren’t good for business either. We work hand in hand with groups to help develop systems iteratively that work in some of the most challenging areas for technology: off-grid rural communities, refugee camps and dense urban centers. We’re here to problem-solve – that’s the fun part.
We designed and built TIMBY iteratively with users on the frontlines of land conflict situations in rural Liberia, one of the most challenging environments to run a technology project. TIMBY has been adapted for use in offline environments, among semi-literate users, and for pretty much every difficulty that you could encounter in the field. We’ve seen it all.
Furthermore, many current information-gathering tools are insecure: they either use traceable SMS technology, are unencrypted, lack other security precautions needed to protect reporters, or handle key management poorly. Security is one of the pillars of the TIMBY system. We have multiple years of security including encryption on the mobile device, certificate pinning, and monitoring of servers, to do our best to keep people safe. We are very aware that many of the most important aspects of security in the field is in the hands of its users. As a result, TIMBY runs sessions on digital security during its workshop trainings.
Another reason many projects don’t work for long-term investigations is because they don’t provide a way to find the stories within the data. TIMBY uses the unit of the report to help users visualize and find the meaning in their data. We help users build content – we’ve created several ways to move data points to action points. The output – to legislators, to policy makers, to the government and to media contacts – includes blogs, reports, press releases, court-ready documents, with the ability to download all original documentation, with the click of a button.
We are currently building the TIMBY system to work better for investors, institutions and corporates, including better triaging systems to facilitate grievance mechanisms and follow-ups. We are also working to upgrade our in-app maps and build an iOS version of the TIMBY app to accommodate users from the Americas and Europe (the current the system runs on Android only). We are always open to new bells and whistles. If there’s anything you’d like to see be part of the TIMBY system, don’t hesitate to let us know.