Making Sense Toolkit

developed by Fab Lab Barcelona, WAAG Society, NL Dundee University, UK EC Joint Research Center, BE PEN Educational Network, KS

What is it?

A toolkit based on the EU funded research project Making Sense, that developed activities of participatory and citizens sensing by leveraging on open hardware/software technologies, engaging communities of interest and practice on environmental issues in three European cities (Barcelona, Amsterdam and Prishtina).

Making Sense harnesses the increase in popularity of maker spaces and fab labs which work on the principle of open source hardware, software and design. Making Sense is a good example of citizen-driven innovation - working with the sensing platform Smart Citizen. The data gathered from the Making Sense toolkits is now used to inform a methodological framework for participatory environmental practices, a concrete positive behaviour change.

What is it useful for?

  • collective awareness of local communities

  • community engagement and co-creation

  • identification of critical environmental issues: air, water, soil and sound pollution

  • hands-on transformation of the (urban) environment

Description from Authors:

The key stages of activity are described with their corresponding set of cross-cutting principles. These stages and principles are specifically geared towards projects aimed at supporting community action.The stages of the framework provides an idea of who is involved at which point, what usually happens at that time, and key objectives or milestones to be achieved at each stage. Alongside these stages, principles are defined which lie at the heart of this process, and these should be used as a guide for participants at any stage, and for citizen sensing as a whole. These principles are co-creation; empowerment; openness; and changemaking.


1. Scoping

Important issues are discovered, mapped and discussed by the key participants. Information is gathered by internet searches; collecting articles, news reports and literature; or by conducting surveys and interviews. At this time existing communities are found and new ones start to form.

TOOLS: Geographical mapping, commons mapping, collaboration pilot schedule

2. Community building

All participants to come to a shared understanding of the issue, the goals of the campaign, the organisation of the project and how to document activities The skills of the participants are identified and new skills are developed. Additionally, other stakeholder are brought on board if there are any skills or expertise missing.

TOOLS: Onboarding, empathy timeline, recruitment

3. Planning

Participants decide collectively on the project goals, on sensing strategies and on protocols for collecting data. This includes a plan for collecting other types of indicators. It is when the sensing tools are created or developed from existing resources and are tested and calibrated.

TOOLS: Community level indicators, sensing strategy canvas, calibration, targeted measurements

4. Sensing

Everyone collects data on the issue i.e. environmental pollution. The data can be uploaded to a publicly accessible online platform. Participants can also take notes and record observations about how their lives are affected by the issue. Collecting these indicators can support the sensor data and be used to demonstrate the impacts to external individuals and government officials.

TOOLS: Sensing guides, data journals, operation manual, open hardware

5. Awareness

Using all the data and complementary indicators gathered during the sensing phase, the information is analysed and discussed amongst the community. The aim is to build a collective awareness from the data. The analysis stage can include activities such as data visualisation, and people from professional science or academia.

TOOLS: Awareness sheet, data discussion sheet, data dashboard

6. Action

After the issues have been identified, participants work together to propose courses of action. The aim is to devise, organise and deliver an action, or series of actions, that can generate recognition of the issue, make an impact and make change. Actions can range from an individual change to public-facing activities (e.g. a protest) aimed at widening awareness, or even policy change.

TOOLS: Digital presence, future news paper, co-creation assemblies

7. Reflection

Participants reflect on the process to date, and consider what worked well and what could be improved. This can include looking at the data and seeing if there was change as a result of the action. This might require the participants to repeat stages, or return to previous phases.

TOOLS: Questionnaires, pilot appraisal, graduation ceremony

8. Legacy

A legacy is created by looking towards the future of the project and making a plan for lasting impact. Plans for sharing information and news should be included to ensure that the project is sustainable, the project’s tools are being reused, and uptake continues.

TOOLS: Storylines, next generation training

Useful links and resources:

Last updated