News
Professor Goldberg receives Chancellor's Faculty Award for Research in the Public Interest
April 12, 2018

Professor Ken Goldberg has been awarded the Chancellor's Award for Faculty Research in the Public Interest for his work with a team of postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students that have spent the last four years developing the Collaborative Assessment and Feedback Engine (CAFE).

CAFE team members include:

  • Brandie Nonnecke, Postdoc, CAFE Team Program Manager, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute
  • Camille Crittenden, Deputy Director, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute
  • Sanjay Krishnan, Graduate Student, EECS, UC Berkeley
  • Jay Patel, Graduate Student, EECS, UC Berkeley
  • Mo Zhou, Graduate Student, IEOR, UC Berkeley
  • Shrestha Mohanty, Graduate Student, School of Information, UC Berkeley

The team is passionate about creating tools for communities to provide collective input into decisions that affect them directly. This open source, e-participation platform provides participants dynamic visual feedback about their position on key social issues, applies statistical models and collaborative filtering to rapidly discover emerging trends as data is collected, and presents emerging insights back to participants and decision-makers in near real time. By fostering open-ended dialogue and facilitating a more nuanced assessment of public opinion about complex issues, CAFE enables more informed organizational decisions while increasing participant engagement in decision-making processes. The team has worked directly with collaborators in Mexico, Uganda and the Philippines to ensure the questions and methodology used to analyze and present the data are culturally appropriate. Team members have traveled to locations in the field to overcome any technological complexities and to work with local partners for knowledge transfer and sustainability of the project.

In a crowded and often chaotic media environment, synthesizing public opinion on timely issues is a challenge. Traditional surveys are time-consuming, error prone, and lack peer-to-peer evaluation by participants themselves. Goldberg and his team at UC Berkeley developed the Collaborative Assessment and Feedback Engine (CAFE) to streamline and structure quantitative and qualitative data and present emerging results back to participants and decision makers, enabling participants to see where they stand in relation to their peers on important issues and providing decision makers with insights into the changing needs and priorities of their constituents (see http://cafesystem.org). The team has successfully implemented CAFE to address a variety of social issues, from the effectiveness of family planning measures in Uganda to the political context of midterm elections in Mexico. Altogether, the platform has gathered feedback from over 25,000 participants across four countries: The United States, Mexico, Uganda, and the Philippines. Initially implemented as the California Report Card (see http://californiareportcard.org) to gather ideas for priority state-level policy issues from over 20,000 participants in California in both English and Spanish, CAFE was used subsequently in Mexico to gather feedback from over 3,500 participants on priorities for the June 2015 midterm elections (see http://www.mxparticipa.org). CAFE has also been applied to empower mothers participating in programs in rural Uganda to collectively evaluate the effectiveness of family planning trainings and, most recently, in the Philippines to gather ideas for how local government units can improve disaster risk reduction strategies.

The CAFE platform has successfully empowered participants to identify priority issues for their communities and streamline the delivery of this feedback to those who make decisions on their behalf. The California Report Card implementation surfaced widespread concern for earthquake preparedness. As a result, the team continued a partnership with the Office of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to develop QuakeCAFE, collecting ideas for how California state leaders could help residents better prepare for a major earthquake. Mexico Participa enabled the National Electoral Institute to identify priority issues in advance of the 2015 election, including concerns regarding corruption and strategies to mitigate its impact. In Uganda, CAFE enabled insight into barriers to effective family planning, offering administrators of the trainings new ideas for improving their efforts. And in the Philippines, CAFE has facilitated community-driven strategies for typhoon and flood preparedness; the platform has been developed with local university students and faculty, who have also gained insights from the application of new technology and social science methods.

For information about the CAFE platform click here.