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Your Word Counts is a project focused on accountability in humanitarian response, where rather than relying on traditional hotlines, we are interested in capturing information shared face-to-face and consolidating feedback from different mechanisms to improve how cases are managed and responded to.

The project is centred around how to foster an accountability and data driven culture where we have been working on training materials and data categorisation in preparation for implementation in five countries starting next year. The technology component focuses on the collection and processing of feedback and, while we know this is only a small piece of the puzzle, it has been important to get the foundations for the technology right.

We have spent the past few months setting up the systems based on learning from the pilot in Za’atari, Jordan we ran last year and inputs from the field teams involved. The initial pilot itself uncovered far larger data related issues faced across Oxfam (and we know from discussions, that similar challenges are faced by other organisations too.)

Currently, Oxfam’s data is usually analysed in system silos and data is collected and viewed through a project level lens. Different formats and data standards make it difficult to compare across countries, regions or even globally. When data remains in source systems (such as the mobile data collection tool), trying to analyse between different systems is time consuming, manual and meta analysis is rare.

This is why we have made a start on the DataHub: a system which integrates programme data into a standard set of databases and presents it to a reporting layer for analysis. What’s most exciting about it is that it utilises powerful tools which already exist at our fingertips, focusing more on making the process and flow of data seamless.

Principles of privacy by design have been key from the start and we’ve factored in compliance upfront with new data protection laws. Oxfam collects a lot of valuable data and we know we need to analyse this data more efficiently, effectively, at national level and beyond, to drive our decision making in our programmes.

One of the key tenets of our Responsible Data policy is to only collect data you can use (data minimisation) and to make the most of that information to effectively meet people’s needs. A major learning point taken from the pilot project in Za’atari, was once feedback had been responded to, there was untapped opportunity to be able to do more with the feedback data itself in identifying trends and improving systems.

Oxfam’s DataHub vision

The vision for the DataHub involves bringing together different data sources so that Oxfam’s data can be analysed across source systems. In this way, it doesn’t matter which data is collected or how because all anonymised data ends up in the same place for analysis. Thinking about sustainability and scalability, the system needs to be flexible to have multiple source systems and reporting/analysis tools for the various needs as well as being able to host both unstructured and structured data.

A system diagram of the vision of the DataHub. Credit; Oxfam GB

As a start, Oxfam has focused in on the technology required as part of the Your Word Counts project. SurveyCTO is the selected mobile case management tool because it meeting the programme’s needs, the benefits it brings with data security, and its cost effectiveness. Therefore, the first stage of setting up the DataHub has involved integrating SurveyCTO using webhooks and stored in an unstructured database. The data can then be queried by PowerBI for quantitative reporting and data visualisation.

This will enable Oxfam to quickly report on feedback data across projects, spot trends at a programme level and easily allow country teams to fulfil global reporting requirements on feedback from the people we are working with. Local field teams will be able to use the DataHub for spotting local project trends. National staff can explore feedback data across projects and locations and easily report in the monthly country accountability reporting framework. Regional/global staff can explore feedback across borders.

Standardising data will of course be a challenge but with a global accountability reporting framework in place, we have looked to streamline what is required at the local level, to the reporting required at the global level. Therefore, the best place to start seemed to be Your Word Counts and accountability data.

We are excited about the potential of this technology and the success we have already had in setting up the infrastructure to enable more efficient data analysis and more responsive programming as well as save resources. We know there is a lot of work ahead to foster a data driven organisation but we’re starting to feel, with the right balance of technology, process and culture it’s more realistic than we might have first hoped.

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