Case Study

Field Monitoring For Humanitarian Operations


Project Brief

We applied our data-visualization technology and provided full data lifecycle advisory services to support UNICEF in monitoring programmatic interventions, and amplify operational intelligence for emergency response across South Sudan. We supported the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) team with data methodology and strategy design, digitization and automation of paper-based data collection tools, and real-time visualizations of hundreds of metrics pertaining to delivery of basic humanitarian needs to children and mothers in program areas of nutrition, child protection, health, education, supply and WASH. Using Keshif, UNICEF staff are able to easily and intuitively navigate multiple projects and programmatic interventions, better understand the situation on the ground, identify programmatic constraints, and respond to emergency needs in real-time so as to ensure delivery of programs and accountability to donors.

About The Field Monitoring Database

The Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) team at UNICEF in Juba, South Sudan monitors and ensures the delivery of basic humanitarian needs to children and mothers in the areas of nutrition, child protection, health, education and WASH. A key focus in their operations is to measure progress in program delivery, and track urgent field requests known as Action Points,* which are raised by field officers during their on-site monitoring visits. Written primarily in unstructured text format, field officers identify these action points needs, assign role to a designated officer, and set a timeline for the deliverable (usually two weeks). The PME team manages the Field Monitoring and Action Tracking Database to ensure quality assurance and accountability of program delivery by local partners, and meet the emergency needs in a timely manner.

The Challenge

UNICEF employed a set of slow and error-prone processes to monitor and analyze programmatic interventions, constraints, and impact on the ground. Staff used paper based surveys for data collection during field visits. They then entered the data manually in a shared excel online file, which was later used to produce analysis. These data entry and management process can often led to errors and loss of information, presented gaps in proper tracking and data quality, ultimately preventing the team from producing accurate, reliable and timely results for effective decision making. The database needed to be elevated to a real-time analytics system, with a streamlined, digitized, and automated data capturing workflow, improvement of data quality and processing, and real time display of results across programs, partners, geography, and time.

Our Technical and Design Approach

TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

We deployed our proprietary technology to develop multiple specialized visualization dashboards and custom features that helped make section-specific and action points data explorable in real time through interactive maps, charts, and other engaging visualization techniques, in a secure way.

  1. Real-Time Integration with Survey Platforms: We developed a seamless integration of Keshif with Kobo Toolbox and ONA survey platforms to enable direct data feeds and real time display of field monitoring results.
  2. Action Points Management Dashboard: We implemented a customized, actionable dashboard to improve the processing and review mechanism for action points, and implemented custom features to automate email generation and reminders to designated staff, track deadlines, determine the status of each action point, and edit action point status directly in the dashboard. Our solution features instant filters to enable flexible querying and analysis based on geographic, programmatic, partner-specific, and single action point information.
  3. Field Monitoring and Staff Accountability Dashboard: We implemented a specialized dashboard to monitor staff site travel and navigate field visit data across different metrics, including individual staff member performance, frequency of visits in partner sites, and outreach to remote area partners, outside urban spaces.
  4. Program Specific Dashboards: We implemented dashboards for analysis of program-specific metrics to help evaluate program delivery in the following six core areas: Nutrition, Child Protection, Health, Education, Supply and WASH. These dashboards enabled UNICEF staff to understand program interventions’ impact on the ground, determine gaps in program implementation, and monitor grantee performance.

DATA ADVISORY SERVICES

We provided advisory services throughout the project lifecycle, completing our 360-degree approach around Keshif’s uniquely intuitive and rapid visualization technology.

  1. Strengthen data methodologies and strategies: We reviewed details of the data methodology, identified and refined the scope of the process, transformed paper-based questionnaires consisting of a total of 680 questions across six program areas into digital ones, and created appropriate filters and workflows.
  2. Capture and enrich data via surveys and automation: We designed a structured, automated survey form using XLS forms, and deployed it using Kobo Toolbox for mobile use (both online and offline, with a GIS component).
  3. Ensure data quality and integrity via detailed data reviews and transformations: We performed near real time progress in data entry monitoring, error spotting, cleaning and transformation on an ongoing basis.
  4. Deliver and support rich reporting and effective presentation of data, with subject-matter care: We provided 360 analytics services support on analyzing gaps in data collection and analysis by the field staff, and conducted in-depth trend analysis of the results.
  5. Transfer know-how in data analytics: We provided capacity development and training to UNICEF staff through a suite of help materials, video tutorials, and in-person trainings for step-by-step guidance and demonstrations on the effective use of the solutions. We also developed a SharePoint page within UNICEF’s Microsoft ecosystem to organize the information and make it easy for knowledge sharing.

Our Project Lifecycle Approach

We adopted a co-design approach where we served as an embedded member of the team and engaged our client throughout the project lifecycle from discovery and ideation to delivery, allowing us to effectively respond to their technical and programmatic needs.

  1. In the initial engagement phase, Keshif team traveled to the field, consulted and engaged with various stakeholders (including external partners and grantees) to identify needs, goals and refine the scope of the project.
  2. We then co-designed and deployed the field monitorinng survey based on a series of one-on-one engagements, workshops and feedback loops throughout the data collection and validation process.
  3. We rapidly deployed our proprietary data technology to make an engaging analytics solution as a prototype and tested it on the field with local and international staff.
  4. In the evaluation phase, we traveled on the ground and tested the solution with thirty staff in two project sites, one of them, an Internally Displaced Camp in Juba. We incorporated the feedback from site visits and the PME team to ensure our solution was effective, engaging, intuitive and easy-to-use. Based on these insights, we delivered a refined solution, and developed training material and tutorials for capacity building.
  5. Finally, for quality assurance on data collectionn and analysis, we continued providing analytics support that created a feedback loop for each area of the data lifecycle and improve upon technology, process, substance/survey and staff training for impactful outcomes and results.

Testimonial

The power of big data analysis is often praised, but with its workings left to be understood by a handful of technical experts. The resulting “black-box effect” does not promote trust in the results, or better understanding of their meanings and limitations. Keshif was however able to help us develop a solid system that yields complex results instantaneously, and yet is simple and transparent enough that users can track where results come from and be confident about their meanings. Keshif’s work was also eye-opening as it helped the team understand the power of better using available information, and trained them on many useful in data collection, management, analysis and presentation skills and tools.

P. Fallavier, Former Chief, Social Policy, Planning, Monitoring & Evaluation, UNICEF

About UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was created by the UN General Assembly in 1946 address the needs of children and mothers including in the areas of child protection, adolescent development, vaccination and antiretroviral medicines, nutritional supplements and educational supplies. UNICEF works in over 190+ countries and territories with the support of its partners deployed on the field, who are given the resources to respond to related programmatic emergencies locally.