After our team member Jannis Visser was successfully deployed to the Philippines (see: Surge Information Management in the Philippines), there was a request for follow up Surge Information Management Support. This need had a different focus; where Jannis Visser had set up and processes and dashboards for collecting and sharing operational data and information, there now was a request for building information management capacity at the PRC. The goal was to assess the relatively new MEAL and IM unit, writing a recommendation and sharing knowledge. In late November 2016, Rebecca Visschedijk was deployed to the Philippines for a second rotation as Surge Information Management Delegate. The following blog gives an account of her experiences.
The MEAL (Monitoring Evaluation Accountability Learning) & IM unit had been recently formed. It is part of the Disaster Management Services, one of the departments of the Philippines Red Cross. To support the establishment of this unit Rebecca held interviews, read current documentation, and made use of her on-the-job observations during the other aspects of the mission. The assessment focussed on the roles and responsibilities of the unit, following a structure with aspects of a gap analysis:
This ultimately resulted in an Assessment and Recommendation Presentation for the unit, an Assessment and Recommendation Two-Pager for management and a Products and Services document similar to SIMS Menu of Services. This last document provides a clear overview of what IM products and services can be made by the unit. Furthermore Rebecca ensured that the realistic roles and responsibilities of the unit were reflected in documentation and standard operating procedures.
An important and easily overlooked aspect of the deployment was the sharing of knowledge and best practices between the Philippines Red Cross and the Netherlands Red Cross/510 team. Every day questions like: “How do you do [..]?”, “What do you think of [..]?”, “Do you have a template for [..]?”, “How would you tackle this issue?” went in both directions. Making this a learning experience for both the Philippines Red Cross as well as Netherlands Red Cross/510.
Throughout the mission Rebecca from the Netherlands Red Cross gained insight in how emergency operations are organized when a typhoon strikes. More interesting for information management: how does information flow, what is working well, what remains challenging. A useful for the 510 team was better understanding the exact information needs of operational decision makers. It was especially encouraging that the Philippines Red Cross aims to be more data-driven and make better informed decisions.
During the low hours of the Typhoon Haima response, we could also look into the different tools the Netherlands Red Cross and the Philippines Red Cross use for our data and information management processes and discuss the pro’s and con’s.
For reporting to internal and external stakeholders of both national societies (such as donors, leadership, volunteers and colleagues) we found similar questions which can be answered with similar field data. Therefore we reviewed our reporting templates. The discussion was on what information do we need to share? We concluded that on the one hand there are standard facts and figures (almost) every stakeholder wants to know, on the other hand there is also space needed for other information based on type of disaster and the context. The possibility to add comments on the data is also appreciated by the volunteers and other colleagues, since data only is not always clear.
Second question: How do you make the template easy to use and easy to understand? For this answer we kindly refer you to 50 Humanitarian IM Tips made by Simon Johnson, a really useful presentation that tackles this and other questions in humanitarian response. Realizing above points sound easy enough, however the trick is to keep it simple. Working internationally and in a complex environment can easily results in misunderstandings or data that cannot (easily) be aggregated and/or analysed.
We dived into currently used applications. For example Trello, which we use with the 510 team for our daily task and project management. This tool is now also adopted by the Philippines Red Cross. The tool creates a clear overview of what tasks are still to do, what everyone in the unit is working on and what the team has already done.
Furthermore we exchanged what Humanitarian Information Management developments there are within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, as well as outside the Movement. And last but not least sharing relevant SIMS or other guides and tutorials, to ensure there was back-up documentation available, once the Surge Information Management Support was phased out. There is simply no need to reinvent the wheel.
Late December 2016 another typhoon named Nock-Ten unfortunately hit the Philippines. Like it had done before, the 510 team prepared the priority index in the aftermath of this typhoon. The Philippines Red Cross independently created and published the Nock-Ten 3W dashboard. This dashboard was copied from the Haima 3W dashboard and has been adjusted for the Nock-Ten operations.
It is great to see how the MEAL & IM unit at the Philippines Red Cross is taking on Information Management since the Surge Information Management System has phased out. Being able to put new dashboards online and continue creating maps. We are also glad that whenever someone of the 510 team or the Philippines Red Cross MEAL IM unit has a short IM related question, wecan easily reach out to each other.
An initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross. We want to shape the future of humanitarian aid by converting data into understanding, and put it in the hands of humanitarian relief workers, decision makers and people affected, so that they can better prepare for and cope with disasters and crises. Among our data scientists are many volunteers and their input to our work is highly appreciated.
Want to join us and have an impact in humanitarian aid through the use of data? Contact us.