Reflections from the ActivityInfo training in Nairobi: humanitarians combining best practices and cooperating on a single platform

ActivityInfo training in Nairobi, Kenya, November 2019
ActivityInfo training in Nairobi, Kenya, November 2019

Twenty two humanitarians from Kenya, Yemen, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt joined the three day ActivityInfo training in Nairobi on November 4th-6th, 2019. Humanitarians coming both from big UN organizations and smaller NGOs came together in the heart of Nairobi to discuss their challenges in information management and to advance their skills in the use of the platform.

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The training started with the basics so that people who were new to the capabilities of the software would be able to easily follow the programme of the next days. The level of difficulty gradually increased from one day to the other and the exercises that took place every day were the source of productive discussions.

The participants were active and very eager to give their recommendations on solutions for various matters and exchanged opinions on best practices on Information Management and Monitoring and Evaluation. There were examples using Kenya (and the Kenya built-in geodatabase) in the database design section and exercises that asked participants to create databases for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On the third day, the participants were able to create their own fully functional databases and forms on the platform and were already ready to prepare for their reporting needs. They worked individually as well as in groups in order to plan and coordinate the way their databases and forms should work.

As the training's requirements increased from one day to the other, the progress of the participants was reflected in the advancing complexity of their questions. By the end of the training, participants were reflecting on how the tool can be used for their own projects and programmes and how their logframe or results framework can be translated to a database in ActivityInfo.

The training also made the participants reflect on the practices taking place inside their organization and encouraged them to think ahead and strategize regarding the preparations needed for the reporting on the 2020 programmes.

As Lucy Brinks, the Training Coordinator puts it,

“Going from a programme to ActivityInfo and then back to your team is a process that needs team cooperation and clear goals. Beforehand preparedness has a catalytic role in the effectiveness of the use of the platform.”

A very interesting point that came out from this training is that when you put together different types of users of ActivityInfo such as the officers who do data entry in the field and the teams that design the forms to collect the data or who do the data analysis at the next stage, you can combine their knowledge, expertise and needs and enhance the end result and the effectiveness of your efforts. The participants, coming from different backgrounds sat together forming teams and realized that by thinking together they can discover wrong assumptions about what is working for each side.

Answering questions such as “How can I make your life easier?” and “What makes a good, unbiased question in a questionnaire?” helped each side realize what needs to be done to facilitate each other and improve the quality of the data collected.

Also creating groups that combined humanitarians coming from organizations of different sizes such as UN organizations and NGOs allowed for a better understanding of the challenges each side faces and made them contemplate on ways of cooperation that can help each other. For example, understanding the potential, the resources or limitations that a smaller NGO has may or should impact the way a data collection form is designed.

There were also some great examples of humanitarians who were new to the platform who ended up ready to start using the platform for their work, right away. Starting with their logframe and an Excel sheet which they previously used, they ended up working in ActivityInfo, setting up databases and testing different types of form combinations and reports.

Commenting on the overall impression of the three day training, the Training Coordinator adds,

“I think that what came out of this training is that people work better when they work together than when they work individually and it was very interesting to see what team effort and cooperating on a single platform can bring to the table”.

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We would like to thank the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi for providing us with the photograph of this blog post.