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Posts Tagged ‘Oxfam’

This post was written with input from Maliha Khan, Independent Consultant; Emily Tomkys, Oxfam GB; Siobhan Green, Sonjara and Zara Rahman, The Engine Room.

A friend reminded me earlier this month at the MERL Tech Conference that a few years ago when we brought up the need for greater attention to privacy, security and ethics when using ICTs and digital data in humanitarian and development contexts, people pointed us to Tor, encryption and specialized apps. “No, no, that’s not what we mean!” we kept saying. “This is bigger. It needs to be holistic. It’s not just more tools and tech.”

So, even if as a sector we are still struggling to understand and address all the different elements of what’s now referred to as “Responsible Data” (thanks to the great work of the Engine Room and key partners), at least we’ve come a long way towards framing and defining the areas we need to tackle. We understand the increasing urgency of the issue that the volume of data in the world is increasing exponentially and the data in our sector is becoming more and more digitalized.

This year’s MERL Tech included several sessions on Responsible Data, including Responsible Data Policies, the Human Element of the Data Cycle, The Changing Nature of Informed Consent, Remote Monitoring in Fragile Environments and plenary talks that mentioned ethics, privacy and consent as integral pieces of any MERL Tech effort.

The session on Responsible Data Policies was a space to share with participants why, how, and what policies some organizations have put in place in an attempt to be more responsible. The presenters spoke about the different elements and processes their organizations have followed, and the reasoning behind the creation of these policies. They spoke about early results from the policies, though it is still early days when it comes to implementing them.

What do we mean by Responsible Data?

Responsible data is about more than just privacy or encryption. It’s a wider concept that includes attention to the data cycle at every step, and puts the rights of people reflected in the data first:

  • Clear planning and purposeful collection and use of data with the aim of improving humanitarian and development approaches and results for those we work with and for
  • Responsible treatment of the data and respectful and ethical engagement with people we collect data from, including privacy and security of data and careful attention to consent processes and/or duty of care
  • Clarity on data sharing – what data, from whom and with whom and under what circumstances and conditions
  • Attention to transparency and accountability efforts in all directions (upwards, downwards and horizontally)
  • Responsible maintenance, retention or destruction of data.

Existing documentation and areas to explore

There is a huge bucket of concepts, frameworks, laws and policies that already exist in various other sectors and that can be used, adapted and built on to develop responsible approaches to data in development and humanitarian work. Some of these are in conflict with one another, however, and those conflicts need to be worked out or at least recognized if we are to move forward as a sector and/or in our own organizations.

Some areas to explore when developing a Responsible Data policy include:

  • An organization’s existing policies and practices (IT and equipment; downloading; storing of official information; confidentiality; monitoring, evaluation and research; data collection and storage for program administration, finance and audit purposes; consent and storage for digital images and communications; social media policies).
  • Local and global laws that relate to collection, storage, use and destruction of data, such as: Freedom of information acts (FOIA); consumer protection laws; data storage and transfer regulations; laws related to data collection from minors; privacy regulations such as the latest from the EU.
  • Donor grant requirements related to data privacy and open data, such as USAID’s Chapter 579 or International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) stipulations.

Experiences with Responsible Data Policies

At the MERL Tech Responsible Data Policy session, organizers and participants shared their experiences. The first step for everyone developing a policy was establishing wide agreement and buy-in for why their organizations should care about Responsible Data. This was done by developing Values and Principles that form the foundation for policies and guidance.

Oxfam’s Responsible Data policy has a focus on rights, since Oxfam is a rights-based organization. The organization’s existing values made it clear that ethical use and treatment of data was something the organization must consider to hold true to its ethos. It took around six months to get all of the global affiliates to agree on the Responsible Program Data policy, a quick turnaround compared to other globally agreed documents because all the global executive directors recognized that this policy was critical. A core point for Oxfam was the belief that digital identities and access will become increasingly important for inclusion in the future, and so the organization did not want to stand in the way of people being counted and heard. However, it wanted to be sure that this was done in a way that balanced and took privacy and security into consideration.

The policy is a short document that is now in the process of operationalization in all the countries where Oxfam works. Because many of Oxfam’s affiliate headquarters reside in the European Union, it needs to consider the new EU regulations on data, which are extremely strict, for example, providing everyone with an option for withdrawing consent. This poses a challenge for development agencies who normally do not have the type of detailed databases on ‘beneficiaries’ as they do on private donors. Shifting thinking about ‘beneficiaries’ and treating them more as clients may be in order as one result of these new regulations. As Oxfam moves into implementation, challenges continue to arise. For example, data protection in Yemen is different than data protection in Haiti. Knowing all the national level laws and frameworks and mapping these out alongside donor requirements and internal policies is extremely complicated, and providing guidance to country staff is difficult given that each country has different laws.

Girl Effect’s policy has a focus on privacy, security and safety of adolescent girls, who are the core constituency of the organization. The policy became clearly necessary because although the organization had a strong girl safeguarding policy and practice, the effect of digital data had not previously been considered, and the number of programs that involve digital tools and data is increasing. The Girl Effect policy currently has four core chapters: privacy and security during design of a tool, service or platform; content considerations; partner vetting; and MEAL considerations. Girl Effect looks at not only the privacy and security elements, but also aims to spur thinking about potential risks and unintended consequences for girls who access and use digital tools, platforms and content. One core goal is to stimulate implementers to think through a series of questions that help them to identify risks. Another is to establish accountability for decisions around digital data.

The policy has been in process of implementation with one team for a year and will be updated and adapted as the organization learns. It has proven to have good uptake so far from team members and partners, and has become core to how the teams and the wider organization think about digital programming. Cost and time for implementation increase with the incorporation of stricter policies, however, and it is challenging to find a good balance between privacy and security, the ability to safely collect and use data to adapt and improve tools and platforms, and user friendliness/ease of use.

Catholic Relief Services has an existing set of eight organizational principles: Sacredness and Dignity of the human person; Rights and responsibilities; Social Nature of Humanity; The Common Good; Subsidiarity; Solidarity; Option for the Poor; Stewardship. It was a natural fit to see how these values that are already embedded in the organization could extend to the idea of Responsible Data. Data is an extension of the human person, therefore it should be afforded the same respect as the individual. The principle of ‘common good’ easily extends to responsible data sharing. The notion of subsidiarity says that decision-making should happen as close as possible to the place where the impact of the decision will be the strongest, and this is nicely linked with the idea of sharing data back with communities where CRS works and engaging them in decision-making. The option for the poor urges CRS to place a preferential value on privacy, security and safety of the data of the poor over the data demands of other entities.

The organization is at the initial phase of creating its Responsible Data Policy. The process includes the development of the values and principles, two country learning visits to understand the practices of country programs and their concerns about data, development of the policy, and a set of guidelines to support staff in following the policy.

USAID recently embarked on its process of developing practical Responsible Data guidance to pair with its efforts in the area of open data. (See ADS 579). More information will be available soon on this initiative.

Where are we now?

Though several organizations are moving towards the development of policies and guidelines, it was clear from the session that uncertainties are the order of the day, as Responsible Data is an ethical question, often relying on tradeoffs and decisions that are not hard and fast. Policies and guidelines generally aim to help implementers ask the right questions, sort through a range of possibilities and weigh potential risks and benefits.

Another critical aspect that was raised at the MERL Tech session was the financial and staff resources that can be required to be responsible about data. On the other hand, for those organizations receiving funds from the European Union or residing in the EU or the UK (where despite Brexit, organizations will likely need to comply with EU Privacy Regulations), the new regulations mean that NOT being responsible about data may result in hefty fines and potential legal action.

Going from policy to implementation is a challenge that involves both capacity strengthening in this new area as well as behavior change and a better understanding of emerging concepts and multiple legal frameworks. The nuances by country, organization and donor make the process difficult to get a handle on.

Because staff and management are already overburdened, the trick to developing and implementing Responsible Data Policies and Practice will be finding ways to strengthen staff capacity and to provide guidance in ways that do not feel overwhelmingly complex. Though each situation will be different, finding ongoing ways to share resources and experiences so that we can advance as a sector will be one key step for moving forward.

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This post is copied from an email that my colleague Kelly Hawrylyshyn sent to me. Kelly works on disaster risk reduction (DRR) with Plan UK. If you work on DRR and gender, go on, get yourself on the map!

Women and girls make a major contribution to disaster risk reduction and yet their role and involvement often go unacknowledged. In recognition of this gap, the Gender & Disaster Network, the Huairou Commission, Oxfam International and Plan International are facilitating the greater visibility of women and girls as part of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), October 13th, 2012.

Gender inequalities around the world mean that women and girls are most severely affected by disaster. However, they also have significant experience and knowledge to contribute to disaster prevention and to the resilience of communities.

With this in mind, our efforts aim to move beyond portraying women and girls as mere victims of disasters and to provide spaces and opportunities for women and girls to connect and partner freely with local governments and organizations. We aim to showcase how women and girls around the world are carrying out disaster reduction and prevention actions; engaging and leading in climate change awareness activities; taking part in demonstrations and simulations; promoting resilient cities initiatives; and mapping risks.

Using crowdsourcing and crowdmapping tools, we aim to generate greater visibility and recognition of local initiatives by women and girls worldwide for disaster risk reduction.

Visit our map and report your own examples, in advance of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, October 13th, 2012.

We need your help to “put on the map” the numerous research initiatives, media events, publications, training materials, advocacy, workshops, networks/associations, and other activities that are happening and need to be made VISIBLE!

Contributions from both individual women and girls and organizations engaged in DRR are welcomed.

And who knows, you may get to find out about some interesting work taking place in your country, or miles away from you!

Join Us to make visible Women and Girls on the Map!

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Report released March 29, 2010

Often adults think that children and youth don’t have the capacity to express themselves or make good decisions.  I’ve been working with kids for a long time and I wholeheartedly disagree.  It makes me cringe when I hear adults making a big fuss out of something intelligent that a child or a young person says.

I’m not amazed anymore when kids say something profound or brilliant – I’ve come to expect it.  When trusted and given a comfortable space to say what they think, children and young people tend to bring critical insights to a situation, especially when it’s one that directly impacts on them and their lives.

So when adults are designing and implementing programs, instead of assuming that they know what is best for children and youth, it’s a good idea to actually ask them and involve them.

The “Children’s Voices in the PDNA” project (implemented by Plan with support from UNICEF) did exactly that:  experienced Haitian facilitators developed a child friendly methodology to consult with 54 groups of children and youth – almost 1000 kids in total – in 9 departments in Haiti to find out what they wanted to see in the new Haiti.  The resulting document in full can be found here, and is well worth a look-through.

The consultations focused on a few broad areas:

  • the impact of the January 2010 earthquake on children’s and youth’s lives and that of their communities
  • their visions for the reconstruction and long-term development of their country
  • their views regarding their present situations and future risks they may face
  • their ideas on how they would like to participate the future development of their country.

The project aimed at not only gathering opinions and ideas from the participating children and youth to feed into the PDNA, but to help them understand the PDNA process and how it would link into the long-term reconstruction in Haiti and impact on their own lives. Children and youth were also given the space to share ideas for accountability, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Participants were divided into age-based groups (5-10, 11-16 and 17-24 year olds) for the consultations, and their responses were recorded according to sex in order to ensure that gender-based information was available for future program planning.  The 4 main categories of the PDNA were included as well: social sectors, infrastructure, production sectors, and governance/security. In order to ensure a holistic approach when coming up with solutions, the root causes of vulnerability and risk were discussed.  Environmental hazards such as earthquakes, floods, landslides, and social risks like child trafficking, child protection, violence and abuse were addressed.  A summary of the children and youths priorities by age and sex is found on page 19 of the document.

Children and youth certainly had something to say.

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I want a different Haiti where we, the youth, have a chance to participate with the government; we can be part of the government and of all activities in the country. In the past, youth had been completely excluded; we need a new strategy or approach to achieve this end.” Boy in age group 11-16, Croix des Bouquets

I’m sure we’ll have a better Haiti with the participation of youth and children. Then, Haiti would become a beautiful country. Haiti cannot be rebuilt without the participation of children and youth, we are Haiti’s present, we will be Haiti’s future.” Girl in age group 11-16yrs, Croix des Bouquets

After the earthquake, I have seen a deprived youth. The country had assumed a thinking mind on behalf of Haitian youth. Because in my vision, I saw there was no future for the youth. We need to make men act consciously to facilitate equal distribution of things and to help every citizen according to his needs. My advice would be to decentralize the country, think of the whole country and rebuild the country consciously. Awareness is crucial to achieve a better distribution of international aid so it can benefit those most in need.” 22 year old male, Cyvadier / South-East

First, the focus group was a very good activity; everyone was involved and conscientious. Everyone had the opportunity to express their ideas and opinions freely. About January 12, I think everyone has his or her own way to live, understand and explain this event. But, there is still confusion and fear among people. They are traumatized and desperate. Now, we must reconsider, give room for everyone, listen to every person with positive ideas in the context of the reconstruction.” 18 year old female, Department of the West

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Permission for two of the participating youth to attend a March 30th Side Event called “A Haiti Fit for Children” and to participate in the March 31st Donors Conference (both held in New York City), was granted. Ironically, the youth were denied visas to enter the US.  In my last post about Haiti I asked “Will Haitian youth go missing again?” The answer is “yes.”  But at least we can hope that their voices in written form will reach the eyes and ears of decision makers and donors. I hope that they will listen.  Children under 18 make up around 50% of the population in Haiti… if they go unheard, that is a lot of missing voices.

If you are reading this blog post and you plan to launch an initiative in Haiti, I hope you also will take 15 minutes to read through the “Children and Young People’s Voices in Haiti’s Post Disaster Needs Assessment” to hear what these 1000 children and youth in Haiti have to say.

But not only that.  I hope that before doing anything on the ground in Haiti, you or someone that you are working with will directly talk with and listen to Haitian children and young people, as well as with their parents, teachers, community leaders, and others in the communities that you are hoping to help or support.

Related posts on Wait… What?

Will Haitian youth go missing again?

Children in Emergencies: Applying what we already know to the crisis in Haiti

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