When we capture data about the people we work with, who is it for?
If it was about and for them, we’d capture the data in a way that they could use it, access it, delete it, control it, see how it is used, see who sees it, etc. If it was about them the design would have them as the primary user. If it was about them, we’d use the data to figure out how we can improve our work with them, figure out how to customise our interactions with and services to each person or household. If it was about them, we look at the data as a programme, not individual projects, looking for people who we are interacting with in one project who could be benefiting from activities in other projects.
If it is about us, we’d design our systems for making it easier to comply with donor requirements and internal policies. If it is about us, we focus on mass efficiency not mass customisation. If it is about us, we’d ‘own’ the data ensuring there are tick boxes in place to ensure we follow the letter of the law. If it is about us, we’d make the system and ourselves the centre of the design. If it is about us, we’d insist no aid can be given without data and the ability to capture data would be a prerequisite for aid delivery.
The choice is up to us. And it doesn’t need to be one or the other, but one will always take primacy over the other – it important to be clear on which one you want it to be.