Many organisations separate the registration funciton from the implementation of good or services function. Separate teams doing separate things. Most governments do something similar – the census department or ministry is separate from the eduction department or ministry. This seperation helps focus, reduce consolidation of power, and, when done well, help highilight vulnerable people.

Unfortunately in most humanitarian responses we do not follow this practice. Most often all teams in all agencies are registering, enrolling, and implementing. This is partly understandable in a rapid onset type of response as agencies’ team are wanting to help as fast as possible and do not want to wait. However, it also leads to challenges, mostly about power and control, which lead to duplication of efforts and others being missed out.

Weirdly, the scale up of digital solutions has made this worse, not better. Digital technology can help us, but as we often witness, also make things worse.

So what would happen if we implemented good practice from other areas? What if we have one or a group of agencies whose role it is to register people affected by the crisis? Not implement assistance, just register. And as they register, make the data available to those agencies implementing so that people affected could be enrolled into appropriate projects.

Data structure, data standards & definitions, data protection, data use, and data security parameters would all need to be agreed beforehand. But it would be possible with a bit of effort. And no, not everyone would need to use the same system or technology. And yes, this would not do away with power and control issues, but it would change them up a bit. The registration body would be a service to all, not an end in itself. It could provide the centralising function many crave, but also enable data portability for the people affected.

And potentially implementing agencies could still help with the registration when they met people missed out. However, the information would need to be verified by the registration body.

At the heart of it all would be data governance of registration data. So what do you think? Could it work? What are the new problems it would create? What would it not solve?

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Photo by Phil Desforges


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