Data Skills workshop Budapest (skills scoping)

We convened over 30 people from 18 European National Societies and the ICRC for a joint IFRC Europe Data Skills workshop in Budapest. In two days, we collaborated and learned on a full range of beginner to advanced data skills touching on everything from information management basics to communications advocacy to mobile data program lessons. We aim to connect these leaders to support the growth of data skills in each IFRC office and within National Societies. With every data skills event, we ask “What does a data ready IFRC look like?” and “how we can implement this type of change?”

Sharing Data Skills

Data life cycle aspects “collect”, “process” and “communicate”

As a structure for the workshop topics we used the data life cycle shown below:

information management cycle

The data life cycle shows the range of activities that data undergoes from planning, collection and processing, all the way through its communication to the end users and the receiving of feedback to improve the next iteration. The workshop focused on the aspects “collect”, “process” and “communicate”, whereas the relevance of the other aspects was only briefly introduced.

First day of the workshop: basic terminology, concepts and relevance of (open) data

The first day of the workshop was primarily focused on familiarizing participants with some of the basic terminology, concepts and relevance of using (open) data for evidence-based decision-making. We also discussed barriers and opportunities for data use.

Data responsibility is more than data protection

The session on data responsibility made it clear that responsibly handling data affects all stages of the data life cycle and that the responsibility goes further than just data protection; it encompasses both data protection and ethical standards in a humanitarian context, see also the 510 Responsible Data Policy. 

Practical use and advantages of using mobile data collection

The mobile data collection session was insightful as it helped participants to see the practical use and advantages of using digital surveys to collect and process data, rather than using paper-based surveys which can be error-prone and time-consuming to use.

Successes and Challenges of using data in National Societies

During the last session, participants were split into sub-teams to discuss the challenges and successes of using data in their organizations, after which each sub-team presented their insights to the whole team. It became clear that there are many opportunities to use data from various internal and external sources for reporting and planning activities, public relations, training and development through FEDNET, and for continuous improvement. “Where to find relevant data?” and “how to trust data?” were mentioned as some of the main challenges.

Hands-on exercises and group discussions

The second day of the workshop focused on applying the learnings of the first day, by having relatively more hands-on exercises and group discussions around the aspects “collect”, “process” and “communicate”.


The session on mobile data collection helped participants to experience the use of digital surveys using their mobile devices. The exercises emphasized that “the purpose of data collection needs to be known first, before proceeding with collecting the relevant data”.


Going from ‘data’ to ‘information’ requires specific skills and knowledge from Information Managers to determine what the end-users (i.e. field workers, decision-makers) require. A graphical representation of the data, for example in the form of geographical maps, charts or tables, requires a good understanding of how humans perceive visual information. The relevance of using specific colours and font types in charts and applying a good structuring of information on visuals are just few of the examples for enhancing the perception.


Ultimately, the end-users should be able to make sense of the situation, based on the graphical representation of the data (information) collected. Storytelling as a technique can help end-users to understand or become aware of the relevance of the data used.

The session on reporting to the “Federation-wide databank and reporting system” (FDRS) focused on the challenge of having data that is of good quality, i.e. data that is relevant, accurate and up to date when communicated to the beneficiaries, donors or the general public.

Overall, the workshop helped participants to experience the potential of using (open) data in their projects and programmes and to learn from each other.

Data Skills Core Curriculum

data vis exercise data skills workshop

Over the past year, IFRC together with National Societies and partners, including the Humanitarian Data Exchange/Center for Humanitarian Data, have been coordinating a series of workshop pilots. The pilot session designs are now formulating into a shared curriculum for building data skills and data readiness at IFRC. We will continue to iterate and refine the data skills planning to serve the various topics, contexts, and regions. The Data Playbook is recipe book or exercise book with examples, best practices, how to’s and links to ‘learn more’. It will not aim to rewrite data science or data protection manuals. Instead the Data Playbook is a gateway for exploring data skills learning at IFRC. It is less of an instruction manual or guide and more of a shared, evolving toolbox to build learning and skills.

Summary of the session modules for IFRC Europe Data Skills Workshop:

  • Data Basics
  • Data Responsibility and Awareness
  • Data Collection Workflows
  • Using the Federation-Wide Databank and Reporting System (FDRS)
  • Data use in the Region and with National Societies
  • Information Management Basics
  • Data-Driven Operations (Mobile Data Use Case in Greece)
  • Visualizing Data
  • Data usage in External Communications and Advocacy
  • Measuring people reached
  • Data Skills Scoping


The IFRC Europe Data Skills Workshop was organized by Rachel Yales (IFRC Europe Office), Kamal Ahmed and Jocelyn Dannhauer (Netherlands Red Cross, 510), and Raquel Bernedo Pardal and Marina Vidal Sardà (Spanish Red Cross), and Heather Leson (IFRC Secretariat).

This blog post was written by Kamal Ahmed, Rachel Yales, and Heather Leson.

(Photo Credits: CC-SA-By Heather Leson, IFRC)