Data is part of every organization, including in the humanitarian sector. How might we be more data ready? For the past 2 years, IFRC has been on an internal journey to improve data literacy across teams, sectors, the IFRC Secretariat, and within National Societies. We’ve curated and co-created content to support and to improve IFRC’s data readiness. (You can read about some of the workshop pilots in Nairobi, Budapest and Dakkar.) With 100s of contributors across regions, languages, and expertise, we’ve designed, piloted and tested the content. Our methods were following the innovation principles with human-centered design. This is very much in line with our goal to localize humanitarian response while supporting data literacy.  There are data advocates across the world. We aim to support them with network co-created efforts. Today we are sharing the Data Playbook beta more widely to help National Societies and volunteers get more engaged.

The Data Playbook Beta project is a prototype of social learning designed on modularized pick-and-choose model for 30 minute to 1 hour conversations or lunch and learns. Playbooks are designed to be guided by the users and leaders to decide what ‘activity’ or ‘action’ best suits the given need. The Data Playbook Beta project can be found on the

Our early testers requested that items be downloadable in easy formats for use and editing (pdf and word format), The reason for this request is that often humanitarians work in places with low to no internet. Content needs to be easily placed on a flash drive to share and learn together. In addition, we wanted to make it easy to edit and add local context, language and examples to support the data learning journey. In the spirit of remixing, we encourage you to use these as ‘white-labelled‘. The main audience for the Beta Project is currently those who train, mentor and lead in data-driven activities. In future iterations, we’ll aim for recipes and content for other audiences. You can join in and help inform our next steps. Let us know how your activities go and please do share back. We also seek feedback and allies to co-create the Data Playbook version 1.

Data Simulation

Why does Data Literacy Matter?

Data leads to information, knowledge and evidence. It can drive decision-making to improve effectiveness of response and also provide insights into building long-term resilience. The goal is to be more data-driven and to make evidence-based decisions. We are leaving people behind by not being equitable in the application of data skills, technology and the potential opportunities this brings.

Assumptions that people make about working with data is that it’s about interacting with spreadsheets and requires a background in statistics and math. Yet, data collection requires people with backgrounds in engaging individuals and communities. Making data compelling requires people who can craft a narrative. Making data useful requires people with backgrounds in communications. Data literacy is achieved when people understand the ecosystems and workflows needed to undertake a data-driven project and their role within that ecosystem.

Why Social Learning?

Working with data is often seen as a solitary act. Interacting with spreadsheet, or a sole individual responsible for crunching numbers and analysing.  Effective data-driven programmes will prioritise interaction and communication between the various roles within their eco-systems throughout their workflows. Through social learning, the data ecosystem can be visualised and workflows surfaced.

We value social learning for data literacy in the humanitarian space because it helps build bonds between teams and supports collective knowledge sharing. Social learning activities in the Data Playbook aim to bring colleagues and allies together to discuss aims and identify needs. We can co-create data literacy using the same network strength that is used in first aid and resilience building.

What is the Data Playbook?

A playbook is a recipe or exercise book with examples, best best practices, how to’s, slides, session plans, training materials, matrices, scenarios, and resources. The content is built to be social and modularised and used in a ‘pick and choose’ method. The IFRC Data Playbook design was heavily influenced by the DIY toolkit, the Atlassian Team Playbook and the Open Organization principles. We wanted to make it easy for people to share, remix and reuse the content in an open manner.

Our Data Playbook (Beta) is a resource for IFRC and National Societies to develop their literacy around data. It aims to help ensure responsible data use and develop data readiness. As IFRC has global and diverse audiences across the sectors and regions, we’ve tailored content based on these audiences:

  • The Data Curious, who needs an ‘on ramp’ to learn and be exposed to the data basics.
  • The Data Advocate, who sees relevance and and wants to improve their skills and/or offer support.
  • The Data Active, who are motivated to self-learn and are on their way to being a ‘data-leader’.
  • The Data Ready, who are ‘trainers’ or ‘data leaders’ who lead data-driven projects and mentor colleagues.

Everyone is on their own learning journey. We know the main people who will use the Data Playbook Beta project will be the ‘data active’ and the ‘data ready.’  We will reach the ‘data curious‘ and the ‘data advocates‘ through them. The next version of the Playbook will aim to reach more audiences. (Slide overview about the Data Playbook beta project.)

Thanks again to the 100s of collaborators on the Data Playbook Beta Project. We also want to warmly thank our co-editor, Dirk Slater of Fabriders.  Thanks to Nathan Cooper, Miguel Aguirre, Omar Abou-Samra, and the Prepare Center for their help getting the beta project live. This project was possible with the support of American Red Cross, International Services.


[Editor’s note: In the next parts of this series, we’ll share more about the co-creation process and next steps.  Editors are Heather Leson, Dirk Slater, and Margarita Griffith. You can contact us at data.literacy AT ifrc DOT org. ]

(Photo:   IFRC Data Simulation, July 2018 by Heather Leson CCBY 3.0)