[Editor note: Guest post from Dirk Slater of Fabriders. Cross-posted with permission]

FabRiders’ Network-Centric Resources project supports the development of people-powered and participatory resources that establish assets for networks and communities. On Friday, December 14th, 2018, we held an online discussion with Heather Leson, Data Literacy Lead at the International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies about collaborating with FabRiders in developing the Data Playbook, 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. There are nine modules, 65 pieces of content, and a methodology for sharing curriculum across all the sectors and networks. The material has been compiled, piloted, and tested in collaboration with many contributors from across IFRC and National Societies. The Beta was supported by the American Red Cross.

Important points from the discussion:

  • Co-creating the Playbook led to success as a diverse set of stakeholders were engaged meaningfully from the start of the project.
  • There is plenty of technical and tool related courses out there, the Playbook aims to answer the ‘why do I need to know about data’
  • Social learning provides opportunities for teams to interact and understand each other’s role in data projects.
  • The audience for the Data Playbook is humanitarians, but it is released with a Creative Commons license so that other people can white label it and use and benefit it.
  • Partnering with other humanitarian organisations, such as the Centre for Humanitarian Data, has been critical in identifying and piloting content for the Playbook.
  • Once content became available to prototype and test out, there was a big leap in engagement.
  • Feedback has come in many different forms, though most often through informal conversation. Every piece of feedback needs follow-up, showing how the feedback impacted a new version of the content.
  • The current content is in pdfs, flash drives and paper are the mediums for distribution. The Prepare Center has recently put the Data Playbook online.
  • Co-creation and community building need to go hand in hand.
  • Not mentioned but worth noting! Lynne Stuart at Idea in a Forest designed templates and visual cues for the playbook to help users navigate content.

The online conversation in full:

Resources and inspiration mentioned

Notes from the conversation:

The International Federation of the Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) works with 191 National societies around the world, like the Canadian Red Cross and the British Red Cross. When Heather began working there, she realised that there’s a lot of materials and courses for Data Scientist and more technical courses based on tools, but there wasn’t a lot of courses specifically for humanitarians. Inspiration came from the Atlassian Team Playbook and the DIY Toolkit. She wanted to build materials that would enable conversations with those that are afraid of data. Instead of developing a curriculum from scratch, she decided to map what already existed in IFRC.

The beta version of the playbook became a place to collect knowledge that already existed, and engages and convene ambassadors. While the playbook is aimed at the Data Curious and is meant to serve the Data Ready, it also presents ways to deal with the Data Deniers and the Data Hostels. A typical comment she gets is: ‘Heather, I am saving lives, what do you mean I have to understand this data stuff?’

Social learning is critical for data literacy as it becomes a way for teams to interact with each other about data and also better understand each other’s roles. Data literacy is not about understanding how to use spreadsheets, but rather understanding the eco-system and variety of roles needed to undertake a data project.

Social learning is a tradition within the Red Cross, e.g., the first aid training. However, it’s not that big of a tradition to be applied to tech and data elements.

The co-creation process has been driving the Data Playbook to greater success in helping to build data literacy. Getting people to share their existing data curriculum becomes a way of helping to build confidence and leads to the building of skills.

As a result of putting the call out asking for content, we got hundreds of contributors from around the world. We got exercises, slide decks, session plans, etc. that were all compiled and then templatised for the playbook.

Part of the process was to run a week-long ’sprint’ at the IFRC Geneva office. We started by creating profiles for the Data Curious, Data Advocates, Data Active and Data Ready to inform the content of the playbook. Once we had the user profiles up on a wall, we got IFRC staff to drop by and tell us what they thought. We then created a wall of ’topics’ that represented the existing curriculum we had collected from around the world. We asked IFRC staff to tell us what topics were priorities and were relevant to their work.

Also, around the time of the sprint, Heather was traveling to various Red Cross Red Crescent offices and was running training pilots. She has even more content to contribute as a result of the sprints.

Along with the National Offices, there are key sector programmes that contributed, include the Cash Programme, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Reporting (PMER), the Health programme and SuRGE (emergency response). All of the content within the playbook was used and is currently used. It is a living breathing document.

Data Playbook on display (NPDev 2018)

Another goal with the content is to make sure it is embedded, so thinking about how things like data protection fit into the strategies of the Red Cross Red Crescent programs. So it’s never about data off on an island by itself. Another criteria for content for the playbook is that it needs to help solve problems immediately.

The audience for the Data Playbook is humanitarians, but it is released with a Creative Commons license so that other people can white label it and use and benefit it.

This beta version is really about testing it and making that it works and figuring out what’s missing so we can figure out what we need to focus on for a V. 1.

The initial beta version of the playbook was released on pdf’s and meant for distribution via flash drives, because of the capacities and infrastructures of many key contributors, such as some branches of the Nepal Red Cross Society.

Data Literacy will not happen at the Red Cross Red Crescent without partners. The Red Cross Red Crescent works with many partners in the Humanitarian space, including OCHA. It’s been critical for Heather to work closely with the Centre for Humanitarian Data and they have collaborated on piloting several workshops and training. As a result of these partnerships, Heather has focused on building a Data Literacy Consortium to continue to develop exercises and materials on data literacy.

Currently, some of the material in the Playbook has been translated by reaching out to national offices or by specific programs. There will be a much stronger push to engage community translation once we get to a V1.

In order to make the material in the Playbook accessible to different learning styles and methodologies, we encourage remixing and modification of what is there. We realise that local trainers are going to know what is best for their audience/participants.

Important learning for co-creation of resources was the value of prototyping content. Once we had content available and began to solicit comment and review, we saw an enormous uptake in using the materials. People started to understand better the concept and what we were trying to do.

At the beginning of the development of the Data Playbook, this style of co-creation was not a common practice in IFRC, particularly around data and technology. Now there are examples of other parts of the Red Cross Red Crescent picking up co-creation methodologies and language.

While Heather has been open to taking feedback in many forms, she finds it often comes through informal conversation. Another critical element to receiving feedback is then follow-up to show how the input impacted a new version.

The Data Playbook is currently up on the Preparedness website and is gaining a lot of use now that it is accessible on the internet. Anyone that does have feedback from the humanitarian space should talk to Heather, but if you are doing development work or advocacy please talk to Dirk.

Another benefit of the co-creation process is being able to break down knowledge hierarchies and get people to exchange and engage no matter where they are or sit in the organisational structure. Co-creation and community building need to be married. It’s about inclusivity and making sure people feel comfortable to say ‘I don’t know’, even when they have been on the job for 35 years. It’s about applying open principles and taking co-creation to every element of a workshop, training or informal data working group.