Reading PopTech’s latest newsletter edition entitled “Made to measure: The new science of impact”, it got me thinking again about measuring the impact of digital humanitarians in emergencies. In particular, I was drawn to “Measuring Impact over time" by Ned Breslin where he talks about needing to take the long view when measuring impact and that only evaluating one data point will not give you a true measure of impact. I also found "Measuring impact through field experiments" by Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan to be quite interesting and wonder how we can connect the direct and indirect changes that crisis mapping has created.
After my involvement in the Libya Crisis Map (LCM), several people asked me within a week or two: “So, what is the impact?”. Measuring the impact of a crisis map is not a trivial matter and I did not have a nice answer that fit perfectly within people’s idea of a nice measurable.
However, over time, I continued to reflect on what the experience had on me and how it affected my work. A full 10 months after activating the Standby Volunteer Task Force for the LCM, I finally drafted my thoughts and authored a blog post called The [unexpected] Impact of the Libya Crisis Map and the Standby Volunteer Task Force. In the post, I outlined several ways that the collaboration change the way that I work.
During that same time, I collaborated, in my free time, with a couple amazing people - Ms. Jennifer Chan (for Harvard Humanitarian Initiative) and Mr. Kenny Meesters (Masters student at Tilburg University) - to draft a proposal for the Humanitarian Innovation Fund to measure the impact of digital humanitarian in REAL time. The idea was to try to find a way to help organizations and volunteers determine if their efforts are having the maximum impact. And, if not, how could they be adjusted. I know that there are several models to measure impact, but developing something that could work for organization and volunteers to truly measure in REAL time and enable REAL time decisions is just not something happening yet.
We have continued to try to find ways to work on the topic and even simplify it down to a basic framework for organizations to think through and perhaps ask the right questions. If you are interested in the proposal, know someone who would like to support the project, or know of similar initiatives, please leave a comment.
FYI: Kenny has also drafted a great paper from a done some preliminary work on the feasibility of impact analysis for information systems and has taken a first step by undertaking a sample comparison between a ‘traditional’ NGO information system and information systems and products provided by the V&TC/DHN. The paper is proposed to ISCRAM 2013 so it is not yet cleared to share.