Back to Basics

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Discussions at the mVAM Retreat Photo: WFP/Lucia Casarin

mVAM has expanded a lot over the past year, and we have big plans ahead. So it made sense for the entire team to take a couple of days to reflect and look to the challenges ahead. We found a secluded cobblestone town in the hills north of Rome, a place with poor wifi, and laid it all out. We brought in our regional advisors from East Africa, West Africa and the Middle East, as well as Professor Nathan Morrow, who led the external review of the project.

We began by listening to our colleagues from the field about their impressions of mVAM and checking out our Theory of Change. We got into groups and chewed over where we stand and how to move ahead.

What was the outcome?

1. A revamped theory of change.  

Professor Nathan Morrow Photo: WFP/Lucia Casarin

Professor Nathan Morrow discusses the Theory of Change.

When we started with mVAM, we were focused on household food security monitoring- calling up or texting households to collect important food security indicators at regular intervals. Now, we realize that the tools we have built can be used more widely. Our mobile tools are increasingly linked to broader assessment processes, including market monitoring and emergency assessments (read our post on Papua New Guinea). We also are starting to collect data for our nutrition, school feeding and P4P, WFP’s smallholder procurement activity programmes, thus beefing up our monitoring and evaluation. This is all great news. The power of going mobile is growing, and we’re updating our theory of change to capture this evolution.

2. We need to get the basics right. 

It’s easy to get carried away with the novelty of the tools we use. But we need to remember that doing food security analysis right requires a lot of down to earth toil. That involves reaching out to information users when we design a system and communicating on a continuing basis thereafter. The basics are also the foundation of data quality, such as properly contextualizing our questionnaires, piloting them, and being more strategic on when to use SMS. Getting the basics right will help us produce more relevant, reliable information.

3. Data visualization and open exchange are key. 

Flowchart_croppedWe’re excited about the progress we’ve achieved in information management, with the release of our Application Programme Interface (API). This allows for the automated exchange of data across websites, databases and systems, meaning that everyone can access and analyse our information in real-time. We’re now on the cusp of building cutting edge visualizations. To do that well, we’ll have to emphasize standardized, centralized, and open data. Upgrading our data management and data sharing will allow us to build the interactive data visuals and applications that can best help decision-makers.

Hoping all of this leads to better processes, better data as we take mVAM to new horizons.

mVAM Retreat Photo

mVAM Group Photo

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