Following a request received from UNHCR staff, CartONG embarked on the mission of creating its very first advanced Mobile Data Collection (MDC) online training. In the past few years, UNHCR has been integrating the use of mobile technology for data collection and entry as part of the SENS guidelines – a work which has in part been conducted by CartONG through the development of MDC tools since 2009. When switching from paper-based surveys to MDC tools, the need for training staff in the field grew; and as data collection standards improved, the need for advanced training also increased ensuring that health and nutrition specialists in charge of conducting nutrition surveys were up-to-date on the latest SENS tools, guidelines and techniques (see below for more information on SENS guidelines).
Learning how to modify the content of the electronic standardized nutrition survey forms has been a recurring demand from in-country UNHCR health and nutrition specialists in charge of managing surveys. Indeed, nutrition surveys come as standardized forms, which have to be adapted to reflect the reality on the ground – lists of food items and administrative names may need to be revised to match local settings. The dates of the most recent food distribution or of the last mosquito spraying campaign might need to be updated before conducting the survey. It may also be necessary to add some questions at the end of the standardized forms to collect data relevant to the country or the refugee camp. Knowing how to make these modifications means that Survey Managers could benefit from having a greater level of autonomy by being less dependent on external partners’ own time constraints – such as CartONG – for modifying the forms before surveying.
In times where organizations work across countries and operations with various specialists, it is hard to organize and release people for in-country trainings as staff needed in the field during a mission cannot easily spare full days of work for training. Additionally, funding may also be tight, and paying for not only training but also travel expenses often limits training options for field staff. In such situations, refreshers of content or new content building on existing knowledge lends itself to be presented online. For this particular reason, UNHCR and CartONG piloted these new trainings as webinars – instead of opting for the more traditional in-country trainings.
Between the beginning of May 2007 and July 2017, CartONG thus designed and then conducted a series of 3 one-hour-and-a-half “SENS MDC Coding Webinars” to equip 37 MDC experienced SENS survey Managers – mostly deployed in Africa – with the necessary skills to allow them to modify the Global SENS forms in xls format, convert and deploy on their offline Aggregate server. Each of the webinar was recorded, included a Q&A session and came with exercises to ensure optimal understanding and retention of the theoretical knowledge part of the training. The 3 webinars were followed by a fourth one to review what had been discussed and to correct the remaining exercises. The 4 sessions were intentionally spread out over the course of several weeks as to fit with the busy schedule of field staff.
Internet connection remains a challenge in organizing webinars with staff working in the field, but overall the online training went well. Feedback from the SENS Survey Managers, gathered through a detailed end-of-webinar reaction evaluation form, was excellent. “The webinar was well done! The training team was fantastic! It really responded to my needs on MDC.” stated one of the participants. This first experience in designing webinars was very promising for CartONG and has proven to be most relevant for extremely busy field staff who cannot easily spare full days for training.
Since the training ended, the webinars with additional guidelines have been published on UNHCR’s SENS website alongside previous videos on SENS Mobile Technology also designed by CartONG, to ensure wider dissemination of the content. CartONG hopes to create a new series of webinars early 2018 to respond to the growing need in advanced MDC training of UNHCR’s staff and partners in the field.
- - - - - Did you know?
The United Nations’ Refugee Agency’s nutrition surveys abide by the Standardized Expanded Nutrition Survey (SENS) guidelines, a set of 6 modules developed to ensure that the way annual nutrition surveys are standardized and can be used to an optimal level to deliver effective and timely interventions to improve outcomes for refugee populations.
The advantages of SENS are that it allows UNHCR and partners to describe the nutritional situation of refugees in a standardized way from year to year and across countries, with results being published in a timely manner with robust and consistent data quality. This allows UNHCR and partners to react swiftly to urgent problems and strategize for medium and long term nutrition issues.