Update on iFormBuilder: Reflecting on Three Years of Implementation

August 26, 2015

The Hunger Project has been using iFormBuilder since 2012—starting first with a pilot exercise across a handful of project sites in Malawi and Ghana. As of July 2015, The Hunger Project has collected data on more than 7,000 households across nine countries using iFormBuilder. During this time, we’ve learned a lot—but we also have a lot more that we plan to do.

How The Hunger Project regularly uses iFormBuilder

At the moment, we mostly use iFormBuilder to collect survey data across our program and field sites. Though we started out only using iFormBuilder to collect household surveys, we have since piloted two new techniques this year. Our program operations assessment (we call them “snapshots”) are a series of questions designed to assess infrastructure projects, community leadership positions, and operational hours and services delivered within key programs like our rural banks, clinics, or nursery schools.  We also use iFormBuilder to collect information on a series of questions for program staff across countries to track partnership records and contributions such as details about the partner’s coverage of different programs or sectors, in-kind support, or funding contributions.

The three types of surveys are very different—one focused on gathering staff knowledge in national offices (partner records), one focused on capturing information on physical infrastructure and service hours at program sites (program operations assessment), and the other focused on traditional randomized household interviews (household surveys). Diversifying our use of iFormBuilder has opened up the potential for even more types of data collection and information sharing across the organization.

What we’ve gotten really good at

  • Building in sophisticated survey checks—our data is cleaner and more beautiful than ever!
  • Introducing the technology to staff and communities—we do a lot of outreach around the technology in offices across the organization and in communities where we use this technology.
  • Letting iFormBuilder do the work for us!—we have several very technical indices and scores within our household surveys (e.g. progress out of poverty index and household hunger score). We used to calculate these manually, but now we’ve learned how to program iFormBuilder to do it for us. It saves loads of time on the back end.

What we still need to figure out

  • Mapping—transitioning over to Android devices in the field was a huge win for our ability to collect GPS information. Through our program operations assessment, we have clean and clear GPS data for a lot of program infrastructure and sites. Now, we’re moving into making interesting maps and using geospatial analysis. This is still new for us though and we have a lot to learn about it.
  • Tracking training participants/registrations—we still have a lot of paper registration forms and manual data entry in the monitoring side of our work. The next section goes a little bit into how we’re piloting iFormBuilder to collect this type of data.
  • Device management—as we send out more devices in the field, we haven’t necessarily built up our ability to provide technical backstopping for these devices, which means we’re quickly becoming overwhelmed with the demands for troubleshooting from our colleagues across the global organization. We have a few things in the works to improve this, but are eager to learn what other organizations are doing to provide cost-effective technical support for devices in the field.

Where we’re going next

The Hunger Project has big dreams for scaling up mobile data collection. Though it is already integral to our monitoring and evaluation work, there are so many parts of our process that still rely on manual data entry and review. For us, considering the tradeoffs between costs, person-hours, and staff capacity are crucial to deciding where and when to use iFormBuilder.

In the end of 2015 and through 2016 we plan to expand our use of iFormBuilder to Bangladesh and hopefully India and Peru. This would mean all of The Hunger Project’s 12 program countries—reaching more than 20 million individuals —are using iFormBuilder to collect M&E, program, and partner data.

Another big feat on the horizon for The Hunger Project is expanding our use of iFormBuilder to collect monitoring data (i.e. training records, service distribution, etc.) directly from the field.

A 2015 mobile monitoring pilot was conducted by a group of Columbia University graduate students, who were doing their capstone project for The Hunger Project, in Malawi and Senegal from January to April 2015. The objective of the pilot was to figure out how to reduce the flow of paper training and other monitoring forms from our rural program sites (“epicenters”) to our national offices (typically located in the capital cities) and the manual entry of these forms into a central database.

The pilot was a great opportunity to consider the flow of information from program activities up through the reporting chain and highlight some crucial areas for quality improvements. More than anything, however, it highlighted gaps in our ability to troubleshoot devices (especially a much larger set of them) in the field and network connectivity issues that remain to sync data from rural locations to iformbuilder.com.

In our scale up plans, we are specifically addressing these two issues to ensure success of a larger mobile monitoring project. We’ve also decided to pilot the next round of mobile monitoring in our programs in Mexico recognizing the network capacity advantages over many of our other program countries.  We’d love to report back at this time next year and let you know how we’ve progressed!

Learn More:

iFormBuilder’s first “Spotlight” on The Hunger Project
Why Mobile Data
iFormBuilder‘s blog post from The Hunger ‘s 2014 Gala