Alhassan, my counterpart, is a pretty amazing individual. He’s very enthusiastic about his work and the changes he wants to bring to the office. So when we sat down on the first day and set out a month-long timeline, I was very excited. It was immediately clear to me that this man is serious about making some big changes this summer and I’m definitely on board with that.
“We’ll take one week to update the database and one week to populate it. Then we’ll send it out to districts to collect data,” he told me excitedly. I immediately foresaw some issues with this process; namely, how would we know if the database is suitable for district use in data collection? As awesome as Alhassan is, he just started in this office about 8 months ago and I personally only started a week ago. How can we possibly understand the issues with data collection potentially faced at the district level?
If we get this right, districts could use the database not only for reporting to the regional office, but also in their own analyses of data (like I said, Alhassan has big plans). If, however, we get it wrong, we risk doing a lot of damage. Districts already collect similar data for three other sources and don’t see any useful outputs from that data. My hypothesis is that they already think the process has little to no value. If we ask them to do that data collection using a brand new tool that doesn’t take any of their input into mind, then how can we expect them to value it any more than they already do (or don’t)?
If districts don’t value the process, buy-in will be limited and will be mandated from the top down; this is exactly what we don’t want. Rather, we’d like to see the regional office enabling and supporting data collection for both reporting and analysis at the district level.
The challenge then was convincing my senior, my superior, and someone who is more educated than I am to change the course he was so excitedly set upon. How could I change the plans of Alhassan in less than two weeks? I spent three nights with this question fermenting in the back of my brain; it turns out it didn’t require too much thinking.
“Alhassan, I have some thoughts,” I told him on Friday. I’m fairly certain that my Excel proficiency and my aptitude for trying all of the new Ghanaian things my office throws at me were the major reasons he urged me to share. “Do you know the prototype model?” I began, pulling out my notebook.
I slowly explained the basis of EWB’s impact model:
prototype –> pilot –> scale.
Before I had even finished drawing my little diagram, a lightbulb went off in Alhassan’s brain. “We haven’t planned for a pilot project,” he told me. A-ha! The exact point I’d been trying to make. “We’ll only send the database to a few districts to get feedback, then modify ,” he said, rushing over his words. I liked the plan. “I’m learning from you,” he said, smiling.
“We are learning from each other,” I reminded him, using the words he had used earlier that day.
And it’s true.