From Buzzwords to Actions

What am I doing in Ghana?

I’ve written about my work before, but so far I haven’t said anything too concrete. This is problematic because my chapter is supposed to be connected to my work, and I’m sure the rest of you would like to know what my work really looks like too. The problem is that what I’m doing is outcome-oriented, so my daily activities aren’t consistent, but rather structured around the outcomes that I’m trying to achieve. Those outcomes are essentially evidence-based decision-making and the creation of a sustainable culture of analysis at the Regional Education Office.

Um, excuse me? I know, I know, I’ve just thrown a bunch of buzzwords at you that don’t really make a lot of sense because they are somehow technical. That’s fair, so I’ll recap my activities from the summer and in doing so try to give a sense of what a workday might look like for me.

I arrive at the office at around 7:45. It seems early, but there are many reasons for my keenness. First, mornings aren’t that exciting for a guy in my compound, since we’re not allowed to take part in any of the activities that are going on (dish-washing, cooking breakfast, gathering water etc). Second, I eat my breakfast of egg and bread at the office, because my family thinks I don’t like the porridge they make. I’ve actually never tried it—there was a weird language barrier-caused miscommunication that I haven’t yet ventured to correct. Third, I only get internet at the office! I like it this way, but it means that I usually have piles of emails to get through each day. I reserve the time between my own arrival and Alhassan’s arrival for doing my daily interwebbing.

Alhassan usually arrives at about 8:30. At that point, we’ll sit down and go over our work for the day. Here’s where things get variable. At the beginning of my placement, work plans for each day consisted of me asking a tonne of questions of everyone in my office, learning about the current data management systems in place and getting feedback from Alhassan on ideas for moving forward. That turned into developing a database using Microsoft Excel, which usually involved a lot of heated (and I mean heated) back-and-forth discussions about the best ways to manage the data and the best analyses to do with it.

I should mention that my office is a great space for ideation. For some reason—I hypothesize that it has to do with the impermanence of my role—I can navigate roles freely at the REO and as a result I have a lot of flexibility in what I can reasonably put out in terms of useful ideas. So, there is a sort of background level ideation always going on between Alhassan and I, Newton and I, and/or Mr. Acheampong and I. Oh, those are other employees at the RESO by the way.

The idea to use the database template as a template for data collection came out of this ideation. We looked at what challenges might arise from that idea and developed a plan for getting feedback from end users—district EMIS officers. Then we carried it out and inputted the feedback into a database that I whipped up. That’s right, I made a database so we could manage database changes (whoa, meta). We used the database to decide which feedback to incorporate into the collection tool and made the necessary changes. Meanwhile, I was doing some entry and analysis of old data.

Then we decided to work out a process for data use at the REO, so we visited some schools to collect old data. We used our database to analyse it and come to some conclusions. We’re at the stage now where it’s time to deliver feedback to the schools in question to see what improvements they can make or learn what they’re doing right. If the process turns out to be a good one, we’ll look at adopting it at the REO as a means for using data to plan for monitoring and evaluation of schools.

Oh, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I work with some other employees who are computer-literate to offer demand-driven, needs-based computer training to every employee of the REO. We’re working towards using computers for data analysis, but some of the employees have never even sat in from of a computer before, so we’ve got to start easy.

So, as you can see, there’s not really a concrete pattern to each day at the REO. Activities might include planning with Alhassan, working on a database, visiting schools, offering training, or, if the office is empty, blogging. Overall, though, my work looks something like this:

Ideate –> Design –> Test –> Collect Feedback –> Reiterate

It’s not concrete, I know, but it’s the best way that I can describe it. So, any questions?

(Seriously, give me some questions).

-C

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