Driving Impact: Leveraging Performance Data across Research and Development Programs
The role of data is changing all areas of our personal and professional lives. From helping us keep our schedules to improving communication with friends and coworkers to completing financial transactions with simply a swipe and a tap, data are constantly working to make our experiences better and easier.
The same can be said for the role of data in USAID Feed the Future research and development programs. As reporting and compliance requirements continue to increase, programs need practical and efficient ways of acquiring the data they need and easily reporting information to USAID and other stakeholders. This could be information about technologies under development, evidence of compliance with essential practices and policies, such as environmental mitigation, open data policy, or federal government standards. This information might also be reports of activities and progress within cross-cutting issues, such as gender and youth. Whatever the performance data that needs to be collected and reported, the ability to efficiently manage and clearly communicate those data is important.
Growing access to data and demand for performance data needs strong data management systems at the program level. Whether that be a system like the Piestar DPx system or an in-house system, trustworthy data management will improve program impact in numerous ways.
In a strong data management system, data are gathered into a single location for easy access by all the appropriate team members. The data management system maintains project and activity specific details for performance reports and tracks operational information required by the funding agency, such as international travel, publications and training, and can serve as a tool for both the funder and the recipient in managing project-level budgets. By gathering all data into one place, the data management system allows for easy access to the data and real-time management of the data.
By implementing dependable data management practices, research and development programs can build greater team cohesion and performance. A smooth functioning data management system allows users to access each other’s data through team sharing and build on one another’s reporting for a more comprehensive picture of project performance. Team members can contribute to project planning tools, such as work plans or data management plans to enhance communication and improve implementation across numerous geographic zones.
All research and development programs are evaluated based on their success in achieving deliverables and overall impact, and reliable data management is instrumental in this process. In a stable and robust data management system, key performance indicator data can be collected across all projects and team members and then aggregated or disaggregated in numerous ways to serve as evidence of program output. Deliverables can be isolated and explored according to the needs and interests of specific target audiences.
One of the messages that every research and development program must communicate is the impact that they are making for the farmer, the family, the child, or the end-user of a product/service. Salient data have immense value when communicating this impact, and a relevant data management system can facilitate the collection of the measures that point to that impact, such as new adoptions of a technology, reductions in stunting or new crop varieties released. The data management system can package this information through exports into spreadsheets, report formats, or in raw form for targeted publications and media platforms to effectively and efficiently demonstrate impact to stakeholders and funding agencies.
The role of data is changing how research and development programs operate, report, and communicate. By approaching those changes with strong data management practices, USAID Feed the Future programs have and will have the power to more effectively streamline operations, empower their teams, evaluate output, and ultimately demonstrate impact of their work and efforts to stakeholders and funding agencies.