Tech Tool to Create Social Impact

October 25, 2017 12:00 AM
  • Tech-based Tool to Create Social Impact logo
  • Tech-based Tool to Create Social Impact logo

By Kavitha Srinivasa

Outline India (OI) is a Gurugram based for-profit social research firm founded by Prerna Mukharya pioneering the use of data for social impact. It aims to solve the first-mile problem of paucity of data and empowers their stakeholders to make data-driven decisions.

Outline India which maps its presence across villages by gathering data, now goes a few notches higher with their upcoming ‘Platform and Application – Track your Metrics’. Nayantara Nanda, Researcher and Paramjeet Chawla, Research Consultant, give a glimpse of the platform, which carries the promise of being a game changer.

Introduction

Outline India has been working in the development sector for five years, covering over 23 states and reaching out to over 3,000 villages. The data collected represents four million people in the social sector. It specializes in research design and also mobilizes large-scale data collection across India. OI helps in building evaluation metrics, other than monitoring and evaluation schemes for impact assessments.

Seen in terms of large-scale impact, OI has taken it as a challenge to include 900 million people whose voices and opinions are pertinent in solving major development issues but are not online. OI has decided to get to the root of the matter, interact with people to understand their needs and create a solution that presents information in a comprehensive manner. 

Problem / Challenge

There are multiple entities such as NGOs, think tanks, researchers as well as CSR Wings/Funding Organizations actively working in diverse capacities in the field of water, health, sanitation, education, women’s empowerment and poverty alleviation. To enable maximal impact, these entities are yet to overcome some of the very basic challenges largely arising as a result of the paucity of authentic and reliable data.

In 2015, the CBI reported that there about 31 lakh Non-Governmental Organizations in India, as stated by multiple media sources. Given a large number of NGOs functioning in India, it becomes important to note that a majority of these remain underfunded.

As a result, they are unable to evaluate their impact, unable to fulfill their vision and tend to stagnate. They may even lack the intrinsic motivation to engage in impact measurement. This in turn negatively affects their credibility since the proof of their work remains opaque.

How is OI trying to solve the problem?

OI has evolved a web-based solution, ‘TYM: Track your Metrics’, a Platform and Application that will empower stakeholders to make data-driven decisions. They are providing users with a simple solution to prove and measure their impact.

Technology is being used to ensure that tools for enabling research capacity reach to the bottom of the pyramid NGOs. By doing so, these NGOs will be armed with the capacity to track their metrics, evaluate the work being carried out by them, understand the logistics of their own work and gauge the bumps on the road for social interventions. With the utility of a question bank, data collection and data representation available in one place, an NGO will be able to showcase their metrics, numerically and graphically, allowing them to become accountable.

How does it work?

It is a 2 fold platform - consisting of a web-based platform and an android application.

The web-based platform will serve as a survey formulation platform. It’ll consist of a master question. These questions are comprehensive and field tested in other projects. The user can apply filters such as sex, age, location as well as select sub-sectors to arrive at a number of questions from which the user can pick and choose questions which are suitable for their project or organization. The user will also have the option to add their own questions. These questions will then be approved by the OI team before it gets added to the master question bank.

Once the users have designed their tailor-made tool, they can download it onto the Android application and collect real-time data in remote regions.  The data collected will be saved using a cloud storage facility.

The user can then navigate to the dashboard on the platform to get a graphical representation of the data collected in the form of pie charts, bar graphs etc.

Right now, it’s in the development stage and a prototype is expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks starting out in Delhi and later on in Mumbai. The platform will be deployed beginning of the year 2018. A piloting phase is underway and soon we will be approaching a multitude of NGOs with the prototype in hand.

Solution

Field Data, it is believed, unlocks the key to achieving large-scale social impact. Policy-making decisions are required for the growth and development of the country. This can happen only if there are accurate primary research data. Having realized that, OI has brought in a value-addition by using technology to ensure accountability.

This simple, yet impactful platform is expected to serve and assist millions of not-for-profits across India, while focusing on the biggest problem that plagues this sector, that is, accountability.

The forthcoming platform and app have been visualized to be a game-changer for the development sector, as it has been equipped with tools to improve the existing operations of NGOs. It is expected to alter the methods adopted by NGOs for seeking quality personnel and funds, for creating transparency across NGOs, for attaining accountability and for using data as the singular source for decision-making, all of which will be the off-shooting outcomes of the inception and growing usage of the platform and application.

In a nutshell, this is a solution that is being built for a superset of stakeholders and players in the development sector. 

Impact

The platform and application will aid the process of monitoring and evaluation, it will reduce human error and the time and cost involved to deploy large-scale surveys. It will also allow for easier and quicker impact assessment at low costs, encouraging the benefactors to expand their reach and scale-up their activities/projects.

In short, a combination of tech tools, solutions, and data will help OI make its vision a reality. Let’s hope that ‘Track your Metrics: A platform and Application’ will be a step forward towards revolutionizing data for change and create trickle-down research capacity.

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Prerna Mukharya speaks:

With a Masters in Economics from Boston University, Prerna Mukharya has worked with National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), Centre for Policy Research and as a Research Assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Clearly, she wears many hats, but today she is best known for creating a market for ‘development data’ which she hopes will bring in social intervention for the betterment of the most vulnerable. ‘What if we could do the thinking for the NGOs that do not have researchers, M&E teams or the bandwidth to design such exercises? What if our TYM platform was doing the thinking for them? It would change everything!’ says Prerna Mukharya, the founder of Outline India.

 

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