Janna Rous (@janna)
Humanitarian Data Solutions
What contributions have you made to ODK?
I started using ODK as a humanitarian practitioner in 2014, and have been a passionate user (of ODK Aggregate, KoBoToolbox, and ONA) ever since. While I am not a programmer, so cannot contribute code, I participate in both the ODK Community Forum and the KoBoToolbox Community Forum, both as a question-asker and as a helper to others looking for support.
My contribution to ODK has been more to the user-base of ODK and KoBoToolbox instead of to the code itself. Through Humanitarian Data Solutions, I create YouTube instructional videos (currently 3,180 subscribers/155,000 views) to support wider adoption of ODK-based mobile data collection (as well as visualising ODK data). We have a mailing list of 4,000+ social-sector workers who are practitioners and use ODK/KoBoToolbox tools on a regular basis - and are able to support this list to first of all get started with ODK-based data collection and then share regular training videos and support to continually improve.
Beyond these public contributions, we also run a structured training programme for staff who work in the humanitarian, development and social enterprise sectors, with a structured approach to learning and applying ODK/XLSForm/KoBoToolbox form design, and have supported large organisations (such as the Red Cross, CARE International, NRC, Dorcas Aid, Tearfund, etc) as well as small organisations (such as Emerging Leaders and Ocean Cycle) across Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin/South America, Europe, North America. Our focus is especially on MEAL staff as well as sector-specialists who use ODK-based data collection for driving decision-making in social-impact programmes.
Hopefully through these contributions I've been able to have a positive global impact beyond what I can quantify in participant/subscriber/follower stats!
How do you believe your contributions have benefited ODK?
A couple examples stand out that might be helpful:
Every so often, someone will drop an email to me or leave a public comment on the YouTube channel that just says "I got into data collection because of your videos." - That for me is pretty special. That someone was googling around for a solution, came across a hopefully friendly face that showed some of the ins-and-outs of using KoBo/ODK/XLSForm, and has been able to use it within their own sphere of influence, things I'll never be able to know about... So - hopefully, 'expanding the user base' in small ways.
The second way I hope I've contributed globally is to improve the way ODK forms can be used/implemented in social-sector programmes. I'm pretty crazy-passionate about using data to figure out what's working (and what's not) in people-focused programmes (especially WASH, Health, Nutrition, Shelter, Cash, and Livelihoods). Sometimes, by sharing tips and how-to's, I see people able to imagine more creative ways of collecting data and using forms in their own context. For example, someone who considered themself 'not a data person' - who then created an XLSForm from scratch as part of their organisation's emergency response in the Ukraine conflict. That keeps me going.
Although this last example hasn't been a huge part of my past - I think it's also important for this application. There was once a post in the Forum about the XLSForm and how it handles a 'note' question that's 'required'. This was a behaviour I have exploited a lot in the past and have taught numerous others to exploit. So jumped into github to share my users' experience (probably the only time I've been brave enough to contribute to a github discussion - I tend to stick to the forum!). Which then helped make a decision not to pursue the possible changes. I get a lot of feedback from a broad range of users on features that could be better, people asking for tutorials on different topics, etc. And I hope that moving forward, this kind of impact, where I can feed this info into a more structured discussion with ODK leadership across ONA/ODK/KoBo could be really beneficial to the entire project.
What do you believe the top priorities for ODK should be?
Hmm, how to answer this thoughtfully? As a person, I'm pretty adamant about how amazing this tool is. So what should a top priority be? Making/Keeping this the #1 data collection tool in the world? (e.g., that idea of 'what's the one thing we can be the best in the world at...'). Constantly listening to users. I've learned so much just by seeing how 'ego' has no place in the ODK ecosystem - each opinion, each voice, brings a unique perspective and is respected. It is the only real 'open source' project I follow closely (in terms of development - although I'm also a user of many other open source tools). And I'm so impressed by the respect that exists alongside healthy public debate. So yes - keeping the culture of ODK as this respectful, open, collaborative project that incorporates a truly global user-base, and constructively uses disagreement/differing perspectives to create better solutions, to create the most dynamic and exciting data collection tool in existence.
Beyond the actual data collection tool 'core' being strong and just getting better and better, from a humanitarian/development perspective - I see that there are two major topics I see again and again right now:
- data protection (and how this intersects with data sovereignty, data sharing, consent, biometrics, etc)
- tech-stack integrations (how ODK tools integrate with other technologies).
So, these are topics I'm interested in understanding more about in ODK's continued development, and how we address these thoughtfully with users.
How will you help ODK accomplish those priorities?
- Continue to be a public advocate and instructor for users to incorporate new and improved features into their typical workflows.
- Continue to participate with users in forums, as well as engage in deep discussions with global users of where their pain points are and what they struggle with (in terms of ODK as well as how it intersects/integrates with other tech/workflows).
- Continue to engage with global M&E leads, working groups, users, etc, (esp. in the humanitarian/development/social enterprise sectors) to understand organisation-wide perspectives on data collection, and primary drivers for decision-making in tech-selection.
- Feedback use-cases, ideas, perspectives, etc, to the TAB.
How many hours a week can you commit to participating on the TAB?
What other data collection projects, social impact projects, or open source projects are you involved with?
- CEO and Director of Humanitarian Data Solutions (focused on ODK-based data collection training and consultancy for the humanitarian and development sectors)
- data collection on holistic wellbeing in rural poor communities (as part of locally-led development initiatives)
- data collection on livelihood understanding of informal waste-workers and ocean-plastic diversion through informal sector
- data collection of impact of humanitarian and development programmes
- impact measurement and management within livelihoods projects
- Currently supporting Emerging Leaders, Ocean Cycle, Tearfund's Light Wheel Assessment, MAF's new global impact assessment, British Red Cross & IFRC, Medical Teams International - all to do with XLSForms and/or XLSForm/KoBo training.
Please share any links to public resources (e.g., resume, blog, Github) that help support your application.