Building the data skills of technical and non-technical humanitarians is essential to improving the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector. The Centre’s data literacy work is focused on increasing the capacity of humanitarians to work with data. We aim to:

  • Bridge the gap between technical staff and decision makers on data needs.
  • Increase demand for better data and more targeted data collection.
  • Improve conversations around data so that no one gets lost in technical language.

We know from our research that humanitarians are interested in improving the way that they work with data but often don’t know where to start. To help, we curate existing resources and create new material that guides humanitarians through what they need to learn in the most efficient way possible.

“Using data is a core competency for organizations in the 21st century, but we are not yet prepared for it.”
-The UN Secretary-General's Data Strategy for Action by Everyone, Everywhere

Learning with the Centre

Our online resources include brief introductions to topics as well as in-depth explanations of how to do a data-focused activity. You can find all of our latest learning paths here

Our learning path on the Humanitarian Exchange Language can be completed in less than 30 minutes and provides an overview of the HXL standards and in-depth explanations about how to use the standard to describe common humanitarian data points. Our learning path on Disclosure Risk Assessment takes about an hour to complete and provides an introduction to microdata and the stages of Statistical Disclosure Control. Instructional videos and step-by-step tutorials explain how to assess the risk of disclosure of individuals from surveys and needs assessments and how to use statistical methods to reduce that risk. 

HDX Data Visualization Guidelines

The HDX Data Visualization Guidelines provide a comprehensive look at design principles and best practices for creating charts, tables and more. It is a great place to go for guidance on how to create impactful infographics and to communicate data effectively. For a brief introduction to the Guidelines, we recommended following this two part mini-series organized by the UN Innovation Network. Over the two sessions, you will learn best practices in data visualization and design.

If you are looking for a quick refresher, the Quick Tips for Visualising Data takes 10 minutes to go through and provides an overview of the fundamentals of good data visualization. It covers how to choose the right visualization for your data and offers best practices with specific examples from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Quick Tips are also available in French.

In addition to online resources, we periodically offer a two-month training programme for OCHA staff that includes pre-learning; a weeklong, in-person bootcamp; and six weeks of remote, on-the-job support. The Data Literacy Foundation Programme gives non-technical humanitarians the time and space to build and apply data skills. The programme emphasises hands-on skill-building with quick, practical implementation.

We collaborate with OCHA’s Learning and Development Unit and other teams to ensure that data literacy is mainstreamed into existing training programmes for humanitarians. As a founding member of the Data Literacy Consortium, a network of practice for building data culture, we work with NGOs, governments and UN agencies to share resources and best practices around data literacy.

Data Literacy Survey

In January 2019, we conducted a survey to understand how the Centre can best support humanitarians to improve their data skills. Over 1,200 people completed the survey from 111 countries. Respondents indicated that analysing data was their most common data-related task, and the top challenges were related to collecting primary data and assessing and improving the quality of data. 

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