Reporting on culture and development in Suriname

by Lissy van Noort

RSR Commonsites Suriname

Above: participants on the first RSR training workshop in Suriname for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Cultural Policy Unit (ICE)
Photo by David de Bruijne

Last week, we organised our first ever RSR training course in Suriname. Together with our strategic partner CommonSites, we are working with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affair’s International Cultural Policy Unit (ICE) to bring online via RSR culture and development projects in eight focus countries.

In July this year, we organised an RSR training workshop in one of these focus countries; Kenya. My colleague Elma wrote this blog about it. 

This month it was time for partners in the second focus country, Suriname, to join an RSR training course organised by ICE, CommonSites, local partner Projekta and Akvo. David de Bruijne, creative director of CommonSites who is based in Curacao, facilitated the training which took place in Paramaribo. You can read about David’s experiences during the workshop in his blog.

Lissy van Noort is project manager at Akvo, based in Amsterdam.

Hacking #IATI aid development tools, for a better information chain

by Siem Vaessen


Last week Akvo had a technical encounter with Zimmerman & Zimmerman, in Amsterdam, of which I’m managing partner. We organised a 2 day hackathon to see how we could fit Aidstream to Akvo RSR and Akvo Openaid and vice versa. Aidstream provides organisations with an IATI publication tool out of the box. The goal of this hackathon was to A: establish a good understanding of the underlying technology that drives Aidstream, B: provide the Akvo RSR tech team with a better understanding on how to enrich the Aidstream datamodel with RSR data and C: enrich Akvo Openaid with a function to modify IATI activities on its front-end interface and make real-time changes to Aidstream.

One of our obvious conclusions is that creating and connecting aid development tracking tools is not a trivial task by any means. We do however found connecting more (open-source) “ICT4D” (information and communication technologies for development) tools will create tremendous added value to the community. While two days just covered our initial tasks at most, we still need to do some more gruntwork in order to finish some loose ends on our work. I will report on our final findings in the New Year.

I have tried to aggregate our findings from the hackathon and singled them out in once piece posted on, which you can read here.

Siem Vaessen is managing director of Zimmerman & Zimmerman, an Akvo technical partner based in Amsterdam.
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Connect4Change captures patient feedback in Uganda

by Jo Pratt

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Connect4Change (C4C) is a consortium of Dutch development organisations (Cordaid, Edukans, ICCO, IICD and Akvo), that are working to apply technology to accelerate the development of people in Africa and Latin America. Investing almost €50 million over five years, its vision is of a world where people – particularly women and young people – are able to access relevant information that lets them shape their own future. Information technology is the main enabler in this process.
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The journey to transparency for NDLink in Nigeria

by Charlotte Soedjak

ndlink2-1 copyIn the spring of 2014 we started working with NDLink (Niger Delta Link) to help publish their project portfolio online using Akvo RSR. NDLink is an initiative of PIND Foundation and aims to encourage partnerships in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Through its online platform, NDLink aims to unite stakeholders in the region, trying to close the existing communication gap and improve information sharing. Around 1,000 projects will be published on the NDLink website using the Akvo RSR platform. 

We’ve been working since June to collect all project data in the required RSR format and get the technical implementation process in place. This is a big effort and we’re proud to be able to now show the first of the NDLink projects online.

Above: data gathering with Global Women Sustainable Development representative in Warri, Delta State, with Chima Jeff, NDLink Intern. 
Below: Ese Emerhi, NDLink project manager at PIND. Source: NDLink. 
Bottom: the NDLink team.
Source: NDLink.
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I asked Ese Emerhi, the NDLink project manager at PIND, about her experiences of working on this project. 

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Three great new features, in Akvo FLOW

by Mark Tiele Westra


Now features Survey folders, Cascading questions and Roles & permissions

The December FLOW release contains three major improvements which we’d like to tell you a bit more about. As things will look quite different, we thought it would be good to give you some advance notice. We will roll out this release over the coming two weeks.

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Travelling to the pearl of Africa

by Laura Roverts

Taxi park, KampalaLast week I came back from Uganda, or – as the Ugandans call it – the Pearl of Africa. While there, I travelled from Kampala to Jinja together with my colleague Andrew, our driver Mozes and photographer Papa Shabani, to carry out an Akvo partner hero photo shoot. There we met Dorcas, Patricks and Mike from the Health Office Diocese of Jinja, an implementing partner of Connect4Change. From Jinja we travelled another two hours over an unpaved road to Wesunire, Buyende District, where Sister Anne Prisca runs a healthcare centre, together with a clinical officer and the health workers. People from other villages in that area come to the health centre to see a doctor or to get treatment and medicines. With the support of Connect4Change, the Diocese of Jinja is using Akvo FLOW to conduct patient satisfaction surveys at health care facilities and within the community. With the information they receive they are able to give feedback to health workers and improve the services provided.

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Talking about innovation in international development

by Jo Pratt

John bristow blog
In June this year I attended an event organised by Engineers Without Borders called Massive Small Change – a “one-day celebration of new ideas, perspectives and approaches in the engineering and international development sector”. Most of the delegates were young engineers with a desire to apply their skills to improve the world.

I gave a talk on the significance of open source approaches to speeding up the rate at which we can tackle big, global problems. After the session, I got chatting with John Bristow, a coach and mentor to organisational leaders who himself has a keen interest in innovations that address pressing social issues. John has a website and blog called Societal Innovation & Learning that examines interesting and informative examples of people exploring and modelling co-creation for the public good. 

In September, John came to our London office to film a three-way conversation with Mark Charmer and I, mostly about Akvo and some of the thinking that shapes our organisation. You can read about and watch films of our discussions on John’s website in two articles; Innovation in international development – Akvo’s contribution and Patterns in innovation and change – use of the Internet.

Jo Pratt is Communications manager at Akvo, based in the UK.

Notes from the UK’s largest* development conference

by Jo Pratt

In 2013, for the first time, the UK met its target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid. This represented the overdue fulfilment of a commitment made over 40 years ago, and a victory for campaigners. Besides Britain, only Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the United Arab Emirates spent more than 0.7% of their national income in aid in 2013. The next step is to enshrine the 0.7% in law, a move which gained cross-party support when a Private Members Bill tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore passed its second reading in the House of Commons in September this year. 

Michael Moore was one of a host of heavy-weight speakers and panellists at the Redefining Development conference I attended in Central London last week organised by Bond, the UK membership body for organisations working in international development. Other big names included Bill Gates, UK Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening and prominent anti-apartheid campaigner and former minister of the South African government under Nelson Mandela, Jay Naidoo (who I’m over-excited to note now follows me on Twitter). Read More »

Akvo RSR 3. The journey so far.

by Adrian Collier

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Earlier this year, I embarked on a journey into user experience design and development. You see, I’ve always been a database person, but I knew we needed to think much more about what’s known in the tech industry as “UX”. So I got into studying user experience academically and applying the insights day to day. It’s been great to do – I was able to improve my understanding of how users are actually understanding the product I manage, and how they don’t, and start to gain more understanding of what might be done to improve the overall experience people have when using Akvo Really Simple Reporting (RSR).

When Akvo RSR was conceived, it was as a project database that would support the opening up of highly networked partnership structures in international development cooperation - a web-based multi-tenanted content management system. It was designed to scale to thousands of projects. And today we have 2137 projects online, covering project budgets worth over €1 billion. So in many senses it’s achieved what we’d wanted – a rock solid web-based project database used by lots of organisations. But it’s set to grow in use dramatically, so now is the time to look at how it’s used – it’s vital to me that using RSR is not seen as a burden, an extra thing to be done. I want it to be a joy to use. How we design RSR from here will absolutely affect its uptake and the attitude users have towards it.

Improving user experience is a journey of discovery and starts at the source of truth for all software products – the user.

After undertaking many informal interviews, speaking with internal and external users and analysing as much quantitative (and a little qualitative) data about RSR I could get my hands on, I started producing some materials that would help pave the way for improvements.
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Business drives access to water in Ghana

by Marten Schoonman

SMARTerWAH maps“Before we go out to collect data we first talk with the districts’ Community Development Officers. They know all the communities within the district. This way you are sure that when the enumerator team goes out to the field, they will not leave any community unattended. I advise you all to do the same.”

These were the words of Mohammed Kplega who is an information technology specialist for the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) in Ghana’s Western Region. They were pronounced during a workshop on data cleaning and analysis held in Koforidua, Ghana October 14-17. People from six regions of Ghana travelled to a conference centre outside Accra. The participants had been previously trained by Akvo during June 2014 at a ‘training of trainers’ workshop and they in turn have trained government staff in their districts. This meeting aimed to take stock of progress and to learn more about data cleaning and analysis and reporting on data about rural water facilities in Ghana. In the intervening time, over 17,500 data points (filled surveys) were collected by 150 survey enumerators. This is about 50% of the expected number of data points for the target six regions, and it is quite an achievement for the short period of time involved. 

Top left: six out of ten regions in Ghana are currently mapping water facilities (indicated in green) funded through SMARTerWASH. The bubbles represent the rural population per region. Right: over 17,500 data points (filled surveys on rural and community water supplies, shown here in clusters) have been collected to date across 119 districts.

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