The United Nations Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is a part of the UN Secretariat charged with bringing together humanitarian actors to ensure a coherent international response to emergencies. One of OCHA’s key functions is information management, gathering data and reports from partners in the field and using this information to support coordination efforts and provide information products to the humanitarian community. I have worked with OCHA on several information-related projects over the last four years, starting with my Master’s thesis work on the production of the OCHA Situation Report, a key document released regularly during an emergency. Since finishing my degree, I have continued to work with OCHA as a consultant on several projects:
- In 2009, I worked with the Humanitarian Information Products Working Group on a research project reviewing OCHA’s information products and processes. The project articulated a set of core principles for managing information and evaluated OCHA’s current practices against them, identifying weak areas and opportunities for improved coordination across information systems and products.
- In 2011, I worked with OCHA on the Common Cluster Data Initiative, a project that looked broadly at the many ways OCHA gathers information from partners in the field, with the goal of streamlining OCHA’s information requests and coordinating internal information processes. I worked with a wide range of stakeholders to develop the project plan, including a dataset specification, outlining the full range of data partners have agreed to share; tools and guidance to support a standard information-gathering process; a set of new information systems to manage data previously stored only in emails and documents; and a management structure defining the roles and responsibilities required for an effective system. The project is now in the early implementation phase.