Building Our Partners’ Capacity to Ensure Effective Adoption of New Tools & Approaches

UN Global Pulse Asia Pacific
6 min readApr 7, 2021

The role of Pulse Lab Jakarta as an analytic partnerships accelerator within the data innovation ecosystem goes beyond connecting players and building synergies. This role also includes equipping partners with skills, knowledge and fit-for-purpose tools to help them perform at a greater capacity. In 2020, as we transitioned from prototyping and building proofs of concept to focus more on a systems-thinking approach to better embed data innovations, emphasis was placed on building our partners’ capacity to ensure effective adoption, uptake and sustainability of new tools and approaches.

Acknowledging capacity building as a process encompassing different building blocks, our efforts throughout the year have been on:

  1. offering “learning by doing” project-based training and technical advice on collaborative data analytics research with partners within the Government of Indonesia;
  2. putting forward thought leadership on human-centered data innovation for policy making through targeted workshop and focus group discussions; and
  3. sharing knowledge in diverse government, development and humanitarian fora to raise awareness on the challenges and opportunities of harnessing data innovation.

Across these fronts, our broader goal is to mainstream data innovation into day to day practice, and in ensuring that key actors are truly informed and discerning consumers. This means helping key actors to shift from a “plug and play” mindset to understanding the processes and steps required to ensure that alternative data or new approaches and/or innovations are useful to their work. Also the extent in which they complement, improve, or replace existing practices; and importantly in understanding the limitations of such data and approaches, having “red-teamed” and “practiced” the use of data sets accessed in different situations.

Learning by Doing

In 2020, PLJ worked closely with the Center for Development of Planning Data and Information (Pusdatinrenbang) within the Indonesia Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas) on five analytics partnership projects. Each undertaken in partnership with a key stakeholder (namely Kereta Api Indonesia, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, West Java Provincial Government, Bappenas Directorate of Spatial Planning and Disaster Management and the National Institute of Public Administration), the Lab’s involvement throughout the project cycles included joint ideation sessions, data innovation training, technical advice and support.

Learning by doing was central to our capacity building approach in these projects. This included, facilitation of co-creation space, allowing stakeholders to actively participate, inform, as well as gather learnings from the various processes. For example in one of the projects conducted to gain a baseline understanding of the travel behaviour of passengers using Kereta Api Indonesia, the research encouraged engagement of data analysts within both Bappenas and PT KAI on data validation and preprocessing. Similarly, PLJ worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop a machine learning based, data visualization tool that helps to prioritise issues and highlight trends for diplomatic engagement. Whilst undertaking this project, PLJ’s team relied on the domain expertise and knowledge of the staff within the Ministry to contribute to the analytics process, which in return provided insights to staff involved on some of the processes required to undertake machine learning. Cases such as these provided a practical learning opportunity to enhance our partners’ ability to understand data provenance and get a clearer perspective of what a dataset may or may not be used for, as opposed to a simple transfer of technology. For PT KAI, this translates to further supporting internal capacity development to formulate business strategies using data analytics insights, whilst for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this research places the Ministry as a potential focal point for the development of machine learning knowledge applied to information flows within the Indonesian Government.

Targeted Workshops and Advisory Requests

In November 2020, PLJ organised a three-day training workshop focused on data innovation for development planning and policy making, which was attended by around 50 representatives from Bappenas Tim Analitika, Jabar Digital Service and the National Institute of Public Administration. Responding to the growing demand for data innovations in Indonesia’s public sector, the workshop included a series of sessions on how to integrate new approaches in ways of working, including mapping institutional capabilities, identifying potential data points and brokering partnerships with the various thinkers, enablers and doers.

Looking at how to align data for development initiatives for scaling, in October 2020, PLJ also partnered with the Asia Foundation and Indonesian NGO Saraswati to design a series of workshops to help identify ways to scale up two data innovation projects that were being piloted by Thibi and Renaissance Institute under the auspices of the Asia Foundation in Myanmar. One of the key takeaways highlighted the importance of expanding the definition of “scaling up” when implementing social interventions to also focus on stronger uptake and adoption, as opposed to expansion or replication. It also emphasizes that time and resources need to be allocated to ensure that institutional systems and capacity are at a sufficient level to make optimal use of the proposed solutions.

With the COVID-19 pandemic transforming how we conduct qualitative research, our Social Systems team had an opportunity to collaborate with Empatika in a four-week learning network series to discuss adapting qualitative research for remote settings. In particular, the discussions took into consideration research participants from remote areas and/or people who might have more limited access to technology (or more limited experience in using it). Two guiding principles that emerged from the learning network include: i) prioritising the participants’ well-being during the pandemic, and ii) designing accessible research tools to allow us to better reach participants. These principles were applied during the implementation of our joint research with UN Women and Gojek on how MSBs in Indonesia are coping during the pandemic. Our team has published a learning report titled titled ‘What We Talked About When We Talked About Remote Qualitative Research’ that can be accessed here.

Click here to download the report

Based on our experiential knowledge and trusted relationship with the Indonesian Government, Pulse Lab Jakarta was invited to participate in a number of internal dialogues with line ministries and government units. Being a forerunner of exploring non-traditional datasets to complement official statistics, PLJ shared its lessons learned on building data partnerships and developing proofs of concept as part of an internal sharing session hosted by Statistics Indonesia. PLJ’s #JustSaveIt research that combines behavioural insights and human centered design was selected by the Secretariat for the National Council for Financial Inclusion as a good practice case study to be presented in its Digital Financial Capability workshop in November 2020, an event involving more than 80 practitioners and policy makers focusing on financial inclusion in Indonesia. Connected with our financial inclusion portfolio, the Lab was also invited to take part in an internal brainstorming session conducted by Bank Indonesia East Java Office to provide recommendations on developing its inclusive economic growth strategy.

Playing an advisory role, our activities have included participation in focused group discussions convened by PROSPERA with the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs to provide technical inputs on the development of strategies and policies linked to the National Digital Economy Framework. Similarly, the Lab was requested to participate in an internal review meeting with the Financial Education and Training Agency of the Ministry of Finance to share knowledge and provide inputs related to the virtual training programme on data driven decision making that is currently developed by the agency. In a forum arranged by The Westminster Foundation for Democracy and the Indonesian House of Representatives to review Indonesia’s Green Economy Agenda, PLJ discussed its contribution to the Satu Data initiative and how open data principles can be implemented across government to enhance public access to environmental data to improve government’s accountability in achieving sustainable growth and meeting climate change commitments.

Knowledge Sharing

With the COVID-19 crisis underlining the importance of ethical, human-centered data innovation, we have observed an uptick in the demand to share our experiences in various government, development and humanitarian virtual forums in Indonesia and throughout the Asia Pacific region. These provided opportunities to further profile the work of the Lab, as well as network with a mix of attendees convened from the public and private sectors, academia and civil society. Our 2020 annual report details a list of these engagements, which we invite you to download or read online.

Pulse Lab Jakarta is grateful for the generous support from the Government of Australia



UN Global Pulse Asia Pacific

UN Global Pulse Asia Pacific is a regional hub that aims to drive data innovation and sustainable development to ensure that no one is left behind.