Responsible Data for Children Organizes Uganda Studio Series: Addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Refugee Children

This blog by Andrew J. Zahuranec and Sara Marcucci was originally published on the Responsible Data for Children blog site. Learn more about The GovLab’s Responsible Data for Children initiative at rd4c.org.

Image by bill wegener/Unsplash is licensed under CC0.

With over 1.5 million refugees, Uganda is the third-largest refugee-hosting country in the world and the largest refugee host country in Africa. Over half of these refugees are children while an additional 23 percent are women above 18 years old. Many of these refugees report experiencing psychological distress and face challenges in accessing Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS). Indeed, the UNHCR estimates that 22 percent of refugee households reported at least one member was in psychological distress or scared. Many of these individuals were children.

It’s for these reasons that the Responsible Data for Children initiative — a collaboration between UNICEF and The GovLab to promote more responsible and effective management of data for and about children — saw a common lines of interest to support the Government, UNICEF, and UNHCR in Uganda. Supported by UNHCR and UNICEF’s Blueprint for Joint Action, itself a commitment to accelerate efforts in line with the Global Compact on Refugees, RD4C has embarked on an exciting studio series work with local leaders to diagnose data challenges affecting refugee settlements in Uganda and develop new solutions to more responsibly and effectively manage data.

From 19 through 22 September our staff are on the ground to meet with government officials, the heads of NGOs, community leaders, and refugee children themselves to find ways to improve MHPSS data systems in line with the RD4C Principles.

Studio Goals

Over the last few months, the RD4C team participated in interviews and meetings with practitioners involved in supporting refugee mental health and providing psychosocial services. These discussions have revealed much about how the refugee system in Uganda operates and what are the priorities for those organizations involved in managing them.

In its fact-finding work, RD4C has found that local leaders are most concerned with three basic challenges that will form the basis of its studios:

  1. Barriers limiting children’s access to data-driven services;
  2. Barriers to responsible data use and reuse by organizations involved in providing MHPSS for refugee children; and
  3. Difficulties in connecting and harmonizing existing data sources — including those generated through cases, surveys, and Inter-Agency Feedback, Referrals, and Resolution Mechanisms and other MHPSS programme interventions.

Over the next few days, we’ll seek to understand what specific challenges are related to these issues and what opportunities might exist to address them in such a way as to improve their access and effectiveness.

Approach and Methodology

We’ll do this by hosting three studio workshops to map common challenges and concerns and prototype a pathway forward to address these challenges through the lens of the RD4C principles.

In particular, we will host (a) one workshop with senior Ugandan government officials, (b) a second workshop with field practitioners, and adolescents, and a final workshop guided by the outputs of the prior engagements. In parallel to these workshops, we will host focus groups and consultations with local leaders and adolescent refugee children affected by these systems. The participation of all these partners and stakeholders will be critical.

To organize their involvement, RD4C will rely on the Data Lifecycle — an abstraction that explains the opportunities and challenges in how data is translated from insight and into action. This includes:

The Data Lifecycle
  • PLANNING: Defining objectives and partnerships and designing an implementation strategy.
  • COLLECTION: Gathering data from surveys, censuses, voting or health records, business operations, web-based collections, and other relevant, accessible sources.
  • PROCESSING: Removing irrelevant or inaccurate information, reformatting contents to be interpretable by an analytic software, and otherwise validating the data collection.
  • SHARING: Accessing data with relevant collaborators to derive insights from it.
  • ANALYZING: Assessing the data collection to extract insights about the issue as well as creating a loop for (re)sharing processed data and data insights among appropriate parties.
  • USING: Acting on insights derived. Actions can affect data collected for future operations.

The conclusion of all these activities will be a summary report of the studios, a set of principles for staff to follow on MHPSS for child refugees, and a plan of action on how to embed responsible data for children concepts into refugee and host community service delivery systems.

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We hope you will stay tuned over the next few days as we publish our thoughts and reflections on all this work. We will be updating our partners throughout the week and posting various blogs that you can find on our RD4C blog site and Data Stewards Network. You can also contact us at rd4c@thegovlab.org for more information.

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