40,000 young women and men. 5 countries. 6 years of program delivery. By the numbers alone, the Youth in Action (YiA) program is an ambitious effort to empower rural young Africans who often have little access to opportunities for viable futures. In Egypt, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Ethiopia, Save the Children is working with rural out-of school adolescents to build and enhance their foundational literacy and numeracy skills—as well as transferable skills like entrepreneurship. The MasterCard Foundation-funded program also offers youth opportunities to pursue a pathway of their choice—applying these skills with mentorship and coaching.
Equally ambitious is the program’s commitment to gather, analyze and share data. In the past three years alone, Youth in Action has released six research reports highlighting program learning, with more planned in the coming two years. To enhance monthly data collection for these reports, from countries as distinct as Ethiopia and Burkina Faso—and to ensure rapid, real-time analysis for reporting—Save the Children has partnered with Souktel to develop a five-country custom data analytics platform.
The product of a detailed user-centered design process, the platform represents a key breakthrough in regional Monitoring & Evaluation: For the first time, standardized data on youth training from five countries can be analyzed through one single tool—providing unique insights into common trends across North Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa and the Sahel.
Why build a custom analytics platform? “Given the scale, the duration and the complexity of this program, Save the Children needed maximum flexibility,” explains Souktel COO Mahmoud Shayeb, who managed project delivery. “Projects change significantly over a six-year period. This means that entire data indicator sets can change, and reporting needs can evolve. A major part of our work is to be agile, and ensure that the database software we’re building evolves along with the project”.
Sita Conklin, Program Director for Youth in Action, added: “With a complex program that operates in complex environments and varying differences across five countries, data collection and management in a systematized way is a constant challenge. Our hope is that with this online platform, we will have access to information faster and be able to identify issues sooner. In addition, this provides a more efficient way to look at analysis by just clicking a button instead of working through Excel sheets. During the coming, year we will be able to see how this platform enhances our work and provides better, real time information for decision making in the program.”
Added Ahmed Farahat, Regional Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager for the Youth in Action Program: “Previously, receiving and analyzing data in a spreadsheet for our performance reporting was a complicated process, but now this automated system provides analytical charts and tables to show the program’s performance. It helps us compare between countries with different indicators. It really saves time and effort, as well ensures a higher level of accuracy”.
Local ownership and sustainability are also key considerations: “This platform is the end result of intensive design work with Youth in Action’s stakeholders and staff, in multiple countries,” explained Senior Project Manager Lana Hijazi. “Because this is a long-term investment for Save the Children, we’ve been working in end-user communities over weeks and months to make sure the end product is something they own and feel comfortable using every day”. She adds: “Our objective is for the project team to run and update the platform independently—without needing us—and to have a reusable asset they’re proud of”.