Evolution of Data Tools: YouLead’s Journey with Data Collection
MEDA constantly encourages its staff and clients to seek innovative technologies that can not only save time and resources but also provide new information for improved programming and livelihoods. MEDA’s staff strives to be leaders in economic development by learning and adopting the latest tools, technologies, and frameworks to ensure success. Many of MEDA’s projects utilize a wide suite of innovative tools that assist our teams to be proficient problem solvers and well-organized data collectors. One example of efficient data collection can be seen with the YouLead project, implemented by Cuso International and MEDA. Youth Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Access and Development (YouLead) has a mandate to empower the lives of youth in Nigeria’s Cross River State, and one activity for better financial inclusion for youth is the Youth Entrepreneurship Business Support Plan (YEBSP) grants.
During YouLead’s last grant cycle, the team received over 2,500 youth applications of which 265 moved on to the final assessment stage. This final stage included in-depth interviews in the field at the applicant’s business site to assess the applicant’s proposed business plan (to read more about this process, visit this blog). In order to accurately capture the business aptitude of each applicant, the project decided to adopt iFormBuilder as its primary data collection tool. iFormBuilder is an application developed by Zerion Software and offers a host of functions to ensure accurate and detailed data collection. You can build forms online and sync them to your data collection device, which can be tablets or smartphones. All the data can then be downloaded onto an excel spreadsheet for ease of analysis and data viewing.
The form builder itself offers numerous options to suit your inquiry needs; questions can be posed as multiple choice with multi-select, include a selection range, capture GPS locations or be a simple text input. iFormBuilder’s sophisticated interface can even operate with specific conditional values, allowing additional follow-up questions to appear on the form, depending on the answers selected. The YouLead team also uses iFormBuilder when monitoring the businesses of past YEBSP grantees.
Although iFormBuilder serves as a useful data collection tool, it’s capabilities can become complicated when collecting data from groups of people; iFormBuilder is great to capture results from individuals but is more limited when collecting information in settings such as focus group discussions.
A few months ago, YouLead completed another activity centred around youth financial education. To better understand the challenges faced by youth entrepreneurs, MEDA supported the development of a financial education assessment, which was conducted through focus group discussions to determine youth’s knowledge on available financial services (including loans and savings products) and on common youth spending trends.
A total of 30 focus group discussions were held with an average of 10-12 individuals per group. The discussions were segregated by gender and conducted in rural, urban and semi-urban communities to ensure a full scope of the situation was analysed. The focus group discussions were also split between both YouLead and non-YouLead clients and included discussions with community members/support networks for youth (including family, parents and spouses).
In order to capture the perspectives of all the participants, a more complex data tool needed to be developed. For this exercise, the facilitator needed to engage the groups in discussion, while recording the unique opinions of individuals in the group. SurveyToGo proved to be a more efficient way to summarise group findings, as it included an option to input a number of responses for each selection. For example, if the group was asked “what do people in your community usually save money for?” participants could vote on each of the options – say, 3 people said investments, 4 people said medical care, etc.).
SurveyToGo is an application developed by Dooblo, and like iFormBuilder, its main functionality is creating and managing surveys that can be used on tablets and mobile devices. Both iFormBuilder and SurveyToGo are great tools to use when collecting field data. They can be used offline and then synced to your server once Wi-Fi or data services are available. With many MEDA projects located in remote areas, access to internet services is scarce. These tools allow our teams to conduct valuable research and monitoring activities even in the most rural areas. All data (for both tools) has capabilities to be exported in excel spreadsheets making data analysis easy. Manually entering data is no longer an option, as these technologies foster efficient and time-saving ways to collect valuable information. Although these tools are beneficial for MEDA’s project activities, the digital landscape continues to evolve. MEDA plans to stay on top of these changes, as data collection software continues to improve.