In this edition...
New projects and the launch of ROSTER a new Saas Platform
In May’s newsletter we announce a series of new projects, new geographies and new clients for ML’s platforms. We’re delighted to have supported winning bids for new clients DAI, Chemonics, the British Council and Crown Agents in recent months.
We also share some advance news on ML’s new ROSTER Platform which we’re live testing this May with selected clients. ROSTER is designed to help you build and manage a community of loyal, trusted associate advisers who are engaged and responsive. With tools/functions to manage your associate and advisory pool and to deploy the very best of your human resource efficiently for bids and live programmes.
In minimising form filling and transaction costs and with automated GDPR compliance, ROSTER aims to bring the era of clunky interfaces, irksome form filling and frustrated associates to an end.
We’re also delighted to warmly welcome 4 new hires to our growing UK operation, Wilma Carlsson, Emma Christie, Mark Gilkes and Alex Demeza have all joined us in the last quarter at our new offices in Theale.
We close by providing a snapshot on our advocacy and policy focus in 2023 on issues such as mainstreaming of tech into programme design and the proliferation of digital platforms being readied for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
New clients and geographies for our evolving ML PROJECT platform
PROJECT is under active development. In 2022/3 ML has further developed PROJECT on the following lines:
- PROJECT’s MEL suite is now set up to meet USAID, FCDO, UN KPI & reporting requirements as well of those of a range of smaller bilateral donors and has been configured to support a range of multi-donor financed vehicles
- We now support a number of multilingual grants portals, with French, Arabic, Ukrainian, Somali, Amharicand Oromo languages interfaces in use or development in May 2023
- PROJECT’s stakeholder tracking tool set has been refined in 2022/23 to support more granular political economy analysis, and to provide high quality infographics on stakeholders, networks, access and impact
PROJECT continues to refine its dashboarding capability and now supports an exceptional interface for a dynamic programmatic/portfolio overview and to meet the reporting and information requirements of demanding data-driven senior decisionmakers.
DEPLOY & OPERATE Platforms
In May 2023 ML DEPLOY is in use to support the deployment, by FCDO and other departments, of UK officials and specialists into emergency, humanitarian and stabilisation settings.
Our ML OPERATE platform is the logistics and delivery platform for the UK Government’s humanitarian response. OPERATE combines advanced tech4good software – in areas such as anticipatory and early warning capability – with the hardware of prepositioned equipment, warehousing, physical delivery and asset tracking.
OPERATE is in use globally and currently supports the UK response to Ukraine, Turkey/Syria Earthquake and the Sudan crisis etc.
Advisory and Information operations
The Humanitarian Emergency Response Operations and Stabilisation (HEROS) programme provides capacity, advisory, and operational support to the UK’s global humanitarian emergency response and stabilisation effort. The primary client is the Foreign Office (FCDO) and the Humanitarian and Emergency, Reconstruction and Stabilisation Operations Team (HSOT)
Since 2017 MetricsLed has led the design and operational management of the HERMIS system that underpins all elements of the HEROS programme from early warning tools, through to management of warehousing for pre-positioned emergency supplies and deployment of civilian experts.
HERMIS draws on data from over two decades of slow burn, recurring and sudden onset emergencies and incident response. It was originally built out of MetricsLed’s experience of MIS developments for a complex $140 million US/UK led multi-donor programme of aid to rebel held Syrian enclaves.
It’s now a complex and dynamic system that pulls together and integrates warehousing, prepositioning, early warning, roster management, deployment, asset tracking. It draws on data from a range of sources, networks, and partners. It’s a system that can be used to stand up a fully connected ‘situation room’: a command-and-control centre with incident specific dashboarding and live feeds. HERMIS has been through many iterations and upgrades and is now mapped onto the UK government architecture and protocols for emergency response from Duty Officer to Post. HERMIS also been built to support all the UK’s official civilian deployments from across Whitehall as well as from prequalified and standing rosters of deployable experts.
The recently circulated review of the HEROS programme gave a snapshot of the scope and impact of MetricsLed’s work supporting the FCDO’s response to global humanitarian emergencies between 2018 – 2022.
ROSTER - new platform in testing May 2023
We’ve been making the case in our comms and advocacy work on the need for donors to do more to mainstream digital approaches to the conception and design of aid and humanitarian response and programming.
In recent weeks we’ve been arguing that focus on AI shouldn’t distract from the nuts and bolts of digital transformation. Expressing the hope that the international development community as a whole – and the tech/digital/data folk within it – don’t get so preoccupied and distracted with the big debates on AI that they divert attention, resources and funding from policies and programmes that aim to support digital transformation on the ground now, today in real time.
Practical and tested ‘Nuts and Bolts’ type programmes that focus on closing the ‘digital divide’: ensuring broader access to connectivity, strengthening data architecture and governance, building digital public infrastructure to support digital identity, payments, data exchange and access to public services. See our recent blog and AI and International Development: (4) Post | Feed | LinkedIn
This digital divide is where international development aid should be focussed: grinding out digital transformation and change, strengthening and building countries, institutions and people, digging the foundations on which to open access.
And recent months have been encouraging for those of us who work putting in the hard yards to grind out these projects and who track the pipeline of work coming through. The slew of recent and upcoming projects that have core tech components, or focussed on cyber, data or digital delivery suggests that the best in class bilateral and multilateral donors – the World Bank, FCDO etc. – are now following USAID’s digitisation mainstreaming lead and beginning to set down a pipeline of opportunities in the cyber, data or digital delivery space.
Advocacy and policy
We’re a software house, but we don’t feel comfortable just occupying the back office. We like also to engage in debate and advocacy on development and humanitarian policy and on the application of tech and digital delivery across the aid sector.
This month we highlight our thoughts on:
- mainstreaming the use of digital technology through aid programming following the report of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) on the FCDO’s Programme Operating Framework (PrOF). The FCDO’s Programme Operating Framework – ICAI (independent.gov.uk). We push for a more coherent, consistent and ambitious approach to the use of digital technology in aid programming;
- the increasing importance of digital platforms in the delivery of aid and reconstruction to Ukraine as preparations are made for a refresh and restatement of the West’s commitments to Ukraine at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in June.
Digitising delivery, ICAI and the FCDO’s programming framework
In March ML fed some views into the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI) on FCDO’s Programme Operating Framework (PrOF) from our perspective as the largest supplier of programme delivery & operating software to FCDO and FCDO’s key suppliers/contractors.
We believe that the current policy framework is, at best, ambivalent towards digitising programme delivery as captured in the summary published by the FCDO in November 2022.
‘Digital is driving real transformation. It is making a difference to millions of people through new partnerships, better technology, creative design, smarter research and transformative solutions, such as engaging with beneficiaries. However, there is a risk that digital spend proposed by partners to address user needs, may be disproportionate, offer poor VfM, misaligned with FCDO’s digital strategy and standards, or replicates something already being used in FCDO.’[i]
We see that digital is often seen as a separate ‘bolt on’ type consideration for programmes and is subject to a range of general policies and permissions that are separate and distinct from those governing programme approaches for ODA spend.
We think that there’s a case to be made for mainstreaming the use of digital technology to drive better ways of working, to improve programme delivery and to ensure a consistent approach to the use of data.
We also noted that while the PrOF may have been well-socialised within the FCDO, there appears to have been relatively little effort made to also align the systems and processes of suppliers – this risks creating inefficiencies.
We do think there will be more debate on digitisation in coming months due to a range of issues:
- The massive rise in the use of digital programming for humanitarian aid, and reconstruction: seen most recently in Ukraine[ii]
- USAID’s agenda setting: mainstreaming of digital technologies through its programmes and appointing senior officials to digital roles to drive digitisation and taking active measures to develop and support a community of data driven digital savvy aid officials and diplomats.
- The need for ODA spend to mirror and support the UK’s broader ambitious digital/data/innovation policy agenda
- The growth of a community of tech savvy officials who wish promote/mainstream digital delivery for ODA spending through programme design rather than treat it as a separate ‘bolt on’ for which separate policies and permissions apply
- Growing awareness at senior levels of the benefits of using digital tools to develop a standardisation of approach from a FCDO management perspective and of the benefits of digital tools for accountability purposes and in terms of project transparency, integrity, governance and in keeping track of aid funded assets
- Demand from staff within FCDO contractors and partners for better use of tech, digital tools, and data within the businesses or agencies and their insistence that digital tools and smart use of technology should be more central to their delivery of programmes and that data should be seen as a dynamic resource for adaptive management rather than simply for accountability and record keeping purposes.
We’re currently keeping a close eye on the use of digital platforms in Ukraine trying both to showcase the extraordinary advances and opportunities and point to the risks of poor coordination and confusion.
MetricsLed’s platforms are being used to support the delivery of non-military elements of the UK’s support to Ukraine. With the approach of the London Conference on Ukraine’s Recovery in June we’ve taken the time to provide an overview of the growing number of digital platforms.
There’s a dozen or more circling in the Cloud above Ukraine gearing up to support reconstruction: many have overlapping aims and varying degrees of ambition, official status, and public accessibility/oversight.
Such platforms were peripheral in previous major, expeditionary or internationally financed reconstruction programmes. They are now key actors with distinct characteristics and capabilities.
Ultimately, these platforms are about the flows of money, life-saving supplies and kit into Ukraine, but they can be designed and configured to serve many other purposes:
- channelling citizen activism and patriotism into reconstruction and reform;
- meeting public and donor accountability requirements;
- supporting reforms required for EU accession and track conditions of grants/loans linked to sectors such as public financial management etc at oblast and sub-oblast (Raion) levels of government;
- facilitating involvement of civil society and the private sector in reconstruction.
But stitching these platforms together into a workable whole will require considerable digital diplomacy. Particularly careful consideration must be given on how to bolt these reconstruction platforms into Ukraine’s governmental systems to meet urgent needs, satisfy accountability requirements and advance longer term reform aims.
Read our commentary on preparations for Ukraine’s reconstruction in our Chairman’s blog. Chairman’s Blog – Metrics Led
New Joiners at MetricsLed
- Mark Gilkes, Head of Partner Engagement – Mark joined MetricsLed in March 2023. He has worked in international development since 2010 and managed the delivery of large projects on behalf of the FCDO, EU, USAID and a number of other donors. Mark’s background is in governance and anti-corruption and prior to joining MetricsLed he spent the last 7-years supporting anti-corruption, governance and private sector development initiatives in Uganda and Ethiopia.
- Emma Christie, Junior Project Manager – Emma joined MetricsLed in April 2023. She is currently completing her Masters in Emerging Economies and International Development at King’s College London. She graduated from Loughborough University in 2022, where she studied Geography with Economics and has a particular interest in initiatives to tackle climate change. Prior to joining MetricsLed, spent a year working with the US energy technology company Baker Hughes.
- Wilma Carlsson, Junior Project Manager – Wilma joined MetricsLed in April 2023. She currently completing a masters degree in International Political Economy at King’s College London, where her studies have focused on the financial de-risking of Public Private Partnerships in low-income countries.
- Alex Demeza, Junior Software Developer – Alex joined MetricsLed in late 2022 as a Junior Software Developer and supports the development of several MetricsLed products including ML Project, ML Deploy and ML Roster. Alex studied Computer Science and graduated from Nottingham Trent University.