MSF REACH – REaction Assessment Collaboration Hub:
This TIC project developed a platform to equip MSF with eyes on the ground to improve decision making and response time in the event of a disaster.
Tell us about the problem you are trying to solve.
MSF teams respond to emergencies all across the globe, but who ensures they receive the information they need before they step in to assist? How will everyone on the team know how bad the situation is on the ground? This is where REACH steps in to act as an information hub to help MSF teams make well-informed decisions in their response to emergencies. REACH is a humanitarian platform developed by MSF to map and analyze the rapidly evolving situation at the epicenter of a crisis.
MSF REACH is working to address the lack of efficiency in response time and quality in emergency settings through a Monitoring and Surveillance system. The main challenges in providing a quick and efficient response are:
• Poor communication
• Poor capitalization of institutional memory
• Discrepancies between the noise and the reality of the evolving situation on the ground
The goal is to create better collaboration between the different OCs/mission/field teams who are responding to an emergency – we need to quickly assess who is doing what where?
What is your solution? What motivates you to work on addressing this problem?
MSF REACH (referring to REaction Assessment Collaboration Hub) is an internal platform to MSF designed to support improved information management in times of emergencies and foster more efficient decision-support during disasters. The objective is to effectively and efficiently combine institutional data (including contact network mapping, past and active MSF operations mapped) with crowd-sourced information (including social media and relevant RSS feeds) in real-time, equipping MSF with virtual eyes on the ground and setting up a systematic surveillance system.
How can it be used? For monitoring purposes, project management, contact mapping – we have designed several features that helps MSF staff streamline their data sharing activities between the field and HQ.
What have you done so far and what results have you achieved?
A major milestone for the project has been reached at the beginning of July 2020.
We are developing an internal community of practice around a more systematic surveillance system. This supports our e-desks to get a sense of what the local support offices are keeping an eye on, as well as making sure they have access to the most relevant and timely data (contacts network, institutional knowledge, etc.) when a decision needs to be taken in times of emergency.
What challenges have you faced? What lessons have you learned? What’s next?
As with any other technological development, trying to launch this platform did not come without challenges. The main one was with finding developers, we ought to remember that we are not an organization that has internal software developers so we had challenges finding the right partners to develop the platform. Constantly having to change developer partners means changing infrastructure and language as no one wants to use another person’s code. Fortunately, in the end, we managed to launch the platform with the assistance of RocTech.
Another reason for delays was the time to ensure that the features were good, and the tool was user friendly. Avoiding frustration was key and it took multiple rounds of development to achieve that goal.
We are now focusing on supporting field staff users to upload their data, keeping them updated and receiving their feedback to enhance the platform according to their needs. We are also planning to share lessons learned, successes and failures using REACH. You can get inspired by how the other field teams are experiencing REACH.
What have staff said about the project?
“Knowing who we know, what is our presence, but also the past responses is very valuable in times of emergency” – Emergency Coordinator, OCB
“I just checked the map and I saw that they have the same disease that we have in this part of the world. I will get in touch with the REACH operator from Singapore and see how they are monitoring it” – Staff member at BRAMU
“Thanks Lucie, definitely this platform needs to be promoted more. My pleasure, and happy to finally this taking off after much discussion for the past 2 years” – Mutare, coordination, OCB
“Thanks a lot for the training provided and the ones you are still planning to do. The team was very impressed by the tool and the session provided. I hope I can join the upcoming training.” – Emergency Preparedness Plan coordination, Addis, Ethiopia, OCBA
Are there any interesting partners that you are collaborating with?
The field team, the users are a great partner: the tool was developed to leverage partnerships with the local community and local networks where MSF’s footprint is rather low to support MSF operations and improve information management in times of emergency.
University of Sherbrooke is working on users’ satisfaction and information quality to guide the design and development process of the tool.
What is the expected long-term impact of the project? How will this project improve MSF’s lifesaving work?
Presence of REACH in the movement
The humanitarian platform is currently present in the following three operation centers – namely;
• Operational Center Brussels’s offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and Lebanon.
• Operational Center Geneva’s offices in Dakar and Lebanon.
• Operational Center Barcelona’s Ethiopia mission in the Gambela project.
Increasing the presence of the platform throughout the movement is important to ensure its adoption and impact. To achieve this, promotional marketing is continuously being carried out within movement to let everyone know about the tool and what it does. Potential interested parties are also approached to see if they would be interested to plug-and-play model using the platform.
Phases of REACH
REACH, still being in its pilot phase, has already launched 4 pilot sites for the following:
• Association members for MSF Southern Africa.
• Epidemiologists in WACA (West and Central Africa) to do surveillance of outbreak diseases and share the most updated and reliable information with the operational centre in Europe to take decisions on whether intervention is needed or not.
• Operation support unit in Asia, which deals with natural disasters and disease outbreak monitoring.
• The project team in Gambela, Ethiopia for project management purposes including contacts mapping, as well as weekly event reporting system within REACH
As the pilot phase ends soon, an evaluation of the project will be conducted.
Going forward, we would like to see REACH becoming a knowledge management tool within MSF, and capitalize in building an institutional memory for MSF, where the platform will keep an archive of past emergencies, past suppliers etc.
REACH can be used as a daily working tool to log information, and how amazing it would be to see other agencies such as the ICRC, UN, WOC, WHO etc., being interested in being part of REACH as well. “In this way, we could have a layer on REACH that is gathering data from all these agencies to see who is busy with what from the bigger collaboration incorporated in the field whenever there’s an emergency response happening.”
How to log in? Please log in with your MSF credentials: https://msf-reach.org/ Or try the new features in our test environment – use it as a sandbox to get you familiar with the platform: https://test.msf-reach.org/
How to provide your feedback? https://forms.gle/bPLnRk4fFqzYSdZo7 any bugs, enhancement of existing features or ideas for new features are most than welcome!
Meanwhile, do not hesitate to browse our SharePoint site where you can find news months by months, all the project’s documentation and materials such TIC Concept-Notes, Videos, and Progress Reports. Request a live-demo if interested by writing an email to Lucie Gueuning, Project Manager of REACH.
Images, videos and other visual materials for your perusal: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ByHBPKvqm_aBtLIp9vD3jSBivRxUJgar?usp=sharing