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Staff Blog

Staff Blog

CommCare Exposure Visit with CRS in Uttar Pradesh, India

by Abhishek Prateek

15 April 2014

IMG_20140403_115835With funding from the USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), Dimagi has expanded CommCare to 40 new programs throughout India in health and other social sectors since August of 2012.

Over the last year, each of the 40 partner organizations has worked closely with Dimagi staff to design, develop, and implement a CommCare project. The resulting CommCare applications support programs across numerous sectors, including maternal and child health, financial inclusion, nutrition, energy, family planning, and tuberculosis.

Following the successful deployments of these projects, all 40 participating organizations were asked to apply for additional support from Dimagi to scale up and improve the performance of their CommCare projects. A total of 12 were selected. Last week, three of them  went on an “exposure visit” to Catholic Relief Service’s (CRS) CommCare site in the Kaushambi district of Uttar Pradesh, India. The purpose of these visits was for new CommCare-using organizations to see firsthand what a scaling, larger CommCare project looks like.

CRS’s ReMiNd project is a Maternal and Child Health program using CommCare to strengthen the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) system in Kaushambi. The project started as a pilot with 10 ASHAs and has now successfully scaled with quality to about 255 ASHAs in two blocks in Kaushambi. The team has been able to generate a successful model consisting of components like ASHA supervisors (and their roles), tech troubleshooting hierarchy, performance monitoring driving ASHA feedback, etc.

During the exposure visit, CRS staff talked about their CommCare application and the monitoring system that they have developed. Their app consists of forms for tracking pregnant women over course of her pregnancy, counseling messages, danger signs evaluation, etc., while the child module tracks young children for their immunizations, etc.

The CRS team has also created a monitoring and supervision system for the ASHAs. They have a team of supervisors, with each supervisor monitoring around 22 ASHAs. A weekly performance report is automatically generated on CommCare based on the data submitted by ASHAs and is emailed every Monday to the CRS team. The report has statistics about each ASHA, how many cases she followed up with, etc.

Supervisors plan their visits for the week based on this data from the reports. Low performing ASHAs are visited at least twice a month and all others at least once a month by their supervisors. Supervisors also shadow ASHAs during some of their home visits, and evaluate their performance through a supervisory CommCare app. Things like, did ASHA greet mother or not, did she counsel properly or not, etc. are recorded in the app based on supervisor’s observation. This targeted feedback to the ASHAs by their supervisors has been immensely useful in improving their performance and gaining confidence. ASHAs whose hands trembled at beginning of program just by holding a mobile, can now confidently navigate through CommCare and do a great job.

After the presentations, we split up into small groups and drove to the two field sites where the program has been running. Each group visited two ASHAs each in different blocks to see how they use CommCare while visiting pregnant mothers. We also met their supervisors who talked about how they work with the ASHAs. Lots of inspiring stories came up, including that many ASHAs shared that after using CommCare for a year, their reading and writing capabilities have greatly improved.

The day ended with a debrief together, where all participants shared their experiences and learnings, including what they took away for their own programs

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Project Recaps and a Grand Merci

by Sherry Fu (MIT Student, Guest Author)

10 April 2014

Yooni Kim works with clinic staff at a satellite clinic to practice typing

The following guest post was written by Sherry Fu, a student from MIT’s GlobeMed chapter. In the blog, Sherry writes about six studetns’ experience designing and deploying a CommCare application for Hope for Health in Kara, Togo. This project is an example of a CommCare “self-starter” project, where a group designs and deploys their own CommCare program without Dimagi’s help.

The original blogpost can be found here

Apologies for the delayed, final post about our January 2014 trip. As the six of us are now back at MIT and have had some time to reflect, I hope to summarize here what was accomplished, what was learned and what will come next.

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The Away Month, Part Two: Dimagi Goes to Guatemala

by Gillian Javetski

4 April 2014

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Two years ago, someone at Dimagi asked a great question: “Winters in Boston are terrible. Why don’t we just move the whole company somewhere warm and awesome for a month next year?” With that the Dimagi Away Month was born, and 11 Dimagineers relocated to sunny Brazil for February of 2012. They worked from an apartment in Sao Paulo during the week and travelled to Brazil’s beautiful beaches, Rio Janeiro, and little towns on weekends. It went so well that Inc. Magazine wrote about how the Away Month proves that “letting employees work remotely pays off.” With warm weather and a closer, happier team, we had to agree.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.06.09 AMFast forward two years. This winter in Boston was so terrible that even weather.com had given up (see screenshot from January to the right). And so we decided that this was the optimal time to leave for the second Dimagi Away Month in Guatemala. We chose Guatemala because it is sunny, accessible, and there’s a ton to do. We also wanted to visit our partner TulaSalud, and see how their 200+ health workers are using CommCare to track women with high-risk pregnancies. Finally, our colleague Diego is Guatemalan and generously volunteered to coordinate the trip.

We definitely had some initial questions, the biggest one being: were we too big to do this again? Since the last Away Month, Dimagi as a company has grown from 20 to 80 people. This year’s Away Month was nearly three times the size of the first one with a total of 31 people attending, and was the first Away Month for 75% of the group.

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Getting mobile technology to work for your organization

by Vishal Kapoor, Portfolio Manager at Dasra (Guest Author)

31 March 2014

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The following blogpost was originally written for the Maternal Health Task Force blog. In the blog, author Vishal Kapoor talks about how the Indian organization SNEHA is using CommCare, and advice for other organizations that interested in incorporating mobile technology into their community-based programs. Click here to see the original blogpost, which has been copied below. 

In late 2011, the Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action (SNEHA), a Mumbai-based non-profit, embarked on an ambitious journey. Their goal was to reduce the incidence of malnutrition amongst 0-3 year olds across Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, by 25% as part of their Aahar project. Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation that provides capacity building support to non-profits across India, introduced SNEHA to Dimagi, whose overall philosophy and mobile application, CommCare, seemed particularly well suited to Aahar’s need for a robust mobile technology platform to enter and analyze process and program data in real time.

Two years later today, CommCare is fitted on android-based mobile smart phones held by 70 Aahar sakhis (Front Line Workers, FLWs). These phones have screened in information for over 12,000 children and over 2,300 pregnant and lactating women in Dharavi. Speaking with Aahar’s team, they cite several expected advantages of using CommCare, such as improved accuracy of data, reduced time on data entry and calculation, quick access to data during field visits and improved transparency in the data collection process. However, they also mention unexpected benefits such as a greater sense of professionalism in their jobs and pride in having their children and communities view them as productive, tech-savvy members of society.

So, what helped SNEHA to get it largely right? And what advice do they have to offer peers seeking to integrate mobile technology into their operational DNA?

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“So, what exactly does Dimagi do?”

by Abhishek Prateek

17 March 2014

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The following blog post was written by Abhishek Prateek, a Dimagi Field Manager based out of India. The views represented in this  blog are those of the author alone, and not necessarily those of Dimagi. 

So what exactly does your company Dimagi do?

This is one question I come across a lot, especially when meeting new people. It all starts with the naïve question, ‘So what do you do?’ My most basic answer is, “I work for a software company called Dimagi, which builds mobile applications for NGOs and frontline workers to help them with their day-to-day tasks.”

The word NGO often rings a bell in people’s head, and many become curious. Then they ask more probing questions. If someone is taking a keen interest in my work, I delve into the details. And the conversation goes something like this. Most NGOs do a lot of paperwork. They often hire frontline workers who go door to door filling out paper forms and surveys, tracking them over a period of time. We work with the organization to transform all those paper forms and everything into a mobile application, which captures the same data. Essentially we help organizations become ‘paperless’ whereby increasing their efficiency.

For example, the Government of India runs a community health worker program, in which women from rural communities are selected as community health workers known as Accredited Social Health Activists, or “ASHAs” for short. ASHAs are trained about pregnancy (required checkups, vaccinations, pregnancy danger signs, etc) and about child care (immunizations, nutrition, etc.), and then make home visits in their villages as a first line of healthcare. Traditionally, ASHAs carry heavy registers and fill out various information about pregnant mother and young. The registers eventually are sent to a government office (every month or so), where someone feeds this data into some computer system. The process is slow, cumbersome, and error prone. By replacing these paper forms with CommCare, ASHAs only need to carry the mobile phone during her home visits. All the data is entered on the phone and is sent to the computer servers as soon as the phone gets connectivity. We support both Android smartphones and Nokia java phones.

Building apps is the technical piece and a small fraction of what we do. We invest a lot of time in training and capacity building of partner organizations. As a Field Manager, I travel to the project site for two weeks or so, train those Ashas on how to use the mobile application, train project staff on how to analyze the data that is being submitted, teaching troubleshooting of issues, etc. The users are often semi-literate or illiterate and it’s likely that they’ve never used a mobile phone for anything except calling. CommCare apps supports descriptive images and audio recordings in local languages for various questions, which helps low-literate users use the app effectively.

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