by Stella Luk & Max Izenberg 3 March 2014
The following blog post by Dimagi India Country Director Stella Luk and Field Manager Max Izenberg is about Dimagi’s work developing mLabour, a mobile tool to be used by healthcare providers in resource-constrained settings to help monitor women’s labors. The original blog post was written for Grand Challenges, which is sponsoring the development of mLabour.
When stepping into many tertiary healthcare facilities in India, the major challenge faced by nurses and midwives across the country seems to be consistent: lack of time. Often, when some women across rural and urban India finally access a facility to deliver a child, the clock may be running out for the woman’s labour, and the aids to assist delivery are limited or challenging. In 2010, 56,000 women in India died during or shortly after their pregnancies, accounting for 20% of maternal deaths globally (UNFPA). The WHO promotes universal usage of the partograph, a paper labour management tool that can halve prolonged labour and postpartum infection, and prevent obstructed labour. However, partograph usage and competency remain low among Indian healthcare providers.
Grand Challenges Canada has given Dimagi the opportunity to develop mLabour, a mobile tool to be used by healthcare providers in resource-constrained settings during the intrapartum period, which includes the development of a mobile partograph. mLabour, based on Dimagi’s cloud-hosted CommCare platform, will be used by healthcare providers to facilitate decision-support throughout the intrapartum period and will provide timely alerts for appropriate actions, to prevent the leading causes of maternal mortality in India. By developing a mobile partograph that addresses these challenges, Dimagi hopes to create a compelling tool to redu
ce obstructed labour, which causes 10% of maternal deaths in India and disables tens of thousands of women annually.
Despite the paper-based partograph’s immense value in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity, many healthcare providers find it complex and that it requires unreasonable amounts of training. Over the past few months, as part of Dimagi’s “design under the mango tree” philosophy, Dimagi Field Manager Maryam Khalid has been conducting formative research throughout India on partograph usage in a myriad of healthcare delivery settings. Maryam has been researching the difficulties of the paper-based partograph and its limitations in usage during labour, and has been working with healthcare providers to gain insight on strategies to optimize the value of the partograph on a mobile platform. By focusing on user-centric design, mLabour aims to address the challenges faced by healthcare providers learned from these formative experiences. To meet the specific needs of the healthcare providers Maryam has interacted with, mLabour will provide relevant and contextually appropriate real-time decision support on a tablet device, to improve these providers’ performance and to increase the uptake of the partograph. Based on Maryam’s findings, Dimagi has begun to build candidate designs and will test these out over the next couple of months.
Earlier this week, Dimagi’s Partnerships & Development Manager, Devika Sarin, attended an exciting roundtable with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, the High Commissioner and some members of Parliament in New Delhi, organized by the Grand Challenges Canada team. The meeting allowed a few public health innovators like us to provide insight on the work we’ve been able to accomplish thus far through the Stars in Global Health grant, and to discuss how the collaboration has provided us the opportunity to move the partograph idea forward in a scalable and sustainable manner. It was a rewarding experience that provided a high-level perspective on the role of our project, and of course it was a pleasure to hear His Excellency’s engaging and thought-provoking stories on why innovation and cross-cultural projects are crucial to making sustainable impact.
by Devika 25 February 2014
In a week’s time, I will be completing my first quarter as a Field Manger at Dimagi. Given the myriad of things that I do as an FM, sometimes I feel like an old hand. And then there are times, when I ask questions about the simplest of tasks, like how to load multimedia for a CommCare app on a Java phone. When will I see that milestone that says ‘You are now exiting newbie zone’?
In these three months, I have travelled to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
Three states were for work. Gujarat trip was to meet friends and utilise the ‘work from anywhere’ policy. I planned that just after my maiden field visit. Did the newness wash away in waters of river Narmada?
On that first visit, I experienced the joy of helping an elderly field worker, learn how to type on a smartphone. The process of teaching has deepened my well of patience but, I am yet to be as engaging or creative a trainer as I could be. I empathise and try to explain well, but I still lose the unmotivated audience. You can then see NEW in big neon letters over my head.
In the second week of January, I was sitting in a village in UP, talking to ASHAs about what content will be useful for them besides their app. After the questions were done, the group shifted its curiosity to me. These were women with children and grandchildren, who were amazed to see a young woman like me travelling alone, that too in an aeroplane, to Delhi. How I caught that flight back is a story for another day. While sitting with them, I was as much at ease as I would be sitting with a bunch of college friends. Maybe this wasn’t a foregin environment, because I got acclimatized while moving from health center to health center in Haryana villages last year.
I came back to town and wrote some good reports on my formative research. All that reading in sociology and anthropology and participatory social assessment helped! But then I had to write a concept note about it and I stumbled. My supposedly formal document for an external audience read like a blog post. Bet my manager thought, “Never mind, she’s new”.
In February, my energy got channelled into assisting my manager in programme management. This led to tons of emails and Skype calls with several partners. A colleague remarked, “My inbox is full of you and you haven’t been here 3 months”.
Somewhere in these conversations, will come my epiphany. A ray of sunlight will shine out from the clouds, onto that white marble stone, that marks the end of newbie zone. Or, maybe in my cheer and joy of being on the Dimagi journey, I missed it on the side of the road. Looking for a Good Samaritan to help me find it.
by Sarah Hodsdon 21 February 2014
Sometimes I think there are misperceptions about ‘the field’ being an unfamiliar, exotic place, far, far away. Exactly three years ago today, I was abandoning a broken down minibus for a motorcycle in rural Bangladesh, at a point where roads became merely paths. After 50 hours of flights, buses, biking and hiking, I finally arrived in a small village to interview a group of women about their microcredit loans. Sitting down on the mud floor I was surrounded by 30 pairs of waiting eyes. Bleating goats competed with the screaming humidity for airspace and my mind quickly raced. I tugged awkwardly at my collar. Why did I think I could learn to help a place I knew nothing about? Where to begin? This place felt like it was 400 years behind Boston’s 12-hour time difference.
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by Dimagi 12 February 2014
For those of you who have read or heard about life as a Dimagi Field Manager, you may be wondering what happens after your year in this exciting role. Great question! After your first year as a Field Manager, there is the opportunity to continue in your role with increased responsibilities or to change to another role within Dimagi, either in a more specialized role in the field or within an office.
Careers at Dimagi can be very individualized, flexible, and shaped by personal interests, which is why no two Field Managers at Dimagi have identical career paths at Dimagi. To give you a better idea of some possibilities, we put together the following three case studies illustrate the career trajectories of three Dimagi employees after their first year as Field Managers. While Dimagi has grown significantly since Nick and Mohini joined in 2011 and Andrea joined in 2012, we’re committed to maintaining the same flexibility they had in defining their own career paths.
Case Study #1: Nick Amland (Joined January of 2011)
- Field Manager in Tanzania (January – September 2011): As a Field Manager in Tanzania, Nick gained valuable field experience while working on a project on the ground, and providing support to another project in Mozambique.
- Program Analyst (September 2011 – March 2012): After Tanzania, Nick moved back to the US where he worked in a variety of areas including operations support, project management, proposal writing, and continuing to develop a new software product. As a Program Analyst, Nick found his specific strengths and where they can best be applied within Dimagi, gained exposure to a lot of areas within Dimagi.
- Senior Program Analyst (March – August 2012): Nick eventually started managing more projects, worked on more strategic operational support tasks and helped manage an emerging software product he helped build. At this point Nick started to specialize in certain areas.
- Project Manager (August 2012 – August 2013): As a Project Manager, Nick devoted 80% of his time towards managing more complex projects. He also started to take on more strategic initiatives, including with operations and product development.
- Business School at Washington University (September 2013): After nearly three years with Dimagi, Nick heads off to University of Washington to pursue an MBA.
Case Study #2: Mohini Bhavsar (Joined May of 2011)
- Field Manager in India (May 2011 – February 2012): Mohini joined Dimagi as the second Field Manager in India. During this time, Mohini devoted 100% of her time towards fieldwork and gained great experience setting up Dimagi’s presence in India.
- Senior Field Manager (February – July 2012): As a Senior Field Manager, Mohini had the opportunity to specialize and have more responsibility on fewer, bigger projects. She spent about 80% of her time driving bigger projects, while also mentoring and managing new Field Managers.
- Manager of Field Operations (July 2013 – March 2013): In her new role, Mohini began coordinating field support materials, continued to conduct research, and backstopped large projects, all with additional responsibility. She began to play a bigger role supporting FMs both in India and globally.
- Regional Manager of West Africa (April of 2014): Mohini will be transitioning from India to Senegal to head up Dimagi’s Dakar office as our West Africa Regional Manager.
Case Study #3: Andrea Fletcher (Joined June of 2012)
- Field Manager in South Africa (July 2012 – April 2013): Andrea joined Dimag as one of the first Field Managers in South Africa. During this time, Andrea worked on small projects in five of South Africa’s seven provinces in addition to projects in Nigeria, Mozambique, and Kenya. When she was back in South Africa, she played a leading role supporting clients, conducting business development, and setting up our Cape Town office.
- Senior Field Manager (April 2013 – January 2014): After a year as a Field Manager, Andrea began to take manage bigger, more complex as a Senior Field Manager. She transferred to Nairobi to expand Dimagi’s presence in East Africa and explore her own interest working with vulnerable children. She spent 75% of her time rolling out a large project, and 25% of her time exploring new business opportunities.
- Senior Program Analyst (January 2013 – now): After spending a year and a half in Africa, Andrea moved back to the US to be based out of Dimagi’s headquarters in Boston. As a Senior Program Analyst, Andrea is now managing several field projects remotely and has lead several business development, communications, and technical support initiatives.
by Fiorenzo Conte (Field Manager, Senegal) 10 February 2014
The following blog post is about a new app we’ve been working on called CommSell, which is focused on supporting local sales agents in small and medium enterprises. Click here for a full video demo of the CommSelll prototype, including details about the business model and workflow.
Three billion people live at the base of the economic pyramid (BoP). BoP markets often offer only expensive and dangerous options for heating, lighting, sanitation, and healthcare. Many Social Sales Organizations (SSOs) have recently emerged to market through Local Sales Agents (LSAs) poverty-alleviating products at the BoP, including cook stoves, pay toilets, tampons, and solar lanterns. These products often pay for themselves through reduced fuel and healthcare expenditure, while reducing disease and increasing access to education.
However, to achieve profitability at scale and to expand access to products at BoP, SSOs need tools to increase sales penetration, expand their market size, and sustain product innovation. We at Dimagi think that our tools can be leveraged to design a new product, called CommSell, which can address these challenges. CommSell will increase sales penetration by providing simple customer relationship management (CRM) and inventory management functionality. CommSell will increase market size by helping SSOs manage LSAs, track inventory, and communicate with customers through SMS campaigns and promotions. CommSell will support product innovation by providing detailed and real-time information about customer demographics, while running SMS client satisfaction surveys. By addressing these challenges and enabling SSOs to achieve profitability at scale, CommSell has the potential to provide people at the BoP with the products they need to escape poverty.
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