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Twenty-one representatives met in Lilongwe for a three-day workshop in November. The eclectic group included researchers, project managers, and IT specialists who hailed from an assortment of districts across Malawi and several different countries in the region. Linking this disparate group together was the fact that everyone in the room had used CommCare before, and had projects at various stages.

It was Dimgai’s first ever workshop targeting “self-starters”, people who have started their own CommCare project without any dedicated support from Dimagi. Given the participants’ experience, the workshop jumped straight to more advanced material, focusing on strategies to maximize CommCare’s capabilities through thoughtful design patterns and sophisticated workflows.

The workshop followed a flexible schedule with many small-group sessions on topics that participants highlighted as interesting or relevant to them. Throughout the workshop, participants designed and built their own practice applications, immediately putting to use the new material. Special attention was given to case management and the array of functionality open to you when you include it in your app. There were also opportunities for users to share their hopes and ideas for CommCare and directly influence which features get prioritized.

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As this type of workshop was a new venture for both participants and the Dimagi team, we aimed to be responsive to the energy of the group, learning as we went what types of sessions would be most valuable for this set of advanced participants. We were grateful for participants’ flexibility with the sometimes rapid schedule changes as we adjusted to meet the group’s diverse needs. Interestingly, participants engaged most with hands-on practice, and appreciated delving into the nitty-gritty details of app building.

Working together on their practice applications, and thinking through problems on their real projects allowed users to collaborate, build connections, and, we hope, strengthen the CommCare community in Malawi. Newer users learned constructive do’s and don’ts from case studies given by their peers with further-along projects, while more experienced participants could step back from the intricacies of their own deployments and see how the CommCare platform has evolved from when their projects first began.

Speaking for the Dimagi team present, I can say that we all learned a lot from our participants, and are excited to put our new knowledge to use in refining our feature roadmap and revamping our UX design. Participants found the workshop to be valuable as well, as one individual wrote in a particularly blog-worthy comment “A very useful workshop for any organization implementing CommCare based solutions. A must attend for technical teams in CommCare based projects.”

Thanks to all who attended! We look forward to hosting more Advanced Topics workshops in the future.

Amelia, Biyeun, Matt, Nynke, and Claire

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