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On Friday, July 12th, nine eager organizations in Mumbai beat the heavy downpour and trekked to Dimagi’s first three-day workshop in India. Hosted at Bombay Connect, a co-working space and incubation for social startups, Dimagi organized a workshop that enabled participants to walk away with a simple prototype CommCare application designed and built by themselves, with a little bit of guidance from Dimagi staff.

In May, Dimagi put out an open invitation to all organizations to submit their CommCare application theme and team ofr two staff to attend the workshop. Selected organizations then worked with Dimagi staff to begin designing their mobile applications two weeks before the workshop began. During this time, Dimagi staff worked with organizations to lie out the application design, workflow, and project requirements.

The first day of the workshop was an open event for anyone to come listen to Dimagi’s Mumbai-based partner organization, SNEHA (www.snehamumbai.org), share their experiences using CommCare for three projects across their 40 slum cluster. SNEHA, which stands for Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action, uses CommCare for their Aahar child health and nutrition program, for a randomized control trial, and developed their own CommCare application for their maternal and newborn health program.

During their talk, SNEHA’s staff Latika Choradekar, Dhanalaxmi Solanki and Sushmita Das described how their 150 community organizers have submitted over 150,000 forms using CommCare. Dhanlaxmi and Latika talked about how in their experience, they’ve found that CommCare is a fast and efficient tool for data access and reporting and is relatively easy for users new to Android and touch-screen phones to adopt. One of the challenges they mentioned that stood out to me was their concern that the focus on the number of visits or form submissions by the frontline health worker might incentivize quantity versus quality of the data. Some might say that this is a good problem to have, the alternative being low adoption and lower form submissions. It is a something to be aware of at the supervisory level to ensure that CommCare does not compromise the quality of service delivery.

After a Q&A session with SNEHA, Dimagi staff set up a series of small CommCare applications demos around the room to show participants what different apps can look like. The five apps we demoed included an MNCH app from Catholic Relief Services, a sex worker app we created for Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee in Calcutta, a gender-based violence app for St. Johns Research Institute, and two agriculture applications we made with Catholic Relief Services and Pradhan.

nisha

The second and third days of the workshop were focused around intensive application building. Each organization came with a completed worksheet that included a set of key questions along with a design framework for their application. With content and a visual schematic in hand, participants learned how to use our online application building tools on CommCareHQ. On Saturday, we started with the basics of form design, then demonstrated how to add media to their applications. On Sunday, we ended with case management. Remarkably, each group was able to complete a simple application with case management on their own and install and deploy them on their Android phones. Each session was followed by a breakout session where organizations had the chance to develop components of their application that they had discussed with us prior to the workshop.

At the end of the workshop, several groups demonstrated the applications they had build. Among the groups was Educate Girls who built out a training/learning tool for their field level staff that included lessons and quizzes. The answers would aggregate into a score at the end of the quiz, which allowed the user to access a new lesson. Catholic Relief Services shared an application they want to build for survivors of gender based violence in refugee camps around Tamil Nadu, and TechnoServe shared their application designed for agriculture extension workers who will be tracking crop health and attendance of farmers at training sessions.

The “do-it-ourselves” spirit in the room was inspirational and reminded me that Dimagi’s end game is to truly reduce the barrier to getting started with mobile technology and make it accessible to as many organizations as possible to at least try. Being a non-software engineer who speaks the technology language, it was amazing to see people who initially didn’t think they could build their own mobile application walk away from the workshop understanding CommCare, able to speak the same language, and most importantly, communicating their requirements and technology needs.

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After a successful workshop, we are excited to see how the nine participating organizations fare as they begin to refine and test their applications, and assess whether they would like to pilot or scale their mobile programs. Special thanks to SNEHA for being a leading partner in the workshop, and good luck to the following participating organizations:

  • Foundation for Research in Community Health
  • Sangath
  • Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society
  • Ekam Foundation
  • Educate Girls
  • mPaani
  • Kautala Friends Sporting Club
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • TechnoServe