Humanitarian InSight is the public portal of the Humanitarian Programme Cycle (HPC) – the approach that the humanitarian community takes together to coordinate an effective humanitarian response – by assessing needs, formulating response plans, raising funds and monitoring and evaluating our progress.
This approach requires there to be a strong evidence base that ensures accountability – and provides a justification for how funds are being spent, what is being done, how this is expected to help address the humanitarian needs, and what impact we are actually having. What used to be done exclusively in meetings, documents and – occasionally – a spreadsheet or two, is now starting to be handled by a suite of online tools that allows everyone to collaborate quickly and easily on planning and monitoring the humanitarian response. These tools are collectively known as ‘HPC.tools’.
Humanitarian InSight is one of these tools: it’s the ‘tip of the iceberg’ that brings together all of the data from around the cycle to allow decision-makers to have access to all the information they need to make better decisions.
But Humanitarian InSight – and its sister site, the Financial Tracking Service – is just the public portal that allows people to view the data. Behind it are another set of tools that focus not on presenting and visualising the data, but on helping the entire community collect, manage and access the data in the first place. Without these data management tools, Humanitarian Insight would be an empty shell without much data to show.
These ‘behind the scenes’ tools are accessible only to the members of the humanitarian community who are responsible for providing and managing the data. They are designed to be as easy as possible for people to use, to help them make the switch away from traditional ways of handling data – in spreadsheets or PDF documents where it is difficult to extract or re-use, and where it is harder to manage the relationships between the data.
Because it’s exactly these relationships that make data related to the humanitarian programme cycle so useful. Following the assessment, planning and monitoring processes around the cycle, we know how our response objectives relate to the needs; and how our projects relate to those objectives; and how our funding is related to those projects; and what progress we’re making on implementing our activities and achieving those objectives. So HPC.tools allows us to ‘join the dots’ between all this data – not by having lots of different datasets that we try to visualise all together at the end of the process, but by collecting and managing the data ‘relationally’ – aligning objectives with needs, registering projects against objectives, tracking funding against projects and so on.
So these tools aren’t just a repository for data: they enable the actual coordination work itself. They save time because people only have to do things once, and then we can re-use the information again and again in many different places.
This is reflected in how we make sure that everyone has access to the data. In addition to the two public sites (Humanitarian InSight and FTS), the data managed in HPC.tools is provided automatically via ‘APIs’ (which allow computers to exchange data directly). That means it’s been integrated in websites like the Humanitarian Data Exchange – where you can visualise alongside all kinds of other humanitarian data – or ReliefWeb. It also means that humanitarian data analysts and report writers can pull the data directly into their products, which then update automatically whenever the HPC data changes.
Ultimately, it means that when senior coordinators in humanitarian crises need to plan and adjust our response so we can best meet the critical needs and direct funding and resources to where they can make the most difference, they no longer turn to out-of-date documents written months ago, but have access to all the information they need, right at their fingertips.
If you’d like to know more about how some of these tools work, be sure to check out: Improving strategic planning and monitoring with HPC.tools