Intro to the Responsible Data for Children Principles: Professionally Accountable
Posted on 20th of July 2023 by Sara Marcucci
This blog is part of a running series from the Responsible Data for Children initiative highlighting each of the RD4C principles and real-life efforts to realize them. You can learn more about this series here.
Today’s blog looks at the importance of being professionally accountable, how UNICEF, how this principle was embedded into work in Ukraine by HOPE, and which resources are available to you to operationalise it.
What Does It Mean to Be Professionally Accountable?
Being professionally accountable is about operationalizing responsible data practices and principles by establishing institutional processes, roles, and responsibilities.
Data responsibility is intrinsically linked to professional accountability. Being accountable means possessing clear decision flows and the identifying figures responsible for work at every stage of the data process.
It can involve defining and documenting the data lifecycle, in which taking data from collection to use is handled in a transparent and traceable manner and where responsibilities and roles are explicitly assigned to responsible figures.
At the same time, professional accountability can be aided by a clear operational workflow illustrating how tasks, processes, and activities are organized and executed within a business or organization. This transparency can allow stakeholders to comprehend the sequence of actions involved in handling data and their own duties.
Finally, an important aspect of being professionally accountable involves the potential establishment of data stewards, who play a pivotal role in overseeing the responsible handling of data across various departments and functions.
Data stewards represent an emerging role, encompassing individuals or groups entrusted with the task of ensuring responsibility and accountability in data management. Their broad mandate extends across the organization, facilitating the proper collection, processing, and usage of data. Through the identification of the responsibilities of data stewards, organizations can establish a framework for guiding the responsible and transparent use of data throughout their operations.
How Have Others Been Professionally Accountable?
The Humanitarian cash Operations and Programme Ecosystem (HOPE) serves as a prime example of how professional accountability can be pursued. Designed by UNICEF as a humanitarian cash transfer management information system, HOPE aims to enhance the quality of Humanitarian Cash Transfers (HCT) programs and ensure compliance with UNICEF guidelines and tools, maintaining accountability and traceability of managed information.
Key to achieving this level of accountability is the establishment of clear roles within the project team. Indeed, by thoroughly reviewing system permissions and roles, HOPE has successfully ensured proper segregation of duties across various solutions in the ecosystem, effectively minimizing the risk of wrongdoing and fostering a culture of accountability within the team.
HOPE has developed mechanisms to address grievances and feedback, implementing sound solutions for reporting allegations. They also have developed a comprehensive audit module to continuously monitor internal controls and ensure compliance with internal and external audit practices. Through establishing clear roles and implementing robust checks and balances, HOPE demonstrates a strong commitment to maintaining professional accountability throughout the entire project's lifecycle.
HOPE has been deployed in multiple countries, including Palestine, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Sudan, South Sudan, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Philippines. Ukraine, for instance, has established functions and responsibilities, for both UNICEF staff and partners, in an iterative way, embedding them both in office standard operating procedures and in HOPE while updating as programme needs evolve. Overall, these efforts speak to HOPE’s desire to pursue professional accountability and empower stakeholders to responsibly handle data to make informed decisions and effectively address challenges in their country.
What Resources Can I Use to Be Professionally Accountable?
The Decision Provenance Mapping methodology offers a means for actors involved in designing or evaluating data initiatives concerning children to identify critical decision points. It enables actors to identify key decision points and the internal and external parties influencing those decisions, helping to pinpoint gaps in decision-making processes and develop strategies for more accountable data practices.
We hope this blog has been useful to you in helping you understand what it means to be professionally accountable. Please return to our blog next week when we’ll discuss our next principle or subscribe for updates to the RD4C initiative by signing up to our mailing list here.