Data is a team sport: Co-Creating V1 of the Data Playbook

by Dirk Slater and Heather Leson | Jun 7, 2021 | Insights and Inspirations

“Telling a National Society that you want to support them with data literacy can be confusing and unclear. Data literacy is a broad term encompassing many possible activities and could mean something different to many people. Every National Society will have a different starting point when it comes to data..”

Ashley Schmeltzer, American Red Cross.

How can we connect more on data literacy skills in the Red Cross Red Crescent? We were so delighted by your participation and contributions to IFRC’s First Data and Digital Week. Around 4,000 Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers from over 130 countries registered to join about 130 sessions hosted by various National Societies, IFRC, ICRC, reference centres and partners. We learned there is plenty of appetite within the RCRC network to engage with social and participatory learning focused on Data.

We’d like to invite Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues to continue this journey with us and contribute to developing the Version 1 (V1) of the Data Playbook. We will be hosting a series of sprints (online sessions) to create and test content, and we would be delighted if you would join us to share and shape the content. We would love to hear how the Data Playbook Version 1 (V1) can be helpful to you and also get you to review content with us. It won’t matter if you’ve used the Beta version or if you are coming with a fresh perspective. 

Register today for the Data Playbook V1 sessions. Note that these sessions will be in English. We will aim for further languages if possible in the future. 

Read on to learn more about how we’ve developed the Beta version of the Playbook, our plans for Version 1 (V1) and the research we undertook at the beginning of 2021 to better understand the state of data literacy in the RCRC network. 

More about the Playbook and our journey 

In mid-2018, we launched the beta version of the Data Playbook to learn from its use. We took a “curate not create” approach in creating the beta, collecting over 65 existing assets already in use by data literacy practitioners within the RCRC network. We learned a lot about co-creating with the network. 

We called it a Data Playbook because we wanted to drive home how ‘data is a team sport’. A team can use the data playbook to understand the diversity of roles you need and the steps you need to take in implementing data projects. We aimed for social and peer-to-peer experiences that aim to expand skills. The playbook is not a path for individual learning journeys. There are lots of data literacy materials available for individuals to plot their journey. The content is tailored for RCRC audiences. We also recommend other data literacy materials created by other organizations and individuals. 

Since the launch, we’ve seen incredible growth and evolution in digital and data used within societies. The pandemic has been a strong driver, and the data playbook has had a role in supporting data use in this challenging time.

At the end of 2020, we secured resources to develop a Version 1 (V1) of the Data Playbook that the Beta can inform. We’ve started the process by interviewing around 20 individuals working on building capacity to use data within the Red Cross Red Crescent Society Network. Here’s what we learned: 

There is a diversity of data literacy challenges in Red Cross Red Crescent Societies…

…that is a result of many, many different contexts within a global network.

“I think we’ve been advancing pretty fast and quick on trying to build up on data literacy. But getting to end users has been a bit of a challenge. And standardising. What is the common basis that we want to build across national societies?”

Mununuri Musori, IFRC

Other challenges mentioned: 

  • People do not understand where they fit into the data project workflow and how their interaction will further impact the data pipeline.
  • Lack of awareness of the integration of data in their work
  • Lack of process thinking when entering data (should age be a number or date?)
  • The conflation of Data with other things – under the Information Management banner – people will focus on Management rather than Information, e.g. “how do we organise our documents?” instead of information from data.
  • Lack of understanding of how sharing data puts people at risk.
  • There’s a disconnect between what people want to learn and what they need to know. E.g., “I want to learn Excel” – doesn’t get people anywhere, but it’s the articulation that people can give as a learning goal. 

And the unique skill set needed to bridge data with other disciplines within RCRC: 

“I didn’t go to school for this. I just sort of landed on the technical side. My skill set is really as a translator.”

Laura Avelino, Canadian Red Cross

You achieve data literacy when…

  • People understand that “Data is a team sport”, and regardless of their role, they have critical expertise to contribute.
  • People understand that no matter what they are doing, there’s a data component or a data element. 
  • Data can be contextualised and framed within an individual’s experience and vocabulary.
  • They can identify a problem and then use data to solve it. The starting point needs to be the problem.
  • People can ‘google’ their problems with data and find solutions.

“One challenge and goal is finding commonalities to streamline data processes across organisations and operations appropriately. We can then take small steps to support National Societies on their data journey while meeting them where they are. Innovation can be incremental changes and adapting something from the network rather than something brand new.”

Ashley Schmeltzer, American Red Cross

The impact of the Beta version of the Playbook

It has contributed to IFRC’s uptake of Data Literacy as a concept and a skill set that’s prioritised and needed.

“That it actually exists. It means the Federation acknowledges that data literacy is a challenge within national societies, and there’s a need to address it. Just that recognition puts it on the agenda.”

Paul Knight, British Red Cross

“We’re trying to steal the setup, to create some of our sessions that are a little bit more targeted to our context.”

Laura Avelino, Canadian Red Cross

How the Data Playbook is used

It works best for teams or group learning settings. Social and peer-to-peer learning. The power users are trainers and facilitators. 

Individual learning journeys would happen outside of the playbook. But the playbook should include signposting for where or how those personal learning journeys continue beyond the playbook.


The co-creation aspects of putting together the beta have driven usage. Getting people to contribute and provide feedback on materials means they know it’s there. Many cited how they were either asked to give input or contributed to data-related training (included in the Playbook), which drove their continued use of it.

Suggestions we heard for V1.

  • Include more on how to train & facilitate effectively.
  • How to use the exercises in online formats.
  • The data responsibility module should be split into two modules: ethics and protection.
  • Add ‘self-reflective’ framework guidance so people can map out a learning journey beyond the playbook.
  • Build-in functionality to create your own recipe and share it with others.
  • More stuff on Data and Storytelling 
  • Get national societies directly involved in development. 
  • Include an “Achieving Data Literacy” checklist. So you are data literate if you’ve done these things or can do these things.
  • “Chapter One is called Data Basics. But it could easily be called; I want to understand what data is” – Paul Knight.
  • Provide multiple recipes inside each module.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward.
  • How to design surveys for data collection.
  • Reinforce the ‘Data is a Team Sport’ element. Drive the “Playbook” concept home.
  • Convene people routinely around topics in the Playbook to discuss methods and exercises.

List of Requirements for V1

  • Align with Digital Maturity Framework (IFRC Digital Transformation Strategy) and the Data Readiness Maturity Framework (American Red Cross)
  • User-friendly language 
  • An information architecture that makes it easier to find what you are looking for and discover relevant material.
  • Break it down further into modular, bite-size chunks.
  • Portability, adaptability.
  • Allow trainers to submit their exercises or modification of existing ones.

The Roadmap from here.

In the remainder of 2021, we will be developing V1, drawing upon lessons learned from the Beta, along with outputs from IFRC’s Data and Digital week. We will be using a co-creation process to convene contributors and reviewers in the coming months. We are currently mapping the existing content to frameworks in the network, such as the Digital Maturity Framework and the Data Readiness Model. 

We are planning to launch V1 in December 2021. 

Get in touch

Have you used the Beta Version of the Data Playbook and can’t make a sprint? We’d love to know how you have found it helpful and if you’ve modified any of the content in any way. We’d also love to know how we can make the Data Playbook Version 1 useful to you. [email protected]  


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