In the humanitarian aid community, research methods have traditionally skewed toward the qualitative: Participant interviews, focus groups, and field surveys have been the predominant tools determining context-specific interventions. With advances in data science, however, aid organizations have been able to supplement these evidence-driven methods with quantitative ones.

For global humanitarian NGO Mercy Corps, supporting communities affected by crises is just the first step. Finding the means to sustain livelihoods and become more resilient to future upheaval requires longer-term, more complex and dynamic solutions. What a humanitarian organization like Mercy Corps needs, then, is the ability to gather information and data as well as the ability to synthesize and analyze the data in a continuously evolving environment.

Mercy Corps is committed to investing in and improving our capacity to apply quantitative data to drive program processes, impact, and scale. This approach extends beyond our work in crisis analytics and immediate humanitarian response to medium- and longer-term programmatic design and implementation. Through our 10-year global strategy, Pathway to Possibility, Mercy Corps has committed to be an evidence- and data-driven organization that will first focus on the foundational components of people, culture, structure, and systems as the groundwork for an overall strategy. We now know that proper collection, processing, and analysis of large amounts of data have the potential to improve our programs around the world.

When it came to finding the right technologies to accomplish such complex tasks, it was essential to our success that we had the dedicated resources and strong partnerships. Internally, our technology for development team helps our program teams leverage technology to improve their performance and quality. We also have a global crisis analytics team dedicated to in-depth analysis to support our humanitarian operations in the world’s most complex operating environments.

Externally, partnering with AWS has allowed us to leverage cloud architecture and products to facilitate advanced data storage, sharing, and analytics, as well as to have a thought partner with a vision for transforming the humanitarian and disaster-response sector. Designating ownership, leadership, and staff across both organizations, furthermore, allows us to take more risks in data-driven transformation.

Read the full article about data-driven crisis analytics by Carolyn Florey at Stanford Social Innovation Review.