My experience working at the systems level to protect children By Ismael Ddumba-Nyanzi, Data for Impact (D4I) Ismael Ddumba-Nyanzi Before I joined the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation project, and now the D4I project, I worked with the Department of Social Work and Social Administration supporting research and evaluation in the field of child care and protection. Engaging directly with stakeholders at the national and district level to improve routine data collection and use taught me that building or strengthening capacity for collection and use of data is a process―one that requires listening to and understanding different stakeholders’ point of view. We have to ask why data is not collected and is not used, and then work with providers and decision makers to address the issues. Solutions might be behavioral or organizational, or technical—or all three. You look at all the different factors and work through a web of these challenges and barriers so everybody can arrive at a way forward, and then ensure access to the necessary tools and institutional support to be able to produce and use data. Participatory data reviews―which are now widely used in the health sector to track progress on HIV care and treatment―are relatively new in the field of child care system reform. In fact, in many countries, it is uncommon even to collect routine data on children in alternative care and have people review the data on a routine basis. In Uganda, there remains insufficient capacity at both district and national levels for aggregating, analyzing, visualizing, and facilitating the review and interpretation of data. Yet, data are now recognized as valuable to many of the decisions regarding the reform of care systems. We will continue to support the Ugandan Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development (MGLSD) to strengthen administrative data collection, reporting, and use― including integrating routine alternative care data into their yearly budgeting and planning processes. With the foundation built by D4I, over time, MGLSD support for increased data use should yield continued improved processes, information systems, and coordination of staff and resources for monitoring the country’s reform of the child care system. Contributing towards transforming care for children has been one of my life’s greatest privileges. Supporting this important endeavor has taught me patience and made me think more innovatively while also being more flexible. I respect the MGLSD and other stakeholders with whom we work, and appreciate their insights into what they need, what efforts will be effective, and what steps are needed to make progress. Ismael Ddumba is a child protection monitoring, evaluation, and research specialist with Palladium, and resident advisor on the USAID-funded Data for Impact (D4I) project, based in Kampala, Uganda.