Data in the Trenches
July 16, 2023
Real Data, Real People, Real Lives Changed
Destiny Rescue is in the business of rescuing children. In a world plagued by the horrors of child trafficking and exploitation, organizations like Destiny Rescue are at the front lines offering hope where once there was only despair. Through their unwavering commitment and tireless efforts, Destiny Rescue has become a leading force in the global fight against child exploitation; rescuing vulnerable children and working with local communities to provide stable freedom. Destiny Rescue is dedicated to helping children rewrite their futures into stories of freedom, one life at a time.
To streamline the administration efforts involved in rescue, Destiny Rescue teamed up with data and software strategists at Impact Upgrade to build a system that could keep up with the demand of increasing rescue operations. The solution would require easy access for front line rescuers with all levels of tech experience, often in areas lacking internet connectivity. The team ultimately decided to leverage ODK (an open source, data collection platformas the means to quickly, easily, and at-scale collect data and rescue more children.
The implementation of the ODK collection method is showing improvements in several key areas in the data leveraging journey.
Go Where Needed
The data you need is not always the data you have, and the data you have isn’t always in the form you need it. Obtaining the necessary data in regions with limited internet connectivity presents a significant challenge. In these areas, access to reliable internet is often scarce, hindering the seamless flow of important rescue-enabling data. The difficulty lies not only in accessing the data, but also in transmitting and storing it efficiently – accessible to the people that need it.
Destiny Rescue finds and rescues kids throughout many regions around the globe. It’s a simple call, but one that comes with unique challenges. The kind of tools, solutions, and processes that work in one field may not work in another. An overarching tool needed to be accessible, effective, and field tested to ensure rescues happened quickly and accurately. Destiny Rescue chose ODK collect to be the tool Impact Upgrade leveraged to equip their rescue workers to save more kids. The tool ultimately fit with Destiney Rescue’s model of data clarity and operational efficiency, equipping all field workers with an effective and streamlined rescue tool.
As organizations grow and increase their impact, functional areas within the organization can migrate towards semi-independence. This leads to the creation of our dreaded silos, and increased calls to go-a-silo-busting. Just like real silos, however, the act of bringing them down can become much more difficult and dangerous than putting them up. Most folks don’t want to blow up silos but rather want better access to what they are holding (unless they are just in the way, but that is analogy for another time).
By nature, the work of rescue is responsive and varied resulting in dynamic processes across projects and unique measures of success. Working through those differences to create a unified and accessible rescue pipeline allowed for shared understanding and shared vision.
Removing trafficked and exploited kids from terrible situations is a priority for the Destiny Rescue team, but that decision is not taken lightly. The team must ensure that steps taken are in the best interest of the child and account for a myriad of situational factors. Decision making criteria needed to be standardized and codified so that everyone involved in the process could be on the same page.
Once the critical rescue data points were defined, the team could start building streamlined processes for the collection, analysis, and action of rescue opportunities. By equipping the rescuers in the field with the right questions to ask, and then, through the use of smart logic, the right follow-up questions, their ODK forms fast-tracked the collection of data points crucial to the rescue. All team members were pursuing the same things in the same way for the same purpose – rescuing more kids.
Hitting a mid-court shot is impressive, hitting a mid-court shot every time you shoot is expertise. By taking deep, and sometimes arduous, dives into their techop processes, the Destiny Rescue team codified their processes to maximize impact. They knew who needed what, where, and when they needed it. Such competency was hard earned, and resulted in the ability to codify and automate key aspects of their rescue processes. Understanding and simplifying repeatable and predictable actions results in more kids removed from exploitation.
In the old system, when field agents were required to guess what type of rescue an opportunity was, it put undue pressure on them and meant lots of frequent data cleanup for the operation managers. By inserting the rescue assignment logic into ODK itself, field workers only needed to answer what they knew and the robots would take care of assigning it the correct rescue type – optimizing resources and rescue outcomes.
With processes defined and codified, Destiny Rescue could get back to its core mission – rescuing kids. The time spent wrestling with operational, technical, and procedural standards often feels wasteful to many mission driven organizations. And it can be, if done incorrectly. But when done well, it exponentially increases the impact the organization can have in fulfilling its mission. When tasks are well-understood and easily repeatable, they can be scaled, and when they are scaled, you see change in the metrics that matter most.
When attempting organization wide, and even worldwide, operational changes, it’s tempting to rush to “good enough” techop solutions. The Destiny Rescue team, however, doubled down on the metrics that mattered most. Every design decision was filtered through one important question – will this solution help us rescue more kids? If not, it wasn’t a priority. The techop undertaking for rescuing kids should, ultimately, improve the capacity to rescue kids. Of course there were other tech, budgetary, and user elements to consider, but none so important that it trumped the reason the organization existed.
Project UpLode is, at the end of the day, a process to streamline the rescuing of children from exploitation toward journeys of freedom and stability. Project UpLode allows opportunities for cross-disciplinary teams to build low-barrier tech systems, equipping more front line rescuers with the tools they need to get young girls and boys out of sex trafficking and into restorative communities as quickly as possible. Destiny Rescue succeeded in building a system that expedites the rescuing of children, but in doing so, realigned their metrics, their processes, their decisions, and their designs around that core purpose. The work put into strategic data architecture translated to increased impact in their missional work – to the benefit of the team members themselves and to the children who are now free.