Women’s groups or organizations working on gender based violence need simple yet efficient tools to measure their impact and improve their processes.

As part of our ICTforWomanity series, Womanity interviews Gillian Javetski, Director of Partner Engagement at Dimagi – a social enterprise primarily known for developing CommCare, an online platform that enables anyone to build customized mobile applications.
Gillian explains how to best get started and how women’s organizations can benefit.

Photo Andrea Fletcher / Jake Meyers

Womanity: What have you learnt through your data that can be of use to organizations who specifically aim to prevent or respond to gender based violence?
Gilian Javetski: One project where we’ve learned a lot from is in Bangalore, India, where RTI International and St. John’s Research Institute are using CommCare as part of a gender-based violence (GBV) initiative called Project Soukhya. Auxiliary nurse midwives in eight of Bangalore’s maternity hospitals use a CommCare application to identify, track, and counsel survivors, and to promote awareness. The overall results have been promising. Data has shown that introducing the mobile application has helped improve nurses’ adherence to standardized protocols, enhance efficiency through streamlined workflows, and improved staff follow-up by documenting providers’ practices.
Because domestic violence is so sensitive, we built and scaled a mobile training component of the application in response to nurses’ requests for more training support. It includes a “Polling” module for nurses to experience real life scenarios through built-in games, and a checklist for trainers to effectively deliver trainings. This is one example of how a project leveraged the software’s flexibility to rapidly add user-requested content.

Womanity: What assumptions do organizations need to challenge around technology in order to move on with their work?
GJ: Adopting mobile applications for front-line programs can be challenging and high-risk, especially for small organizations with limited resources. It’s easy to underestimate the full investment needed to launch a mobile application – something that goes way beyond purchasing phones.
If your organization is considering adopting a mobile application, I recommend spending some time mapping out what you will need to invest in to get what you want to achieve. To help guide these conversations, Dimagi has developed two toolkits – a “Maturity Model” to help you think through your technology’s long-term goals and potential gaps, and a “Total Cost of Ownership Model” to gain a better sense of the expected comprehensive costs. There are many other tools out there; no matter which ones you look at, it’s likely they will help you save a lot of time down the road!

When you have to map out your project from square one, it opens your eyes to gaps you didn’t see earlier

Womanity: What do teams need to do in order to be ready for monitoring and evaluation?
GJ: If your organization is considering adopting a mobile application for M&E, make sure you have a very strong understanding of your program’s current workflow, and exactly how do you envision technology will fix the weak areas. I know that it sounds simple, but when you have to map out your project from square one, it opens your eyes to gaps you didn’t see earlier and that technology may not be able to fix. All of a sudden, the conversation may shift from “what do we want this technology to do” to “wait, actually, is the problem in our workflow?”
Technology should only augment your pre-existing intervention or workflow, but it shouldn’t be the intervention itself.

Womanity: What was an unexpected suggestion by a service user, that opened up new perspectives?
GJ: So many! When we work to build mobile applications or improve our software, we’re very reliant on user feedback. We have a process called “design under the mango tree” – where Dimagi staff, end-users, and relevant parties work together through an iterative design process to build a mobile application, including facilitating collaborative decision-making, rapid prototyping, and user acceptance. This can take place under a tree, or in someone’s apartment, an office, a farm, wherever people work.


While Dimagi’s focus has always been in designing mobile apps for front-line workers, a while back we realized that we weren’t fully addressing the needs of their supervisors. To fix this, we began developing separate mobile applications for supervisors to oversee and improve front-line workers’ performance through data-driven supportive supervision methodology. For our Catholic Relief Services project in India, adding the supervisor application to the project was key in providing more on-the-ground support to front-line workers, and in achieving scale.

Womanity: What questions do service users never ask you, you wished they did?
GJ: While designing mobile applications, it’s easy to be excited about all of components you can add – from multiple questions, question types, intricate workflows, complex logic, audio, images, video, etc. Of course, there are certain mobile applications that need to have sophisticated, complex workflows. But some of our most effective applications are also the simplest. I’d say a question we don’t hear enough is “How can we keep this application as simple as possible?”
A few years ago, I built a mobile application for Freedom From Hunger as part of their incredible micro-finance work in Benin. The CommCare application was designed to help train community leaders to teach aspiring small-business owners about entrepreneurship. The application had no words, and only featured about 20 images and corresponding audio with training messaging. It was one of the simplest CommCare mobile applications, but was very effective in utilizing proven training content that community leaders were familiar with. Adding additional features had the potential of making the application too complicated, and potentially reduce usage.

CommCare applications are designed and implemented for front-line programs and front-line users in low-resources settings, across the health, agriculture, and development sectors, including maternal and child health (MCH), infectious and chronic disease, agriculture, education, humanitarian response, and gender-based violence.
Used in 60+ countries, CommCare is powered by Dimagi. To learn more about CommCare or connect with Gillian, please contact her here.