Helping out the “invisible children”
Aurora is the first real-time monitoring and evaluation system that allows social workers to identify vulnerable children and deliver a minimum social services package.
UNICEF is committed to working with the Government and other partners to ensure that all Romanian children are able to maximize theirv potential and fully enjoy their rights. UNICEF is applying global best practices to strengthen Health, Education and Child Protection systems and services and to empower families with the knowledge to better care for their children and grandchildren.
HIC (Helping the Invisible Children) is a project piloted by UNICEF Romania between 2011 – 2014, as part of the UNICEF’s Community Based Services Programme in Romania. The aim of the project was to increase the impact of social protection policies for poor and socially excluded (‘invisible’) children and their families. The Second evaluation report of the project (2013) provided evidence that the issue of ‘invisible’ children is highly relevant for rural communities in Romania and that preventive community services can be effective and financial efficient when implemented properly.
The software solution provided by AB4 Systems was developed as a response to the main weak points identified by the second evaluation of the report, especially to the need of a tool that will assure the unitary application of the methodology, both in terms of complex evaluation of the vulnerabilities and the services provided. Starting from this aim, Aurora platform and mobile application became a complex software system of support for community workers and supervisors and a real time monitoring and evaluation tool for vulnerable children policy advocates.
VULNERABLE CHILDREN IDENTIFIED
- To develop an online tool for a complete diagnosis of defined vulnerabilities of children and families by community professionals based on a grid of indicators to be applied unitary for all children and across all communities.
- The software system should support (a) in-field data collection from households with vulnerable children and automatic generation of the list of services (b) storage of the data into a central database and (c) the case and the system management of the vulnerable children.
- Develop the online platform in order to allow the aggregation of available data and generation of reports, according to specific templates and indications provided by UNICEF
- Develop a public version of the platform, in accordance with UNICEF requirements
- Design a scalable infrastructure, that can be rolled out at national level
- Create a platform that includes a wide range of user roles such as counseling teachers, social workers, and health mediators, and offering them the possibility to collaborate
- An easy-to-use interface that can be adopted by the social workers (limited technical capabilities) in a short time
- The in-field data collection application had to work offline, due to connectivity limitations in the field (only rural communities included in the first phase of the project)
- Training for those who were directly involved in the community work, namely social workers, community health nurses, and the school counselor.
Driven by Impact
Aurora is the first real-time monitoring and evaluation system that allows social workers to identify vulnerable children and deliver a minimum social services package to them to improve their situation. Aurora is developed together with UNICEF Romania and is live in over 400 communities in Romania.
It has an easy-to-use interface that can be adopted by the social workers in a short time and it represents a platform where a wide range of experts can collaborate to identify social, educational and medical problems.
Until today, Aurora has collected data about 300.000+ people (100.000 households), and has identified 30.000+ vulnerable children.
President of the National Authority
for the Protection of Child Rights and Adoption
The AURORA application and the map of social and health services in Bacău are good practice models that could form the basis of a national platform which brings together all child-related information that all three fields (social, health and education) provide.
Minister of Communications
and Information Society
I am happy to see that technology is used to benefit children here, in Bacău. I believe these good practice models available in Bacău county – Aurora and the social and health services map – can be scaled up nationwide.
Aurora is a complex system, with multiple components that interact with each other. It helps 4 types of users: social workers, supervisors, policy makers and the general public.
Aurora has the following software components:
Mobile app for social workers. The mobile app facilitates the field work activities, especially in the diagnosis of vulnerabilities and the provision of services. Based on a grid of indicators, the social workers collect all relevant information about the children and their families. The questionnaire follows a smart algorithm that guides the social worker from question to question and from screen to screen. Depending on the answers and, sometimes, on indicators calculated instantly on the spot, the application flags the social worker when vulnerabilities are identified. At the end of the questionnaire, the application suggests a number of services that the social worker need to perform in order to address the identified vulnerabilities.
Servers and Infrastructure. Aurora is powered by a powerful backend and a scalable infrastructure. We are currently capable to scale Aurora at the national level.
Business Intelligence. Policy makers and social researches can access extract rich information from the data collected by Aurora through the business intelligence platform (Saiku).
Aurora web platform: The platform allows access data collected in the field in real time on different access levels: local, regional or national. Each level has access to powerful visualizations and reports. The social workers can access their data, plan interventions and manage their workload, together with their team at the local level. The platform has case and system management functions. The case management function grants view, modify and update functions for each case. The system management function run various types of indicators and statistics and generate reports. Each type and level of access are allowed to perform specific tasks. The applications and the database are secured, the access is granted based on user ID and password. All data collected and stored is confidential being personal data of the people enrolled in and benefitting from the social and health systems.
The platform allows users to export the data for further, more in depth analysis.
Aurora Public. The newest addition to the Aurora system is a web app that provides information to the general public. The data is anonymized and statistical and can be used by scholars, NGO’s and others.
During the development of Aurora system, we focused on a couple of benefits for our all the shareholders.
Impact for the social workers. The social workers interact daily with Aurora. It is very important to us to create a product that simplifies their workflows and their live, while allowing them to help more people in their community. We did this by doing constant user interviews with them to understand their work and their problems better. Then we focused on “low hanging fruits”, improvements that would win time for them. Also, we were in contact with them through the support module.
Great user experience. All the users of Aurora are not technical. It was important to create a software product that is easy to use and provides a great experience.
Scalability. Aurora is a product that was created to be deployed at national level in Romania. We did not stop there and we believe that Aurora can be scaled internationally, to other countries too.
Helps tell the story. One of the most important roles of Aurora is to make available information about children that was previously not available and help present it in a way that is actionable and easy to understand. That is the reason why Aurora Public appeared and the Aurora Web Platform has powerful reports and visualizations.
The Second evaluation report of the HIC (Help the Invisible Children) project included a strong recommendation to integrate a software solution in order to increase the effectiveness of the project. This software solution was seen as a tool that integrates support for supervisors and social workers, the new complex methodologies and procedures and facilitates vertical and horizontal collaboration among key institutions, professionals and stakeholders.
Aurora is presented to the world in front of representatives from Romanian Government (Ministry of Labor), ANPDCA leaders, representative NGO’s (Save the Children etc)
Work starts for Aurora 2.0 (visualization improvements, monitoring & evaluation) and UNICEF focuses their intervention in Bacau, Romania, in 38 mayoralties. Talks with the Innovation office in Washington to open-source Aurora & extend it to other countries
BI integration implemented with Saiku and Aurora 2.0 is presented to a large audience including officials from the Labour Ministry, European Funds Ministry and World Bank
Important meeting at Bacau with representatives from the Ministry of Labour, ANPDCA, international NGO’s. AB4 Systems presents the Interactive Service Map, a visualisation application done by geocoding the local service providers in Bacau.
A series of new features are released: a first version planning tool for the social workers (service plan), knowledgebase (self-help materials for the community workers), automatic generation of documents for social assistance, case management module. A couple of important meetings take place with ANPDCA and MCSI about the future and how to scale up of Aurora at a national level.
Development of Aurora continues with a set of advanced features released: questionnaires comparison, the methodology behind Aurora is updated (taking into consideration feedback from the field), referral to local specialized services, new homepage dashboard with GIS functionality.
Aurora is used by the World Bank in an effort to collect information about children in 30 specific communities in all counties from Romania. Data about 120k people is collected in just 3 weeks.
New versions of Aurora are released: official governmental order 691 can be fully exported from Aurora, codebase and documentation are prepared for open source, Monitoring & Evaluation features for vulnerability tracking, notifications module, case management module is extended with the service planning feature.
Aurora initiated a customer satisfaction survey campaign through SMS. The automatic interactive system delivered questions and received messages from targeted recipients, in this case, the Aurora beneficiaries.
DATA COLLECTED ABOUT
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