A. What are data management, record-keeping and monitoring? Data management

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UNICEF Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention 2009
Data management, record-keeping and monitoring in relation to diversion and alternatives – overview and lessons learned
A. What are data management, record-keeping and monitoring?

  1. Data management refers to the collection, storage, processing / analysis, dissemination and efficient use of information in the context of monitoring and evaluation. Data collection may take place on an ongoing basis, at regular intervals, or as part of a one-off evaluation.

  1. Record-keeping refers to the systematic recording of information in standardised formats. It is sometimes also understood to mean the storage of such information.

  1. Monitoring: According to UNICEF’s Programme Policy and Procedure Manual, “[t]here are two kinds of Monitoring:

  • Situation monitoring measures change in a condition or a set of conditions or lack of change. Monitoring the situation of children and women and goals such as the MDGs is necessary when trying to draw conclusions about the impact of programmes or policies. It also includes monitoring of the wider context, such as early warning monitoring, or monitoring of socio-economic trends and the country’s wider policy, economic or institutional context. UNICEF is broadly engaged in situation monitoring using the CCA and Situation Analysis, DevInfo, and MICS among other tools.

  • Performance monitoring measures progress in achieving specific results in relation to an implementation plan, whether for programmes, strategies, or activities. It is core accountability for effective work planning and review.” 1

This toolkit focuses on performance monitoring in relation to diversion and alternatives. ‘[Performance] monitoring is the systematic and continuous assessment of the progress of a piece of work over time.’2 It is an ongoing process to check that a programme is ‘on track’ towards achieving its goals. It is the routine process of tracking inputs and outputs. It includes checking whether services, activities, processes, policies and procedures being implemented correctly, to a high standard and in a timely and appropriate fashion. It covers staff performance, service delivery (quality, quantity and targeting), management structures and record-keeping. It is based on what has been agreed in the overall project plan. It should be integrated into the running of the programme on an ongoing basis. It should be participatory. It should result in ongoing improvements being made to the programme.

  • Both data management and record-keeping are essential for monitoring and evaluation. A certain level may be required by legislation, policies and procedures.

  • Both types of monitoring (situation and performance) feed into evaluation.

B. Why are they important?

  1. Data management and record-keeping:

  • They form the essential basis of monitoring, implementation and evaluation.

  • They safeguard against violations of rights.

  • Process and outcomes of diversion and alternatives must be clearly documented to ensure transparency, accountability and follow-up where necessary.

  • Systematisation and clear documentation of policies and procedures are essential to draw clear lessons from programmes and facilitate scaling-up or replication.

  • Quality data collection for diversion and alternatives programmes can help to stimulate / improve the collection of reliable statistical data for the child justice system as a whole.3

  1. Monitoring:

  • Ongoing monitoring is essential to ensure the efficient and effective running of a project or programme.

  • It ensures progress towards goals.

  • It is necessary to ensure that a project or programme is held accountable to its beneficiaries and donors (including tax payers if funded from public sources).

  • It helps to identify problems from an early stage and intervene in a timely manner to resolve them which can result in time and cost savings.

  • If done well it can contribute positively to team morale and foster an atmosphere of transparency and professionalism.

  • It can build public and political support for a programme and answer stakeholders’ questions.

  • Periodic evaluations cannot take the place of ongoing monitoring, although records kept from monitoring processes can – and should – feed into evaluations.

Authorities must continually review the various strategies adopted to implement alternatives. One approach is to set deadlines for specific benchmarks so that they can celebrate success and take note of failures. Where benchmarks are not met, they should take swift remedial action. They must ensure alternatives are implemented correctly to maintain their credibility.”4

C. Key points & lessons learned
Data management and record-keeping
1. Content of information to be collected

  • If working from limited resources / capacity / experience in this area then start with the essential information needed and build up gradually [e.g. the ‘core indicators’ of the UNODC/UNICEF 15 Juvenile Justice Indicators – which happen to coincide significantly with data relating to diversion and alternatives].

  • The standardised UNODC/UNICEF 15 Juvenile Justice Indicators5 are an essential starting point in relation to data collection. Programming should therefore take into account the detailed guidance available in the full Manual which accompanies these indicators. Indicators relevant to diversion and alternatives are:

Indicator #




Children in conflict with the law

Number of children arrested during a 12 month period per 100,000 child population


Children in detention (CORE)

Number of children in detention per 100,000 child population


Children in pre-sentence detention (CORE)

Number of children in pre-sentence detention per 100,000 child population


Custodial sentencing (CORE)

Percentage of children sentenced receiving a custodial sentence


Pre-sentence diversion (CORE)

Percentage of children diverted or sentenced who enter a pre-sentence diversion scheme.

  • These include 4 out of the 5 ‘core’ indicators which UNICEF and UNODC are trying to promote as the essential minimum international standards for monitoring of child justice systems for children in conflict with the law. Any work on planning diversion and alternatives programmes should therefore aim to help the building of government and partner capacity to gather data on these key issues. Programme objectives will most likely go beyond these standard indicators but these indicators nonetheless represent essential global minimum standards. The collection of data for these (and other) indicators relies on the development of sustainable data management systems as opposed to the ‘one-off’ collection of data. (See point 3 below on data management systems).

[The full list of indicators and the full Manual for the Measurement of Juvenile Justice Indicators, UNICEF and UNODC, April 2006, are available to download in the ‘Resources’ section of this toolkit.]

  • Ensure that the instruments are collecting the right amount of information (not too little or too much) and appropriate information which is relevant to the programme plan and specific indicators.

  • Data collection instruments and reports should be useful to those filling them in, as well as to senior management in order to show the value of data collection.

  • Make clear the level of disaggregation required for specific data collection tools, e.g. any of the following - by age, sex, education, region, ethnic and social origin, services, diversion option, alternative to detention at the pre-trial stage, alternative to detention at final disposition stage, and recidivism rates.

2. Understanding the difference between quantitative and qualitative data6:
a. Quantitative data: This is numerical information (e.g. numbers of children receiving an alternative sentence, % of first-time offenders diverted, proportion of children in conflict with the law who are girls or boys).

  • Advantages: more structured; more precise answers / measures; perceived as more reliable; ‘objective’; easier to analyze; based on statistically sound methods for analysis; allows for generalizations; collected through formalised processes and standardised tools; strict definition of sample allows comparability of final results.

  • Disadvantages: can be hard to develop rigorous, standardized tools; implementing solid and sustainable data collection systems can be relatively complex and expensive; can ‘simplify’ the reality in the effort to provide hard, objective, numeric data (at the expense of understanding the reality / complexity of a situation).

b. Qualitative data: This is ‘narrative’ information (e.g. quotations from stakeholders about their experience of diversion, results of individual interviews, personal opinions).

  • Advantages: gives an in-depth understanding of a situation; captures differences and provides a more holistic approach to the reality; easier to collect; costs are relatively low; gives reasons behind the numbers.

  • Disadvantages: less structured; challenging to analyze; ‘subjective’; perceived to be less reliable; generalization from results is not possible; data may not be comparable to other findings; requires ‘interpretation’.

c. Advantages of combining both (e.g. qualitative and quantitative, soft/hard data): increases overall reliability and validity; increases confidence in conclusions (richer scope and detail); allows for complementarity and triangulation, balancing the limitations of each method.
d. As noted in the evaluation section of this toolkit, child protection programmes in general tend to rely too much on quantitative data and approaches. More emphasis is needed on the collection and analysis of good quality, reliable quantitative data in relation to diversion and alternatives.
3. Data management systems:

  • Data management in relation to justice for children requires the establishment and maintenance of sustainable data management mechanisms across multiple stakeholder groups and institutions. Programming for diversion and alternatives, within a systemic approach, should contribute positively towards sector-wide efforts develop or strengthen such mechanisms. In the case of pilot projects and other interventions, sustainable data management must be an integral part of the programme design. It must not be limited to the one-off collection of data for the purposes of (e.g.) periodic evaluations.

  • Avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

  • Make existing systems more efficient where possible rather than creating new systems.

  • Document the data management process for clarity and consistency: e.g. how the information will be gathered, analysed, presented, disseminated and fed back into the programme cycle for the benefit of current and future programmes.

  • Roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder in the programme must be very clear regarding data collection and record-keeping and these should be built into job descriptions, MOUs and project agreements. Who needs to be collecting what data, how (methodology and reporting format), when and how frequently (encourage regular time set aside in work plans).

  • Who will coordinate within and between agencies?

  • Ensure that everyone understands why such data is being collected: prove its usefulness and relevance to people in their everyday work / link it back to benefits and impact.

  • How is data to be captured, stored, analysed and passed on? To whom? (Taking into consideration confidentiality and child protection concerns). Devise a flowchart for dissemination.

  • Enforce strict timelines so that information is not out of date or being collected in a stressful and rushed manner so that it is always seen as a burden.

  • Develop criteria for the opening and closing of case files, as well as preserving closed case files for a specified period of time.

  • Who will check the data is being captured? How? When? And how frequently?

  • Who will check that the programme cycle is taking into account and being responsive to data collected?

  • Develop, from the outset, a system for compiling data (e.g. monthly reports from different sources) by setting up (e.g.) Excel spreadsheets, databases and electronic and physical filing systems (taking into account confidentiality of information storage).

  • Are there opportunities to review and improve data collection systems in a participatory way? Build review of data collection and management into regular reviews and evaluations.

Illustrative example of data collection in the Philippines - Cebu City community-based prevention and diversion programme for children in conflict with the law: records of children in detention from a specific barangay (village) are tallied / compared from different sources (police and barangay officials) and then reviewed every 6 months.
4. Reporting formats

  • Avoid long narrative reports which are time consuming to fill out and difficult to extrapolate data from.

  • Make sure formats are efficient, consistent and easy to fill out. Use tick-box formats as much as possible.

  • Make sure formats are accessible (in terms of language and levels of literacy, and that they are physically available and well-stocked / re-stocked on a regular basis).

  • Pilot test and amend new formats as necessary.

  • Ensure that ‘template’ documents provide enough flexibility to be adapted to individual circumstances. For example, an evaluation of a diversion programme in Mongolia found that ‘standard’ provisions in ‘contracts’ led to the parents in one case being obliged to attend a mandatory 72-hour legal training (which was not available in reality) and imposed a ‘one size fits all’ 10pm curfew on child which would not necessarily be appropriate for all children.7

  • Data presentation: devise standard formats for easy comparison of monthly / quarterly / annual data. Don’t keep re-inventing the wheel.

5. Training on data collection

  • Initial capacity building / training may be required for people not used to filling in forms or who are not familiar with new systems.

  • There is a need for careful supervision and review by line managers during a ‘probation period’ to pick up on any problems and redirect as necessary / refresher training.

6. Documenting pilot projects:

  • Any differences in practices in different locations or approaches should be clearly documented, so that cross-comparisons can be made on which approaches were most effective.8

7. Data collection / record-keeping and criminal records:

  • In relation to diversion in Europe, just as modes of diversion differ from country to country, so too does the recording and registration of such cases: in many countries across Europe (except Poland) offences resulting in diversion show up in the crime statistics; in some countries like England and Wales the reaction - even in the form of issuing a caution - is seen as a conviction and therefore leads to a criminal record; in other countries informal disposals are recorded in internal registers accessible only to criminal justice system agencies.

  • This has implications for cross-country comparisons of numbers of children in conflict with the law which are made on the basis of criminal records or statistical data from police, prosecution or courts.9 The table below shows a comparison of how various diversion options are recorded in 11 European countries and the type of access given to records. 10

[Acronyms used in the table: CH – Switzerland; D – Germany; E – Spain; EW England and Wales; F – France; H – Hungary; HR – Croatia; NL – Netherlands; PL – Poland; S – Sweden; TR – Turkey. PPS – Public Prosecution Service]

8. Use of data for communication purposes:

  • Develop simple, user-friendly documentation about the programme tailored to relevant audiences, e.g. children, parents, victims/survivors, communities, justice professionals and the general public / media to assist advocacy and facilitate informed consent of children and their guardians to participate.11

9. UNICEF’s contribution to research and data collection12: At the country level, UNICEF can further promote and contribute to the assessment of justice for children in conflict with the law through (e.g.):

  • Including the topic in the country situation assessment and analysis;

  • Encouraging full coverage of the topic in the initial and periodic reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, by the State party as well as by NGOs and civil society as a whole;

  • Promoting targeted studies in order to complement official data, including studies on constructive measures (in the framework of diversion and de-institutionalisation) and on the causes of juvenile crime and the possible link with other major social problems such as social exclusion, poverty, lack of participation, etc.;

  • Supporting official mechanisms and structures in place for data gathering (for example for police and criminal statistics).

  • Supporting non-official mechanisms and structures for data gathering (for example community groups and NGOs).

Monitoring (there is an inevitable overlap between some of these points and those for data management)

  1. Build monitoring into the overall programme plan from the beginning:

    1. Make sure it is clear who is responsible for what aspect of monitoring and when and how this should be done. Negotiate this in as participatory a way as possible to develop ownership and acceptance from the start. Is it possible to include feedback from children themselves about how these processes can be integrated into the programme? Build these tasks into relevant personnel roles and responsibilities / contracts / memoranda of understanding and ensure accountability to make sure monitoring tasks are completed.

    2. Learn from previous relevant experience of programme and systems monitoring and build on existing processes as much as possible.

    3. Be aware that monitoring systems may vary according to what is possible and appropriate per sector: e.g. hierarchical police structure versus democratic community organisation.

    4. Make sure that information collected as part of ongoing monitoring systems is relevant and contributes directly to the achievement of specific and overall programme goals.

    5. Develop, from the outset, a clear understanding of the flow of information collected as part of ongoing monitoring, e.g. through a flowchart diagram, showing who is responsible for collecting raw data, passing it on (and to whom), compiling information from different sources, disseminating consolidated information (and to whom), and making changes to the programme as a result. Try to build into this flowchart a mechanism to feed monitoring results directly back to stakeholders and beneficiaries (monthly updating of statistics / progress charts on workplace or project noticeboards; ‘achievement of the month’ recognition; sharing of success stories; ‘quote of the month’ from a project stakeholder; ‘3 areas to work on this month’ etc.). Consider how children can participate in displaying such feedback in a child-friendly format in project areas to which they have access.

    6. Ensure that clear confidentiality and child protection protocols are in place regarding information collected as part of monitoring.

    7. Consider the need for complaints and ‘whistle-blowing’ procedures if these are not already in place as standard practice for the various professions involved.

  1. Ensure that monitoring is a positive contribution to the programme, not a negative or resented burden:

    1. Adopt a positive attitude and a strengths-based approach (which recognises achievements and builds on these, rather than highlighting weaknesses which can have a de-moralising effect).

    2. Make sure everyone understands the purpose of specific monitoring tasks and that good monitoring benefits not just the beneficiaries but also the staff and project as a whole: it helps people to work more efficiently and effectively, feel supported rather than isolated, and have opportunities to speak out and contribute ideas about the running of the project.

    3. Avoid unnecessary bureaucracy.

    4. Integrate monitoring into everyday roles and responsibilities so that it becomes taken for granted – or even appreciated – rather than resented.

    5. Ensure stakeholders are given the opportunity to feed back on monitoring systems. These opportunities can either be structured (e.g. through regular meetings) or ad hoc (e.g. an anonymous comments box or book). Managers should have an ‘open door’ policy as much as possible. Encourage criticism which is constructive, for the benefit of the project as a whole, rather than personal and destructive.13

    6. Show stakeholders positive change which is happening as a result of monitoring. Collect and share success stories and thought-provoking quotations gathered as part of monitoring tasks and reports (these can also be useful for media purposes).

    7. Developing monitoring systems in a participatory way from the beginning will help to create a positive atmosphere.

3. Examples of monitoring:

    1. Standard personnel line management: e.g.

  1. Regular staff meetings (individual and team), staff observation, staff supervision and/or mentoring sessions, annual appraisals.

  2. Regular and unannounced spot checks / project visits of services, policy implementation, record-keeping, and stakeholder and beneficiary feedback.

  3. Opportunities for ad hoc feedback – e.g. ‘open door’ management policy, anonymous comments box or book.

    1. Programme steering committee: e.g. multi-disciplinary team of representatives of key sectors (e.g. social work, police, judiciary, probation, NGOs, community – and ideally children themselves) who meet regularly to discuss progress, actual or potential opportunities or problem areas, and to revise action plans and project goals as necessary. They may be involved in multiple areas of data management and monitoring, both as a committee, but also as representatives of their own agencies.

  1. Such steering committees have been proven to be very important in developing ownership and sustainability of diversion and alternatives programmes, and in promoting inter-sectoral cooperation. They are often an extension of teams brought together to plan such initiatives in the first place.

  2. The group needs to be of a manageable number.

  3. There should be consistency in the membership as much as possible in order to progressively build on experience and avoid too much time wasted on having to constantly re-cap issues for new members.

  4. Members need to be sufficiently senior within their sector to have the authority to make decisions about the project in order to avoid delays.

  5. Ensure meetings are well-chaired and kept ‘fresh’ to ensure ongoing commitment and enthusiasm for the programme and to avoid stagnation and drop-out of key personnel.

  6. In addition to regular, scheduled meetings, there should also be the facility to call extraordinary meetings to deal with unexpected opportunities or threats to the programme.

  7. The group may have a role in data collection, storage, processing / analysis, dissemination and ensuring the efficient use of data.

[See the sample overview and detailed responsibilities of project monitoring groups for an alternatives programme in Tajikistan linked to the webpage].

    1. Child participation: e.g. children in conflict with the law who are taking part in diversion and alternatives programmes are regularly invited to give feedback. This can include, e.g.:

  1. Anonymous comments box or suggestions book;

  2. Monthly focus group discussion or forum to discuss particular issues relevant to the project which have arisen in the past month. This can include achievements as well as problems;

  3. Scheduled or unannounced visits from management staff which include asking children their opinion of the project;

  4. Creative activities to explore beneficiaries’ vision either for themselves (as part of ‘life project’ development and individual case management – identifying how the project can help towards these goals or where there are gaps) or for the programme as a whole (e.g. a group activity);

  5. Involvement of children in displaying monthly monitoring data in a child-friendly way so as to engage beneficiaries in the project cycle process and show that their concerns are being addressed where possible.

Child protection policies and codes of conduct need to be strictly adhered to in order to ensure: confidentiality of sensitive information; prevention of negative recriminations against children who speak out critically; ensuring that the child is fully informed of how the information they provide will be used and therefore that they give informed consent to participate in such feedback.

D. Obstacles / challenges
1. Gaps in data: in many countries there is a lack of consolidated data both within and between sectors (e.g. police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers and social welfare). Very basic data may be available but may not be disaggregated by sex, age, offence or sentencing. Or raw data may exist which is not fully analyzed for maximum usage.14
2. Inaccurate data: Official statistics may be inaccurate due to:

  • Poor quality of data collection tools (e.g. lack of clear definitions within and across sectors; poorly designed formats which are confusing, repetitive, difficult or time-consuming to fill out; overlapping or unclear time periods resulting in double-counting);

  • Poor application of data collection tools (e.g. lack of consistency in how they area applied; application is subject to individual interpretation; lack of initial or in-service training for professionals in the use of data collection tools and the importance of record-keeping; use of outdated tools; lack of motivation of professionals to complete tools; poor supervision, monitoring and evaluation to regulate data collection; high turnover of staff leading to inconsistencies and/or loss of data);

  • Reluctance to collect accurate data (e.g. data showing an ‘increase’ in crime rates or children in conflict with the law may be politically unpopular15);

  • Deliberate misuse of data collection tools / statistics (e.g. deliberate failure to document cases or changing of definitions in order to downplay levels of crime; failure to record cases or removal of case files in exchange for bribes16);

  • High use of traditional or informal justice systems to resolve offences in many countries (which may not keep any records at all of the process).

  1. Problems in harmonising data management: this can be very challenging given: the multiple actors, funding flows, data collection systems, reporting burdens; different priorities, perspectives, capacities and reporting periods; lack of consensus/understanding of definitions; lack of national systems in place.

  1. Challenges in developing and operationalizing data management and monitoring systems in low-resource settings.

  1. Programme objectives which cannot be measured, due to inattention in the planning stages. [See the ‘evaluation’ section of this toolkit for more details on this issue].

  1. Ethical challenges: e.g. confidentiality of both paper and electronic data at all stages of the process (data collection, storage, analysis and dissemination); child protection (during data collection, storage and dissemination); informed consent regarding use of data; privacy etc. [See the ‘ethics guidelines’ in the toolkit section on ‘Resources / By process’ for more details].

See also the toolkit sections on ‘Evaluation’ and ‘Resources / By Process’ for further information relevant to data management, record-keeping and monitoring.

1 UNICEF’s ‘Programme Policy and Procedure Manual - Programme Operations, Revised February 2007’, p. 137.

2 Child Protection Programme Strategy Toolkit, UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific, January 2009, p.39, drawing in turn on UNICEF’s Programme, Policy and Procedure Manual (2007), UNDP’s Handbook on Monitoring and Evaluating for Results (2002), and PowerPoint presentations prepared by Will Parks, Chief of Policy Analysis, Planning & Evaluation, UNICEF Pacific.

3 For example, the pilot Diversion Scheme and Social Rehabilitation Centre project in Azerbaijan is said the play “a valuable role in improving the collection of reliable statistical data in the justice system.” UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Office, Compilation of Good Practices and Promising Juvenile Justice Initiatives, 2009 (DRAFT - Azerbaijan good practice document, p4).

4 UNODC, Handbook of Basic Principles and Promising Practices on Alternatives to Imprisonment, 2007, p.77.

5 This information on the UNICEF/UNODC Indicators is repeated in the toolkit section on evaluation.

6 Adapted from (UN) EVALUATION TOOLKIT: Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative and Quantitative Approaches, Module 7 (powerpoint presentation).

7 Kim, J. and Rentsendorj, O., op cit., p.84.

8 Kim, J. and Rentsendorj, O., op cit., p.83-85.

9 Paraphrased from Jörg-Martin Jehle & Christopher Lewis & Piotr Sobota, ‘Dealing with Juvenile Offenders in the Criminal Justice System’ in Eur J Crim Policy Res (2008) 14:237247, DOI 10.1007/s10610-008-9062-y, published online: 29 July 2008, pp.246-247. The table is taken from p.245.

10 Ibid., p.245.

11 For example, in Mongolia: “One good practice of the Bayangol Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) is the provision of detailed information about JJC services and possible advantages of receiving JJC services in order to facilitate informed consent.” Kim, J. and Rentsendorj, O., op cit., pp.84-85.

12 This point is adapted only slightly from Cantwell, N. and Cappelaere, G., UNICEF’s Child Protection Approach in the sphere of Juvenile Justice: A proposed outline, 2001, p.24 [not for circulation].

13 If the latter is common, then management should examine underlying problems, stress levels and improved communication and coping strategies for the team.

14 For example, “Based on a review of Khentii court statistics [in Mongolia] […], it is not possible to ascertain the number of children in conflict with the law involved in formal justice proceedings by age, sex, region, social and ethnic origin, offence, or sentencing. Nor is it possible to determine which sentences were applied for particular offences or age groups of children. Also lacking are statistics for the number of children deprived of liberty and the period of deprivation of liberty, including data disaggregated by sex, age, region, rural/urban area, social and ethnic origin, and reasons for deprivation of liberty.” Kim, J. and Rentsendorj, O., Evaluation of UNICEF Mongolia’s Child Protection Programme: Juvenile Justice & Legislative Reform, April 2009, p.51.

15 For example, in Azerbaijan: “Since the Government is still very sensitive over ‘negative’ statistical data, it took some time to explain that an increase in the number of juvenile cases since the establishment of the project was a positive trend as more juveniles can be identified and supported at early stage before they commit a serious offence.” UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Office, Compilation of Good Practices and Promising Juvenile Justice Initiatives, 2009 (DRAFT - Azerbaijan good practice document, p4).

16 For example, in Azerbaijan: “numbers of juveniles committing by crimes and registered by the police are very low - most of the cases are registered only when they are serious, as minor offences are dealt with by the police through corruption (bribes).” UNICEF CEE/CIS Regional Office, Compilation of Good Practices and Promising Juvenile Justice Initiatives, 2009 (DRAFT - Azerbaijan good practice document, p4).

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