Initiative Update: Grassroots Innovations in Early Learning


Firelight is working with 12 grassroots organizations in Tanzania to improve children’s school readiness, literacy, and numeracy outcomes. Each partner takes a holistic and innovative approach to increase community involvement in children’s early learning. Over the last few months, our early learning partners in Tanzania have been sending us reports on their 2014 activities and proposals for activities in 2015. A couple of our partners have also been receiving capacity-building in strategic planning, board development, and monitoring and evaluation to strengthen their organizations. We believe that our partners’ organizational capacity is fundamental to their success, which is why we prioritize organizational development in all of our work with our partners. As part of this, we have also been building our partners’ capacity in mobile data collection.


Mobile data collection:

At Firelight, we are driven to constantly learn from our work. We try to observe patterns in our work and use them to improve the what and how of our work. Recently, we’ve been focusing on measuring outcomes, and using knowledge gained from data analysis to improve our practice and inform our advocacy. Some recent case studies highlighted some of the barriers associated with paper-based data collection including data remaining on paper forms because of the time and human resource demands of data entry, as well as the database software and skills required for data analysis. In order to improve efficiency in this process, we decided to improve both our own and our partners’ capacity in mobile data collection.

Read How We Support Our Partners in Mobile Tech 

This February, a number of our partners working in early learning received training in mobile data collection using the Magpi software application. Magpi is a mobile platform for data collection with more than 33,000 users across the globe. Whereas our partner organizations traditionally collect data on paper surveys, the Magpi app allows them to create digital surveys, in which data can be input through a variety of mobile devices (phones, tablets, etc.).

Read an overview of our Grassroots Innovations in Early Learning Initiative

Once data are uploaded to the Magpi app, with a click of the button users can view individual survey entries or see a basic analysis of the data. For instance, the image below shows results from data collection currently taking place at our partners’ programs with the Uwezo assessment tool in Tanzania. While 22 children in Grades 1-3 surveyed can identify words in English, few can read a paragraph or a story. These readily available data can influence decisions about where to focus human, material, and time resources to support children’s learning.


Learn more about the Uwezo assessment tool.



Going digital means our partners will have access to data in ‘real-time’ – making data more accessible and meaningful. Our partners have expressed that they are already changing the way the collect, analyze, and use data.

In the months ahead, we’ll keep you posted on our experiences with mobile data collection. We’ll also have some findings on the effectiveness of community programs to support children’s learning so stay tuned!


Have you used mobile technology to collect and analyze data?

Tell us about your experience in the comments section.