The initial vision that led to Sigmah was that of developing an open source platform for international aid organisations that solved the problem of “infoxication”, which refers to the difficulty of managing the large quantities of computerised data that they share internally or with their partners, often in the heat of a crisis response.
In 2008, a number of NGOs began to look for a technical solution to this problem. Together, they decided to design an open source information management software adapted to international aid projects. After assessing the problems and needs specific to these projects, they created a “Steering Cooperative” in order to develop the software.
Over the past 10 years, Groupe URD has been the driving force behind the Cooperative. It has provided expertise in Quality Assurance, based on its experience developing the Quality COMPAS method, and building tools, such as the Dynamic COMPAS software. The Sigmah software was created with the support of many donors, most notably ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Office) and the AFD (French Development Agency). It has continued to evolve and has been used by half a dozen organisations in Europe. But after 10 years, it was time for an evaluation of the project to take stock and think about the next steps to take.
In 2017, SimLab carried out the first external evaluation of the Sigmah project. Several issues were raised, most of which centred around whether the initiative could go on with its current set-up. Managing a big IT project like Sigmah had taken Groupe URD away from its core business as a non-profit humanitarian research institute. It now plans to focus on providing organisational and quality-related support, and to conduct research on the relationship between international aid and digital technology.
These were the reasons that led Groupe URD to plan to gradually withdraw from the Sigmah project and transfer it to IT professionals to ensure that the software can continue to provide a service to users.
Thanks to funding from the Organisation Internationale de La Francophonie, an expert in business mergers was hired to improve the sustainability of Sigmah’s vision. This expert support helped Groupe URD to establish a merger process and conduct thorough assessments of the shortlisted candidates for the merger on both operational and economic aspects.
Following assessments of several monitoring & evaluation (M&E) tools, TolaData stood out as the platform that was the most in line with Sigmah in terms of vision, quality, expertise, financial backing, and future development plans.
With its origins in Mercy Corps and having been adopted in 25 countries to date including INGOs like GOAL Uganda, we are confident that TolaData is on the right path.
The following key factors contributed to our decision to select TolaData for the merger:
- Commitment to open source and user participation
TolaData’s remains open source and is built with a number of open-source tools. Its Community Edition (CE) with a GPLv2 license is made available to the wider community.
As an M&E platform, TolaData is easy to set up within an organisation and its intuitive interface makes it a breeze to navigate. Its collection of data forms, reports and visualisations are designed to track results within an organisation, while its database management toolkit enables consolidation of datasets from multiple data sources for timely analysis.
TolaData’s seamless onboarding process includes unlimited dedicated remote support for Sigmah users during the transition period, starting from July until December 2018. Users also receive access to training material and system documentation, as well as bi-weekly webinars covering topics in M&E and in using the system. With its fair and affordable pricing model, TolaData is accessible to non-profits. In the pipeline are plans for the company to establish a foundation to assist organisations with limited financial resources in adopting the software.
TolaData is made up of a team of data and M&E professionals who build M&E software to simplify the way organisations manage and track their projects across their entire lifecycle. The international team has a variety of backgrounds, with more than half having a solid background in the development and aid sector. Their broad range of skills include software development, project management, training, marketing and communications.
By helping organisations adopt standards and remotely monitor project activities in real-time, TolaData make it easier for frontline staff to spend less time collecting data and more time improving projects that matter. The platform works with an existing ecosystem and smoothly integrates with the data collection apps and Business Intelligence reporting tools that are already in use.
The transfer of assets from Sigmah to TolaData will take place in several steps.
TolaData has updated its product roadmap to prioritise the development of a few missing features, in order to include all the services that Sigmah provides.
A tool to migrate data from Sigmah to TolaData is currently being developed, and unlimited support will be provided to users. The entire transition process will be finalised before the end of 2018.
To present TolaData and the merger, a communication event is planned for Autumn 2018.
In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with the Sigmah project (firstname.lastname@example.org) or TolaData (email@example.com) should you have any questions.
Stay tuned to our social media channels for the latest updates about this transition!