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CiviCRM for human rights organisations

Abuse Documentation

Abuse documentation process

Human rights abuse incidents are rarely straightforward. There is usually a lot of information around them - about people involved in specific case, people who are working on data collection and analysis, about events happening over time, testimonies gathered in different moments from different sources. 

This vast amount of data usually needs to be collected, structured and stored securely for further use and analysis, there is also obviously great responsibility behind managing all of this data properly. It often happens that abuse documentation process (gathering data, ordering it and analysing) often consumes a lot of resources within the organisation. At the same time, proliferating the information about human rights abuses seems like one of the most powerful tools in preventing them. 

Human rights violations concern a variety of different topics and happen in many different contexts. Organisations working on documenting such incidents often have their own way of structuring information they gather and have specific requirements about what kind of data is gathered and what is left unrecorded. There are great recommendations for both data structure and incident categorisation available (like those created by HURIDOCS, http://www.huridocs.org/), but many organisations develop their own, customised systems to record information in the way that is most relevant and effective in the context they work in.

CiviCRM offers flexible and robust tools that allows setting up both complex and simple data models, depending on needs of the organisation.

Case oriented work 

 Case management concept is broadly used in medical and legal applications to facilitate both information gathering and execution of actions plan around work with specific patient or client. Its application in human rights abuse documentation allows focusing on people involved in specific case (playing different roles). Specific case is becoming central point for data collection. Other information is organised around it, for example people and institutions involved: victims, perpetrators, information providers, but also persons collecting data or for example managing any victim help efforts. It also contains detailed list of developments around the case, both past, regarding actual violation as well as future, for example planned interviews for testimonies extraction.

CiviCRM contains case management component which has been created to case-based work. Extending data model to store additional data, broad categorisation capabilities, ability to define different roles etc Sample, out of the box data model on the picture.

Simple case based data model Simple case based data model for abuse documentation

Process management and holistic approach

In traditional human rights abuses documentation approach, database tools are built to allow managing and analysing gathered information. This is most helpful when organisation is focused solely on documenting and relies on other actors to spread the word and potentially provide help to abuse victims. When other kinds of activities (victim support, information proliferation) is performed in the same time as data gathering, it is very beneficial to be able to see holistic overview on all the actions taken around specific case. For example, when organisation sends out a mailing to supporters which describes specific group of abuse cases in given country, information about it should be "stored" in related case information to give researchers up to date information about all steps taken.

It's also important that both data gathering and advocacy processes are performed within specific time frames and according to well defined outline. Once the abuse case has been identified, there is a need to assign well defined roles to people who will be working on, appoint the timeline for at least some of the steps to be taken and make sure that everyone is up to date about the flow of events.  

With CiviCRM it's possible to include managing data gathering process management and potential advocacy and/or information proliferation activities into one, coherent repository of information. CiviCRM allows setting up standardised "procedure" for specific types of cases that will help making sure, that certain activities are performed within specific time frame. In the same time, it's quite easy to make a record about all the advocacy and proliferation activities that are performed in the context of specific human rights violation victims and track the status of all the actions taken.

Data analysis

Documenting human rights violation cases is done not only to spread the word, but also to be able to analyse information. As it was mentioned before, human rights abuse cases are rarely straightforward and when looked at from statistical point of view, they become even more complex. Gathered testimonies and narratives need to be restructured into the form of discrete variables and properly analysed in order to identify patterns, importance of specific topic areas and prepare information to be spread out. It's often important to look at the data gathering process from methodological point - searching for patterns around selection bias, lack of documentation in certain types of abuses or the analysis of information sources in documented cases might provide valuable information for process improvement.

CiviCRM provides quite powerful reporting and data analysis capabilities, with ability to extend and customise built in reports to meet specific needs. It's possible to implement data examination reports that can be periodically run and provide information for information proliferation, process improvement or internal reporting.