Strategic planning for data investments

Making the right investments in data requires the right plan

December 8, 2020

In 2017, UNICEF released its Data for Children Strategic Framework, setting out a global commitment to strategic, sustained ​investments that would support partner governments in unleashing the power of data for children. It created an important outline for how UNICEF should re-balance its focus on the demand for, supply and use of data.

Since then, more than 20 UNICEF country offices have taken that general framework and used it to develop their own, localized strategic plans for data investments. The first round of countries was intentionally selected to learn from the wide range of contexts in which UNICEF works – countries facing a range of humanitarian and development challenges, with widely varying fiscal capacity and technical skills. The subsequent work has been initiated directly by UNICEF country office teams.

Based on these experiences, the organization has learned and adapted its approach to strategic planning for data investments. The global Data Use team has developed several options to support UNICEF teams as they decide the best way to plan out their data needs, opportunities, and investments:


For teams that want tips for some quick, easy wins: For teams looking to make a quick reorientation of data investments in the midst of COVID-19: For teams that are building a data plan for the coming 3-5 year period with their own office staff: For teams that want to build a 3-5 year action plan with external support:
Ten actions to help your data ecosystem deliver better results for children Data for Children COVID-19 Workbook Data for Children Do-It-Yourself Toolkit UNICEF Long Term Agreement for Services
This checklist includes a number of quick actions that can help tune up the data landscape in nearly every context. Each recommended action includes examples of what good looks like. This workbook can be completed by a team within two weeks and focuses on investments over the next 3-12 months. The DIY kit can be completed within two months and focuses on a broader range of data issues, partnerships, and government needs over the next 3-5 years. UNICEF has developed a Long Term Agreement for Services (LTAS) with firms that specialize in developing data action plans. The project length is usually between 2-4 months and the plans focus on the next 3-5 years. Other UN agencies can make use of this contract by writing to [email protected].


Building a global plan to respond to local needs.

These plans – and the hard work of the offices that developed them – have shed light on some of the most Common Challenges  (.pdf) that UNICEF faces in doing data work. They have also highlighted opportunities where new approaches can yield better results. ​​​​​​​

This list of frequently found challenges has informed UNICEF’s approach to its own institutional investments in new talent, training and tools for offices. In response to the common obstacles, the Data Use team has produced a wide range of resources to support teams as they continue using data to drive results for children.