Digitizing Humanitarian Finance

(I worked on this project as UX Strategist at Phase2)

From 2014-16, I was UX strategist for a team at Phase2 that worked closely with United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) to rethink and digitize the way humanitarian finance is tracked.

My day-to-day on this project involved:

  • Organizing and participating in regular collaborative workshops, both remotely from the U.S. and in-person in Geneva, Switzerland
  • Rapid live-diagramming of complex data with subject matter experts; working with the team to develop new proposed standards for humanitarian response plans and funds tracking
  • Wireframing and working closely with the technical architect to build a working prototype web app for a pilot study in the West Bank, Palestine
  • Providing design direction and leadership for a redesign of the UN’s Financial Tracking Service, used globally to track billions of dollars in humanitarian funds

Diagrams allowed us to reach a shared understanding of complex issues

As the UX strategist, I found that the team was dealing with a lot of highly complex ideas, and creating visuals that would clarify our shared vision was critical to reaching a shared understanding. Generally, I would live-diagram a first draft of our diagrams over a screenshare while collaborating with the team, then clean them up later. For instance, one day we to figure out, at a high level, what our first version looked like, and I quickly created this diagram. Here is a draft version of what the suite of tools we were building and what our “version 1” would encompass.


Turning crisis response plans into structured data

One of the important aspects of tracking crisis funding is ensuring that the funds match the actual needs of the crisis. For example, a group of hurricane survivors will have different needs than victims of famine. The crisis response plan outlines the needs, and when funding is tracked, it should be tracked against the plan to determine how well humanitarian funds matched real-world needs.

Unfortunately, crisis response plans were generally created in Microsoft Word and emailed around between crisis responders. In order to make a crisis response plan that could be used as a metric for success, we needed to establish a data model. We spent a lot of time talking through plan needs with subject matter experts and live-diagramming the data model. Later I worked closely with the technical architect on the full data model. Following are some of those diagrams.


Modernizing Financial Tracking

The Financial Tracking Service used an outdated process to track humanitarian funds moving between governments and NGOs. Our digital transformation team worked together to determine what kind of transparency was desired by the public and engineer a data model and digital process that could better suit those needs.



Sorry, there is more I could add to this case study — if you want more specifics or to nudge me to finish it, please hit me up!

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Christiann MacAuley

I’m Christiann MacAuley

I’m a highly collaborative and fun-loving design innovator with over a decade of experience and a passion for creating positive change. I’m an independent consultant, so hit me up if you’re interested in working together!

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