Case study ● Support

Médecins Sans Frontières

Did you know that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) contributes to the medical research community using what they learn while providing frontline care? To make the most of MSF’s data, they want to refine and in some ways expand their data sharing. We worked with the MSF team to improve their organisational data-sharing policy. We developed a strategy to help MSF put responsible data principles into practice and proposed practical ways that they could improve the way they handled data.

The challenge

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one of the largest frontline medical charities in the world. In the course of treating patients around the world, they collect vital information for understanding emerging health trends and inefficiencies in their own operations.

But how could such a large organisation design collection and sharing practices that would allow for maximum insight, with matching appropriate privacy protections? And how could a charity built of regional hubs, local hospitals and multiple headquarters assess their current data management processes, and make clear, responsible steps to better use and manage data?

Finding the gaps!


Understand how MSF collects and shares data


Surveys and interviews with MSF staff to identify challenges


Identifying gaps and defining clear options for ways forward

What do they know?

Getting an external perspective on how your organisation operates can be a great way to assess where you are and where you want to go. In our work with MSF, we started with a survey of more than 30 MSF staff to explore how they captured and shared data, and how they used the existing data-sharing policy.

We explored the data to identify areas where changes in practice could result in more effective uses of the data collection. To get even more context and clarity, we interviewed 16 staff to better understand how things worked in practice. We found that all of MSF’s staff were keen to share data more effectively, both with each other and third parties.

What’s next for MSF?

After working with MSF over a six-month period, we were able to support them to make an internal diagnosis of areas that could be improved and develop two possible paths forward.

We have experience supporting many international NGOs to tackle these types of complex interpersonal, technical, geographic, and political challenges. We provide an external perspective and a considered, achievable solution for organisational issues, in this case responsible data in particular. MSF now have the tools they need to roll out new data sharing guidelines and practices that make the most of data without violating the privacy of those they care for.

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