Information Management as a Driving Force Behind Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) Cluster Operations in Ukraine

Charles Hopkins, Ukraine’s Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL) Cluster Coordinator, reflects on the collaboration between the Cluster and iMMAP Inc., praising the role of Information Management Officers (IMOs) in enhancing humanitarian response and coordination, and how IMOs shapes the strategies for growing the Cluster tenfold amidst the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

iMMAP Inc. IMOs, Maksym Natalchuk and Nataliia Panchyshyn, and Charles Hopkins at the FSLC office in Kyiv. ©Valentyna Kolesnyk/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine   

When Charles Hopkins assumed the role of FSL Cluster Coordinator in Ukraine for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2020, he recognized it as a significant professional challenge. Despite his extensive humanitarian experience in various African and Asian countries, he found the task ahead in Ukraine demanding. His responsibilities involved expanding and restructuring the Cluster, which had been established since 2014 but was only operational in two Eastern regions, and enhancing coordination among partners.

Recognizing the need for robust information management (IM) support to meet these goals, FAO approached iMMAP Inc., which had previously supported the FSL Cluster via the Standby Partnership Programme (SBP), and requested a specialist's deployment. In 2020, the first iMMAP Inc. IMO was deployed – initially an international professional, then followed by a national IMO. Currently, Nataliia Panchyshyn and Maksym Natalchuk, two national IMOs, are actively involved in supporting the Cluster within the project "Provision of IM Support to Ukraine Crisis Response Clusters."

“What I noticed from the very beginning is that my young colleagues from iMMAP Inc. came with great motivation and desire to take more responsibility. They used to approach me and said, 'OK, these dashboards are great, but let's make them even better.’ As the full-scale invasion unfolded in 2022, these attributes, along with their professional skills, proved to be incredibly valuable.”Charles Hopkins, FSL Cluster Coordinator in Ukraine.

Amidst an escalating humanitarian crisis, with millions of people internally displaced and others in frontline territories, iMMAP Inc. IMOs diligently analyzed data to update partners' response databases, identify gaps, and set targets for food and livelihood assistance. Leveraging advanced tools, they translated this data into interactive dashboards, maps, and infographics. Since the inception of the Cluster Support Project, iMMAP Inc. IMOs have furnished the FSL Cluster with a total of 510 IM products, including 45 custom-designed ones.  "In essence, iMMAP Inc.'s IM acts as the engine driving our efforts in the right direction," notes Charles. "This enables our partners to deliver timely and targeted life-saving aid."

People in Need dashboard produced by iMMAP Inc. IMOs for the FSL Cluster in Ukraine.

Key IM products were developed in both English and Ukrainian, enhancing engagement with Ukrainian partners. Charles underscores the vital role of the iMMAP Inc. IMOs in strengthening coordination within the Cluster's humanitarian response framework. As the Cluster established subnational hubs, the IMOs supported coordination at both sub-national and national levels by facilitating numerous meetings and preparing presentations, meeting minutes, and reports. To improve information exchange and aid coordination, iMMAP Inc. IMOs revamped the Cluster's reporting system, transitioning to the more efficient online platform, ActivityInfo. 

Charles Hopkins highlights the remarkable growth of the Cluster – from 38 implementing partners in 2020 to over 300 in 2024 – with the support of iMMAP Inc.'s Information Management Officers (IMOs) and capacity-building team. 

However, the partnership goes beyond just iMMAP Inc. providing support. The FSL Cluster, with its expertise in food security, also plays a crucial role. They recently introduced the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) method for needs assessment, which iMMAP Inc. readily adopted. This approach, as detailed in a separate article, proved highly effective and led to training sessions for Cluster partners. 

iMMAP Inc. IMO Nataliia Panchyshyn conducts a training session on People in Need for the FSL Cluster partners. ©Tetiana Kuras/ iMMAP Inc. Ukraine    

“I truly value iMMAP Inc.'s openness to new ideas and wish to give special recognition to the resourcefulness and innovation of my Ukrainian colleagues within iMMAP Inc. Despite the challenges Ukraine is currently confronting, I believe that as the humanitarian sector rapidly evolves, we will soon see many Ukrainians stepping onto the global stage to offer support to others, just as we international professionals are doing now.”

Despite ongoing humanitarian needs, iMMAP Inc. remains committed to providing vital information management support to ensure data-driven and inclusive decision-making by organizations delivering essential aid. Their support in Ukraine is funded by the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) through the project "Provision of Information Management Support to Ukraine Crisis Response Clusters.".  

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