Statistical Capacity Building Strategy & Action Plan 2019 - 2021 and Beyond
The ISI’s Statistical Capacity Building activities aim to develop the capacity of individuals and organizations to increase the impact of Statistics and Data Science.
Statistical Capacity Building is one of the ISI strategic priorities for 2019-2021 and beyond. The ISI envisions strong, mutually beneficial collaborations between ISI and its Associations with statisticians and practitioners involved in academic and research institutions, official Statistics, business and industry, environmental agencies and everywhere Statistics is involved, including Data Science programs. Through a multifaceted approach with several partners, ISI will facilitate activities to develop the capacity of individuals and organizations to improve the way Statistics is used to provide solutions for business and industry, public sector and civil society and integrate their needs into academic curricula, in particular in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Within this, we will encourage interdisciplinary learning between professions related to statistics to ensure Statisticians and Data Scientists adapt well to our changing world and its statistical challenges.
The ISI Taskforce on Statistical Capacity Building proposes short-, medium-, and long-term activities to develop the capacity of individuals and organizations to increase the impact of Statistics and Data Science. Such split is motivated by practical reasons, i.e. the short term activities are the ones on which it is feasible to start working (almost) immediately but they have to be considered in a context of a longer term planning, with an evident link and continuity between what is planned for now and what is planned for the future.
The different categories (ISI, Official Statistics, Business and Industrial Statistics, Environmental Statistics, Education) have been introduced to better specify the activities within each of them but it is evident that Education is across all of them and other statistical fields are involved (e.g. survey sampling, computational statistics) and more specific objectives could be specified for them, especially in cooperation with ISI Associations.
For each of the categories, the following high-level objectives are foreseen:
- Develop a work plan which coordinates the work and budgeting of the ISI in capacity-building with the global statistical system, ISI member organisations, and potential external funders
- Focus the support on different statistical fields, while encouraging learning across relevant professions and sectors
- Ensure the work plan supports the challenges of the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs)
Official Statistics (but applicable also to other fields, like Survey Sampling)
- Develop open source courses for improving the capacity of official statisticians and provide teaching to targeted countries/regions
- Improve the governance and leadership skills of managers in official statistics.
- Promote expansive approaches to building capacity that improve official statisticians’ capacity to work with Data Scientists, and vice and versa, and learn from other professions.
- Improve capacities in relation to emerging specific challenges for official statisticians, such as working in partnership with the private and other sectors.
For an organization as diverse as ISI a framework guiding its activities is a must to achieve coherence in SCB activities. However, given the individual expertise of ISI members, this framework shouldn’t be prescriptive since that would reduce effectiveness. Guiding principles potentially strike a balance of communicating common values without enforcing specific protocols.
Collaborative by nature
This principle is natural for ISI as it inherently exists as a collaboration between its members (ISI and Associations). Important implications of this principle include the fact that wherever possible ISI should be working with partners for local implementation and making itself attractive as a partner in statistical capacity building initiatives.
Collaboration is the key
ISI must collaborate with individuals, organizations, and other institutions to achieve its statistics capacity building goals. In doing so, it should encourage collaboration between organizations and professions. At the individual level of statisticians working with non-statistics domain experts, statistical collaboration includes all the best aspects of statistical consulting to help domain experts answer their research questions or make data-driven business or policy decisions.
Given ISI’s global remit, complexity is unavoidable at the largest scale. One consequence of accepting complexity is the exclusion of silver bullet solutions and quick fixes, adopting instead a more multifaceted trans-disciplinary approach to interventions.
This principle should be central to ISI thinking. It pushes thinking to go beyond just finding individual solutions towards understanding how those solutions can be replicated. In this respect, we should have a particular focus on helping find solutions to the challenges of the SDGs.
Interventions need to be thought of as steps along a path, rather than a jump. Even drastic change can be achieved incrementally.
Open by Default
This principle would affect both the inputs and output of the ISI capacity building initiative. It implies that when a valid justification exists then no negative judgement is given to traditional commercial approaches, but the default approach is an open licence, which is free to access, edit and distribute for education.
Bottom-up and context-driven development
This principle aligns well with ISI as a member-based organisation supporting the individuality and initiative of its members. It can empower communities both for today and the future while enabling interventions to adapt. Local innovation is necessary to adapt ISI activities to local contexts. This principle challenges interventions to recognise that different options are needed for varying contexts.
This principle both guards against complacency and stimulates innovation. Practically it can translate to an expectation of adaptation whenever an intervention is repeated in space or time.
Practical vs theoretical knowledge
Universities should graduate students who are ready to contribute to business and industry, environmental protection and research, public sector and civil society meaning they have the necessary technical and professional skills and practical experience collaborating with domain experts to apply Statistics to solve real-world problems. Business and Industry, official Statisticians, environmental agencies also need to take a rounded view of the skills a Statistician should develop, looking towards multi-disciplinary learning and skills that enhance Statisticians’ ability to interact effectively with other professions and non-technical actors in society.
Monitoring and evaluating quality
ISI statistics capacity building activities should be monitored and evaluated to ensure progress and document evidence regarding the effectiveness of its activities and practices.
Linking to SDGs monitoring
Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data states: ”capacity building is important for all countries, even more so for developing countries, particularly African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries and other countries in vulnerable situations”. Wherever possible, SCB activities should aim to promote capacity development in areas / topics which would support the SDG goals and measurement of their achievements.
Co-ordinating with SCB donors and with other Statistical Capacity Building actors
There are many players in the field of the Statistical Capacity Building. The ISI has to find its niche while at the same time has to be well informed about the other Statistical Capacity Building initiatives. As the ISI is one of the founders of Global Network of International Statistical Training (GIST) this is an opportunity for better co-ordination in the field of the SCB.
This content with more detailed explanations of proposed activities, definitions and principles were prepared by the SCB Task force: Fabrizio Ruggeri, Irena Krizman, Pedro Silva, Eric Vance, David Stern, Misha Belkindas and Ada van Krimpen. The contribution by Matthew Shearing is also acknowledged.