Spotlight: Ben Brockman (Senior Manager)
Since you’ve returned to IDinsight, what type of projects have you been working on?
I am a Senior Manager on our Innovation team developing and piloting new services that IDinsight could provide at scale. My current focus is exploring where IDinsight can and should use predictive analytics (machine learning) to serve our clients better. We are working with Educate Girls, a non-profit in India, to pilot the use of machine learning as a means of targeting new program beneficiaries. We are also pursuing other opportunities across India and Africa to take advantages of these cutting-edge tools to increase efficiency and impact within the development sector.
Over your tenure at IDinsight, where have you been based and what kind of projects have you worked on?
I have worked in four very different countries with IDinsight across a range of sectors. I started in Cambodia, working with iDE on our first set of impact evaluations aimed at expanding access to improved sanitation facilities in rural areas. After 3 months there, I relocated to Zambia where I worked for two years on an impact evaluation with the Ministry of Health exploring ways to improve testing rates for infants exposed to HIV. In August 2014 I worked in several cities in India including Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, and our then primary office in Patna. This work included projects with LabourNet, an Acumen Fund investee company working in vocational training, and Educational Initiatives, an education social enterprise. Most recently, I have been based in Washington, DC exploring the use of machine learning in the development sector. I am also responsible for managing client relationships with our DC-based partners.
What do you feel you have gained from working at IDinsight? What about the experience has been the most rewarding?
The most valuable part of my IDinsight experience has been the range of perspectives I have received. In Zambia I was fortunate to spend significant time in both rural health facilities and meeting with senior policy makers from the Ministry of Health to discuss the challenges they faced. It was interesting and useful being able to bridge both worlds – the policy makers rarely had the time to visit rural facilities and the front line health workers I worked with rarely had the ear of senior policy makers.
What’s are some specific things you feel that you’ve learned during your time working at IDinsight?
The most important thing I have learned is how to think critically about the validity of data collected and research results. If I am handed a spreadsheet of data for a new project, I immediately think about how the respondents were selected for data collection, how the data made its way into the spreadsheet, whether a subset of the data was validated, and a number of other items that would influence the validity and representativeness of the results. Before IDinsight, I would have dived in headfirst to the numbers with little regard for how they were produced. My experience with IDinsight has showed me how important understanding these nuances are to get to good “data-driven” policy recommendations.