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Responsible data management toolbox

1 Introduction

Data protection… GDPR… Privacy rights… Responsible data… Protection “by default and by design”… Data life cycle, laws, rules… Cyber threats, etc. This is so confusing! And is this really my job to look into that…?

Honestly, who did not have this first reaction faced with the prospect of working on or having to answer questions on data protection? Fear no more, you are not alone!

Responsible data and data protection can be very overwhelming for those who have not been trained on these cross-cutting topics or approaching them for the first time, but you are in a good place to start. The topic is indeed complex, let’s acknowledge it, because it spans across all areas of work and you might often feel as “the imposter in the room”. You might have some ideas and partial knowledge about one aspect such as IT specificities, for instance, this is already a great starting point.

Nevertheless, in the humanitarian sector, we are comfortable with the Humanitarian principles and the concept of “Protection” as most programs and activities are required by nature to protect the lives of vulnerable people and affected populations. But what does it really mean to apply it to “data”. How different or similar can it be? With the introduction of the ambitious and more stringent GDPR in May 2018, Data protection and Responsible data have become new topics of discussions within a sector. Without much knowledge and appropriate training on the topic, teams have to comply (because, after all, this is the law). Easier said than done.

This toolbox is here to help you. It aims at providing an accessible and comprehensive overview of the different components, or “pillars”, of Responsible data and Data protection applied within the aid sector. Also, the literature on these topics produced by the aid actors is prolific and can be difficult to navigate. Thanks to CartONG IM Resource Portal and this toolbox, we attempt to filter through these resources, curating and showcasing the most important and useful ones.

The target audience is anyone interested and curious about the topic or having to get an overview quickly.

How to use it?

This toolbox has been designed with independent sections so users do not need to read the document from beginning to end. As a whole, the content provides an introduction to the necessary steps and considerations to conduct programs in a responsible way with privacy and data protection in mind.

You will find a variety of resources and formats (articles, slides, videos) which CartONG has created or curated from existing resources from other aid actors.

This toolbox is composed of 7 sections:

This toolbox will refer to other toolboxes displayed in the IM Resource Portal Learning Corner, when CartONG has developed more specific resources. If you are new to Information Management, you might want to take a look at the “First steps with Program data” toolbox.

In section 7, this toolbox will point at other dedicated resources from the sector. As CartONG strives for not reinventing the wheel and promoting other NGO works, we feel it is important to recognize the efforts made in the production of qualitative and field-oriented resources which can benefit everyone.


Created in 2006, CartONG is a French H2H/support NGO specialized in Information Management. Our goal is to put data at the service of humanitarian, development and social action projects. We are dedicated to improving the quality and accountability of field activities, in particular through better needs assessments and monitoring and evaluation. We act as a multidisciplinary resources and expertise centre, accompanying our partners’ strategies and operations. Our staff and volunteers also support the community as a whole by producing documentation, building capacities and raising awareness on the technical, strategic and ethical challenges of digital technologies.

This toolbox was produced as part of the project “Advancing responsible data practices within the aid sector” led by CartONG and co-financed by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs over the 2021-2023. This toolbox is also part of the largest set of tools part of the project “Strengthening Information Management within francophone CSOs” led by CartONG and co-financed by the French Development Agency (AFD) over the 2019-2022 period For more information, see the article published on our website.


We would particularly like to thank Action Contre la Faim, Handicap International and Premiere Urgence Internationale for sharing a number of internal tools, as well as all the other members (Médecins du Monde, Terre des hommes and Solidarité Internationale) of the working group set up to produce this toolbox.

This publication is supported by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE-CDCS), the French Development Agency (AFD). Nevertheless, the ideas and opinions presented in this toolbox do not necessarily represent those of MEAE-CDCS and AFD.

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This toolbox was designed using resources from and The Noun Project.