Digital services analysis: ICMPD

In autumn 2016, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development gave Unthinkable an intriguing brief. As an agency dedicated to promoting innovative, comprehensive and sustainable migration policies, ICMPD wished to create a portal that would aggregate and visualise data about human migration taken from a variety of sources as a means to strengthen communication between different actors in this field and promote more informed policies on migration.

Before doing so, they invited us to undertake a thorough consultation, including a study of the competitive landscape and a series of conversations with potential users, with twin aims. On the one hand, we would seek to understand what similar interfaces already exist, their strengths and weaknesses and the potential for ICMPD to add value to that context. On the other, we would investigate what key sources were available for statistical indicators that ICMPD could draw on for its own work.

In so doing we would also explore the potential for a deeper level intervention that might create a thesaurus or ontology for migration, that could lead to greater clarity and understanding among the various actors – agencies, governements, media, academics, the EU – involved in migration.

We worked closely with ICMPD’s team in Malta to develop our report, working with them to identify stakeholders to consult and accompanying them on a trip to Tunis to attend a workshop on migration in the Mediterranean. Our report provided a comprehensive survey of the landscape and analysis of user needs, together with an exploration of various options for ICMPD’s own activity. We were pleased to have another chance to work with our former associate Leigh Dodds, who applied his deep, hands-on knowledge of online data to better understand the problem space and the scope and limitations of any application of semantic data models to this field. We also enjoyed a rapid but perfectly formed intervention from data visualisation guru Max Gadney.

Like all of our best projects, we found this to be an excellent learning opportunity, giving us a rapid grounding both in the latest trends in data visualisation and, more importantly, a deeper understanding the massively misunderstood phenomenon of migration.

We are now delighted to be continuing to work with ICMPD to put our recommendations into practice through the creation of a proof of concept portal.