Creating diaspora skills profiles

The starting point for successful diaspora engagement is data. Data are indispensable to inform policy formulation and identify opportunities for engagement for national authorities and diaspora organisations in the country of destination. To this end, creating diaspora skills profiles involves looking at skills or personal characteristics of the diaspora and often involves elements of mapping, a complementary exercise that is more often used for entities and geography.

However, comprehensive and reliable data on diaspora is scarce. As a result, the development potential of diasporas remains mostly unmapped because of the lack of data and information in both countries of origin and destination in terms of the diaspora’s location, structure, aspirations, capital, and contributions. The EUDiF regional overviews show that most countries lack systematic and comprehensive diaspora data, which limits optimisation of their potential contribution to development.

This page is based on the “Learning by doing” dossier in which we present EUDiF’s work on the topic from an academic and practitioner perspective, bringing theory and practice together. In this publication, we share our learnings and demonstrate why mapping and profiling exercises have great value in diaspora engagement planning at global, regional and national levels.

Read on for a précis, or download the publication for the complete reflection.

Data types and challenges

Government data needs


Geographical location and size

To provide services to the diaspora where they are

Mapping of diaspora organisations

To know how the diaspora is organised

Mapping of diaspora-led initiatives

To better understand the various diaspora contributions to national development

Demographics, skills and competences

To better understand diaspora socio-economic and demographic characteristics and the potential for skills transfer

Level of attachment and willingness to contribute

To know better the contribution potential, possible areas of interest and modes of collaboration

Top tip: Disaggregate your data

Data disaggregation by age and gender provides a nuanced understanding of diverse demographic groups, enabling targeted strategies to meet specific needs and monitor progress over time. This is crucial for identifying and addressing inequalities, allowing policymakers to tailor effective interventions and promote inclusivity.

Main approaches and tools

Desk research


Interviews/focus groups

Censuses in host countries

Big data

Dedicated online platforms

Type of data
  • ✔Quantitative
  • ✔Qualitative

✔Secondary data


• Involves an analysis of existing material (e.g. reports or datasets), and is the basis of all exercises to get a first understanding of the subject matter

  • • Should use pre-existing data as a first step and in complement to other methodologies
  • • Can have limited representativity as a whole segment of the diaspora can be excluded
Suggested use
  • •Mapping diaspora initiatives or organisations
  • •Identification of key stakeholders to involve in outreach activities
Type of data
  • ✔ Usually more quantitative, but can also include qualitative data
  • ✔ Primary data

Gathers information from a group of people using a list of questions to gain insights on a particular topic

  • • Is flexible and designed to gather the needed data, with replication being low-cost and short
  • • Can incur expertise costs for the first iteration (if capacity development is needed). Take-up from the diaspora can be uneven, and reach and representativity can be limited.
Suggested use
  • • Skills profiling and identification of interests and likes (e.g., level of attachment, willingness to contribute)
Type of data
  • ✔ Qualitative
  • ✔ Primary data

Asks questions to an individual or a small group about a particular topic, using questions that are not fixed and involving follow-up questions that can be asked depending on the points raised by the respondent

  • • Complements more quantitative data collection methods, giving the possibility to delve further into sub-topics. Gives a “voice” to participants, helping build the trust necessary to encourage respondents to concretely engage in the country of origin
  • • Can be time consuming (setting up interview, writing up notes)
Suggested use
  • • Identification of interests and likes (e.g. level of attachment, willingness to contribute, position on a particular topic)
  • • Complement to the survey to gather further information or clarify points
Type of data
  • ✔ Quantitative and qualitative
  • ✔ Primary data

Systematically counts the number of people living in a country to collect information about them, counting the whole population

  • • Cannot always collect data on ethnicity, nor country of birth of both parents or grandparents, limiting the ability of the census data to count diaspora
  • • Extremely costly and time consuming to reproduce
Suggested use
  • • Geographic mapping and skills profiling, but not compilation of initiatives or mapping of diaspora organisations
Type of data
  • ✔ Quantitative and qualitative
  • ✔ Secondary data
  • Usually mined from social media or company websites, provides rich information based on content analysis, helping determine patterns and enabling predictions on diaspora behaviours
  • • Can be very useful when complemented with other data, but are not sufficient in isolation.
  • • Costly and reliant on technology.
Suggested use
  • • Cannot answer all types of questions, with its use depending on the context
Type of data
  • ✔ Usually more quantitative, but can also include qualitative data
  • ✔ Primary data
  • Gathering data on a given diaspora through a dedicated site, relying on voluntary registration of diaspora members who include information on geographical location, demographic and socio-economic profiles, and their willingness to be mobilised
  • • Useful to governments to have direct access to a database of mobilisable diaspora.
  • • Incur costs for website hosting and equipment. Time to gather data can be long and the take-up from the diaspora can be uneven.
Suggested use
  • • All types of exercises: mapping of initiatives and diaspora organisations, skills profiling
Did you know?

Trust is central to data collection. Close involvement of diaspora communities has many advantages, as they can grant access to all segments of the diaspora, increase the credibility of the study, and mitigate political sensitivity by presenting the data collection as a co-owned exercise benefiting all.

Our step-by-step methodology

First, define your key terms (i.e. diaspora, skills) and evaluate the objectives of the data collection exercise – this allows you to specify your data needs.

Identify existing data and expertise (i.e. pre-existing data) and address training needs.

Survey development

To develop the survey, you can use free tools that are easy and accessible (e.g., Kobotoolbox, EUSurvey, Microsoft Forms).

Start the survey with the introduction or explanatory text before the questions, close it by offering to send a summary of the results, ideally electronically.

Run a test phase with at least 10 colleagues and friends to make sure that the survey is ready to be shared.

Data collection

Use multiple communication channels to disseminate the survey (social media, email, face-to-face events, online tools, paper flyers…).

Offer different options to fill out the survey, complementing online with paper versions available in embassies and consulates, or providing responses via a hotline.

Data analysis

Clean and prepare the data for analysis.

Cross-reference the cleaned data to find the most interesting combinations to present, for instance by using pivot tables in Excel.

Find the relevant data and create graphs to illustrate the story.


Follow up with the people contacted during the data collection phase and send them a thank you message with the results of the survey.

Take a targeted approach to disseminate the results by using channels where diaspora professionals interact, such as LinkedIn or social media.

Data collection in action

Through EUDiF’s research, dialogue and capacity development activities, we have built theoretical and practical knowledge on the different ways to gather data on diasporas. Over time, we have built experience in gathering different types of data and using a mix of approaches according to circumstance. We have developed skills profiles in three specific actions in collaboration with Madagascar, Moldova and St Lucia. Starting with developing a methodology to create a broad skill profile of diaspora communities, we have successfully tested it in two different contexts whilst building government capacity to replicate the exercise in the future. We have also mapped skills in a specific sector, research and education, which requires a slightly different approach.

Empowering national authorities and the diaspora is crucial in conducting a skills profiling exercise. Building internal capacities within MFAs and fostering collaboration with the diaspora from the outset not only enhances skills but also cultivates trust, making them key gatekeepers of this transformative process.
Fanny Tittel-Mosser, Research and Knowledge Management Officer, EUDiF
  • Dr Agathe Randrianarisoa delivers a training on the methodology to MFA staff.


  • MFA staff in St Lucia at the end of a week’s training

  • Dr Fanny Tittel-Mosser running a workshop on survey design for the High Commission of St Lucia to the UK