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Archive for June, 2012

We have been sharing a lot of stories from infoasaid in the past few months, but this video is too good not to highlight! As we have mentioned in previous blog posts, infoasaid, the DFID funded project being implemented by Internews and BBC Media Action, seeks to…

…improve the quality of humanitarian responses by maximising the amount of accurate and timely information available to both humanitarian responders and crisis-affected populations through enhanced information exchange between them in an emergency.
The following brief video is not only brilliantly animated, but also expresses clearly why communication is key in emergency situations.  It’s a lovely resource to pass on to colleagues.  Enjoy! 
 
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Last week we featured the first half of a discussion around financial transparency that took place during the June 12th Accountability Club call.  Angela, CARE agency manager and standing team member, continues to share her experiences in the field below:

Angela: In 2010-2011 I ran various projects for CARE in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), providing multi-sectoral support for displaced families living with host families.  This work started with a pilot project in Goma using funding from the DEC.  The funding was quite flexible and allowed us room for decision-making and revisions of the planned expenditures per sector.

Q. Was this sharing of information seen as risky at the time? Did it take negotiation? Who decided information should be shared?

A.  I was the project manager, so I decided to do it because I did not feel – as an expat – that I was in a position to make the decisions about the community’s needs and priorities.  There are, of course, risks to sharing financial information, and you may not always find it appropriate to do so – for example on cash transfer programmes where there may be security considerations when transporting cash.

Q. How did the decision-making on the budget happen?

A. We spent a morning going through different shelter options and presenting the budget to the members of the community representatives’ committee.  We drew up the budget in a really simple format on flipcharts and spent a lot of time talking through the information instead of relying on writing.  We then split up into groups and discussed the different options that we had presented, as mentioned earlier.  Once the group discussion concluded, we came back, reviewed thoughts from the groups, and came to a consensus.

Q. How did you present that information to the community? 

A. Through community representatives, the nyumba kumis (a local authority system whereby each 10 houses has a representative), through our own staff and a message board.  We would be sure that whatever it was that we displayed on the message board, there was good explanations given accompanying it, such as why we were sharing that information.

Q. Did you share any salary information?

A. All salary information was lump-summed in with total operating costs.  Sharing that information would have made the staff very vulnerable.  There are really two sides to sharing financial information. We shared direct costs with the community, because we wanted to focus on participation and involve them in decision-making.  But then we also want to share lump-sums for total operating costs in order to build trust and be transparent.  It is also useful to share the total budget as it shows the balance between what is spend on operating and programming costs.  Sharing this information forces you to think about whether or not the costs have been allocated well.  I do think, though, that if we had not shared the operations costs, the community would have asked for it.

For more information on the Accountability Club contact sarnason@care.org or klove@care.org.

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On the most recent Accountability Club call we were fortunate to have representatives from CARE, Christian Aid, the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), the ECB Project Team, Merlin, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision.  The topic of the conversation was financial transparency, and the discussion was rich.  Angela, CARE agency manager and standing team member, shared her experiences in the field.

Angela: In 2010-2011 I ran various projects for CARE in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), providing multi-sectoral support for displaced families living with host families.  This work started with a pilot project in Goma using funding from the DEC.  The funding was quite flexible and allowed us room for decision-making and revisions of the planned expenditures per sector.  We started by setting up a committee of community representatives in the two areas of the town where we were working.  We then worked closely with this committee to determine selection criteria for beneficiaries and reviewed the proposed project together, including presenting the project budget.  Direct project costs were shared in more detail, but other costs, including salaries and costs of being operational there, were lumped into one sum due to sensitivities around salary information.

The planned interventions were in shelter, food and non-food items (NFIs), and we presented various shelter design and cost options, as well as different food and NFI options, and together decided what type of shelter beneficiaries would receive and how much money would go to each sector.  We also decided jointly what modality was preferred for delivery – shelter would be in-kind and food/NFIs would be through a cash voucher scheme.

Q. What were some of your key challenges?

A. At that time it was not usual to share financial information. The community representatives appreciated the chance to contribute to decisions and have an understanding of the budget.  Budgets can be extremely complicated, so a challenge is how to share the information without confusing people.  We drew up the budget on flipcharts as simply as possible, calculated costs per beneficiary family to make the amounts more tangible and went through everything verbally.

Q. What were some of the advantages of sharing this information?

A. We were able to offer different options with the shelter, and the community could make a decision on what they felt was appropriate.  Did they want us to spend more to build a more elaborate shelter and then spend less on food or NFIs? Or would their preference be a more basic shelter extension, that would allow us to spend more on food and NFIs, or somewhere between the two?  This ensured that the intervention was really relevant to them, and we received great feedback from the beneficiaries. Additionally, we surprisingly received good feedback from non-beneficiaries.  When the project ended, one of the community committees was still active for at least a year after, as the community continued to do their own fundraising from local businesses and implement their own little projects.

Q. What information was shared with partners?  What was included in the partner agreement?

A. We didn’t have partners on that first project, but it may be tricky working with local partners with full transparency.  I previously worked with Merlin in DRC where we worked with the local health authorities, and I definitely wouldn’t have shared the full project financial information with certain individuals as they may well have used it against us to leverage higher ‘primes’ (a subsidy from Merlin on top of their normal Ministry of Health salary).

On this point Lucy from Oxfam shared that during an Oxfam program in West Bank they were completely transparent with their partners and conducted the budgeting process with them. They also shared financial information with communities with whom they worked.  The level of comfort they felt in this relationship was, however, mainly due to the long-term relationship they had with these partners. They had built trust over time, but she also noted that the more information you share, the more trust you build. It is a long-term process, but it’s worth working through.

Read the second half of this interview here!

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Standing Team member Emmanuel, World Vision’s Accountability, Monitoring and Evaluations Officer, brought to our attention this interesting accountability project featured in April on infoasaid.org

Through a sponsored 45 minute weekly show on local radio station Anguo FM and via messages sent to mobile telephones, communities are relayed information on issues ranging from how to spot signs of malnutrition in children to prices of livestock in the main local markets to a description of content on the latest food aid package along with date of delivery.

Emmanuel live on the radio!

When we spoke with Emmanuel, he stated that hosting this radio program forces him and his team to take accountability very seriously.  If he receives a complaint or feedback for change, and no action is taken, the community will continue to call back.  It is quite beneficial for the community, because they always know when, where and how to find him!

In regards to communication, Emmanuel states, “You go to a community and you give them the water tablets and they might or might not use them – or they might use them in the wrong way.  Sharing information is a critical to accountability.  If the beneficiaries have the right information they can make the right judgement for themselves.”

Read the full story here!

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The quite creative ECB Bangladesh consortium has made a video of a traditional Bangla skit, which includes songs about accountability in emergencies! The folk skit with songs is called a gomvira. Due to its ability to teach the audience in an entertaining way, gomvira has become quite popular in the development field. There are 2 main characters in the skit, a grandfather and a grandson. Generally one of these characters depicts a positive side of the issue while the other plays a negative role. Through a logical conversation, the positive character convinces the negative character in favor of the issue. This 30 minute video is well done, very entertaining and fun to watch! (It may take some time to load before being ready to play, so please be patient. It is worth the wait!).

In this skit, set in rural Bangladesh, the grandson explains to his grandfather the people’s rights in relation to an aid organization’s emergency response and how the agency will conduct the next emergency response with accountability. The grandfather, having had negative experiences with aid organizations, is skeptical of what his grandson says. Through the course of the gomvira, the grandson answers his grandfather’s many questions and removes his doubts.

 

The Story

The gomvira opens by the grandson telling the grandfather that the aid organization has told the community, including men, women, the blind, disabled, and the most vulnerable, the details of the relief project and that the people are going to be involved in the process, including the making of the beneficiary list. The distrustful grandfather believes what he has observed in the past: that only those who have good relations with the agency staff can get on the beneficiary list, while the most vulnerable do not receive any aid. The grandfather then realizes that if people have the information about the project, including how much they are to receive in aid, and if they are involved in the process, that they can then hold staff accountable. To address corruption by powerful people, individuals can complain anonymously and will not be retaliated against for complaint against the powerful.

In the past, the different needs of the varying groups in the community were not considered. Now, the grandson explains, the agency staff will hold separate discussions with men, women, children, the disabled, and the isolated and various ethnic groups to find out the unique needs of each. The aid organization will ensure that needs are met and expectations are fulfilled.

But in the end, the grandfather asks, “Why will the aid organization do all these things? It’s all their money; they can spend it like they want. Why do they need to talk to so many poor, illiterate people like us?”

The son responds, “You raised the most important question. No, they cannot spend the money as they wish. Getting assistance and living with dignity in floods, cyclones, and storm surge situations is the right of the people.”

“You mean to say getting assistance in such situations is our right?” queries the grandfather.

“It is our right and the duty of the responders to provide it to us,” responds the grandson.

They then sing: “Getting assistance in emergencies is the people’s right. If you have a complaint, don’t keep it in your mind. Tell someone.”

Enjoy!

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During their deployment to Bangladesh in late April and early May, Saji & Shagufta were able to capture participant feedback through video.  They have shared with us here just a few key comments from our colleagues on both the usefulness of the workshop and some of the accountability mechanisms they are currently implementing.  Thank you Saji & Shagufta for sharing! 

Iqbal Nayyar, Deputy Country Director, Save the Children Bangladesh

 

Carla Benham, Accountability Specialist, World Vision International

 

Md. Mahbubur Rahman Program Manager-Water Logging, CARE Bangladesh

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