Archive for July, 2012

In this video, Save the Children staff share their perspectives on what accountability means in their work.  Keep an eye out for Standing Team member Denis Onoise (Save the Children Nigeria) as he expresses why he believes accountability is important and what it takes to make accountability happen.


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The CARE Standing Team are committed to sharing learning with all of us, and we are lucky that they have submitted another dispatch about their meeting! Angela submits this piece to us:

The Standing Team meets just once a year, so how do we make the most of our time together? how do we learn from each other?  how do we train up the newer members?  how do we move forward accountability practices?  I’ve captured here some of the tricks that help make great use of short time.

Talking accountability over dinner

Our workshop has a multi-purpose design beyond the accountability theme, and allows each and every one of us to design and deliver a session across the week.  We pair up a more seasoned member with a newer one in a “buddy system”.  Typically, ahead of the workshop, a needs assessment is done to determine what the interests, challenges and expectations are around the theme and an interactive session is designed around this.  We learn a lot about various aspects of accountability, emphasising the practice.  Today we looked at feedback, complaints and response mechanisms, as well as ways in which we review CARE’s performance in emergencies and against our humanitarian accountability framework. Different to other workshops – and a key feature of ours – is that facilitators also receive feedback on their session design and delivery, so as to build their skills in facilitation and workshop design too.

prop from workshop session

Today I’m left astounded by the thought and creativity that goes into the design.  Modelled on the famous tv programme, we played “Who Wants To Be An After Action Review Expert”.  Whilst the million dollar prize may not materialise for some time (where’s the accountability there?!), we were left with a brilliant example of smart session design.  Well tailored to the afternoon hump session, participants were lured in turn into the bright orange corona of a hot seat to answer questions on conducting after action reviews.  The questions were thoughtfully designed and drew out rich conversation on what after action reviews are (and are not!), the lessons learned from the previous reviews conducted by the facilitators, the key questions that are being debated within the organisation (to draw comments and insight from the participants to feed into the debate) and tips and tricks for facilitating after action reviews.  A great example that a cleverly designed and delivered session can achieve a lot in a short time and still be fun: everyone’s a winner.

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In addition to the ECB interagency accountability & impact measurement Standing Team, CARE International has a its own Standing Team that has been going strong for many years. This week, they meet in Geneva for a learning workshop. The following comes to us from Daniel, a member of the team. He writes:

For the forth time in a row, the CARE International Standing Team for Quality and Accountability is meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland. The team has grown to 21 members and virtually represents every region where CARE is working. This workshop gives us an excellent opportunity to  exchange experiences from deployments.  As every session is facilitated by two team members, it is a hands-on opportunity to practice facilitation skills and get honest feedback and suggestions for improvements from peers.

It appears that by now the Standing Team has gained recognition throughout the CARE world, mostly through deployments during larger scale emergencies and the facilitation of After Action Reviews and introducing accountability and learning instruments. Of course, the meeting is also an opportunity to share some of the frustrations, for example about the cases when there is still not sufficient recognition of accountability. One of the strategies that appeared successful was using practical examples from other countries to illustrate how in the long run the emergency response improved by introducing accountability into the equation. And it is often our accountability national counterparts within the country offices who become the strongest champions of accountability long after the departure of the standing team members.

Over the next few days, CARE’s new Accountability Framework will be discussed (currently at the testing stage), as well as key concepts such as community information and feedback mechanisms and the basics of monitoring and evaluation in emergencies. The theme gender in emergencies will feature prominently, as well as accountability to people affected by disasters. The question as to how we can make our trainings more sustainable has already popped up (for example, can we learn from adult learning specialist?). So stay tuned for the next update from Lake Geneva.

– Daniel Seller, most recently deployed to the Horn of Africa during the 2011-12 drought/displacement emergency

Thank you to the CARE Standing Team for sharing their learning!

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We are happy to announce that the Bangladesh and Boliva deployment reports are now available on www.ecbproject.org.











You have read a few details from Brian and Hugh and Saji and Shagufta in our previous blog posts, now get all of the details!  Both reports discuss their key findings and recommendations. Thanks to all involved for your hard work! 

More deployments are being scheduled for this fall. Please check back for updates in the coming months.

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“I want you to all picture yourselves on one of the Indonesian islands. Form for yourselves a character – perhaps you are a rural farmer or perhaps you live in an urban area and make your money selling shoes on the street. Do you have any family, and do they live with you?

Right, now a cyclone has just ripped through the island. Picture again what situation you are in.”

This is how Hugh, ECB Shelter Accountability Advisor, began his workshop in Madrid.  Below is a blog submission from Hugh about his experience.

As part of my role to support the Shelter Cluster in improving accountability to affected populations, I attended the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies or IFRC Shelter Coordination Training in June in Madrid.  The training is for potential shelter cluster coordinators, with a focus on natural disasters, as IFRC convenes the cluster in these contexts. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) leads the Shelter Cluster in complex emergencies.

During the week-long training, I facilitated a session looking specifically at accountability to affected populations and the role cluster coordinators play in ensuring accountability.  This was focused around the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Operational Framework on Accountability to Affected Populations, which is based upon the Good Enough Guide.

The conversations ensuing were in-depth and fruitful.  Participants all considered accountability important prior to attending, but appeared to develop an understanding of how they, as potential cluster coordinators, could support agencies in ensuring accountability to affected populations.

One facilitation technique I used received excellent feedback.  In reviewing the Operational Framework, I stuck a strip of paper over who was responsible for addressing each objective.  In groups, participants had to review the objective and suggested indicators, and fill out who they thought held the responsibility for each objective.  Once each group had reported back to the plenary, they were then able to peel back the paper and uncover the answer.  Whilst fairly simple as a facilitation technique, the act of uncovering the answer seemed to promote great excitement!

Interesting feedback was also collected on the Operational Framework, such as the recommendation that the Framework be expanded to include government and beneficiaries as named stakeholders rather than focusing on the role of the aid community.

The training was attended by 16 participants in total, from IFRC, UNHCR, several Red Cross National Societies, and NGOs.

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Last year, Tearfund embarked on a 6 month research project, funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, to explore accountability in remotely managed projects.  Stakeholders from INGOs, NGOs, UN agencies, donors and research organizations participated, producing the report Monitoring and accountability practices for remotely managed projects implemented in volatile operating environments.

Remote management approaches are becoming increasingly common in humanitarian operations.  Though many publications have covered this subject, research found that “there was limited evidence that creative processes had been applied to considering accountability through the lens of remote management.”  This report highlights several key areas in which more attention is needed; with many examples of good practices featured as well. 


Apparent, however, was that often this good practice was confined to individual organisations rather than its being shared more widely to promote learning and best practice. A significant portion of the information required is already out there; the challenge is to ensure that this good practice is shared and communicated in a way that it is practical and realistic.

Key Issues Identified

Decrease in program quality – Weak technical oversight – Poor communication between offices – Increased fraud and corruption – Inaccurate data – Limited capacity of personnel – Irregular access to beneficiaries – Increased security threats – Increased political/social pressure on local staff


Key recommendations fell into six different categories: establishing and delivering on commitments, staff competency, sharing information, participation, beneficiary feedback and complaints handling, and learning and continual improvement.  These recommendations included the following:

1.) Establish a beneficiary accountability focal person at the program head office and the local project office, and initiate a beneficiary accountability working group at a regional and/or country level, with local staff participation.  Ensure that there is sufficient time and preparation to develop contextually appropriate beneficiary accountability approaches for the remotely managed project.

2.) Increase resources for internal and external training, develop training programs to promote beneficiary accountability specific to the remote management context, and provide adequate follow-up after training.   Staff capacity is a significant issue for remotely managed projects.  The report states,

Staff capacity issues were often worse in remote management situations where senior programme staff were not based with local staff and could not provide day-to-day mentoring and capacity building opportunities. Staff training workshops represent an additional expense, requiring trainers to travel to the project location (which is not always possible in insecure environments), or requiring project staff to travel elsewhere for training.

Those programs, however, that switched from direct management to remote management were found to be better implemented, because training was done before the program head office was moved. 

3.) Provide regular opportunities for local staff to present findings related to beneficiary accountability practice (e.g. methods that work particularly well) to senior program management.

4.) Develop additional structures within the community to promote beneficiary participation.  Also, ensure that agreement is reached between senior management and local staff on the content of information shared with beneficiaries about project activities and safe and practical means of sharing this information.  Additionally, as in any humanitarian intervention, it is critical to develop complaint and response mechanisms.  In remote management situations, it is particularly important to make certain that this feedback and reporting system is supported by third-party verification (e.g. visits by senior national personnel; peer monitoring by other agencies; meetings at a secure location between beneficiary representatives and senior expatriate personnel).

5.) Consider whether it is practical and appropriate to meet with beneficiaries outside of a project implementation area, as remote meetings could involve significant risk.  In addition, conducting such meetings could lead to contact only with beneficiaries who are not necessarily representative of the wider beneficiary group.

These are just a few highlights.  We encourage you to read the entire report here for more information!

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