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Archive for October, 2012

In July, 28 humanitarian practitioners from 22 organizations met in Kenya for a 6-day course on “Enhancing Quality and Accountability in Humanitarian Action.” organized by the Inter- Agency Working Group (IAWG) – Quality and Accountability Sub Group and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).  The course resulted in compiled recommendations and proposals to be presented to the various Quality and Accountability (Q&A) initiatives.  Below is a summary of some of the key recommendations.  You can read the entire report here.

Recommendations to Q&A initiatives from field practitioners

  1. Consolidate core standards and cross-cutting issues in Q&A initiatives to simplify work for field practitioners and ensure consistency.
  2. Share experiences and reports to communicate what is or is not working in Q&A.
  3. Increase advocacy for capacity building, funding, and resource mobilization.
  4. Establish Q&A advisors at main humanitarian hubs in the field.
  5. Evaluate implementation of Q&A standards by humanitarian organizations.
  6. Conduct an independent evaluation of Q&A initiatives in the last 20 years using the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) criteria.
  7. Support increasing partnerships between Q&A initiatives, governments, universities, donors and other stakeholders.

Recommendations to Q&A initiatives on cross-cutting themes

Participants ask questions during the panel discussion

Recommendations were also made on specific themes such as: quality and accountability in remote contexts, complaints and feedback mechanisms, and linking emergencies with early recovery and development. 

 
 
 

 
 

Proposal for issues that should be included in all Q&A initiatives

Issues related to people themselves: Issues related to context:
  • Gender
  • Life-threatening diseases (HIV/AIDS, cancer, etc.)
  • Disabilities
  • Children, youth, and elderly
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Protection and security (including “do no harm”)
  • Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
  • Environment

Good Enough Guide table at the Share Fair

The final day of the course was a share fair funded by the ECB Project.  The share fair enabled participants to present and discuss in small groups with external stakeholders the various Q&A initiatives as well as transversal themes, based on the 2-page papers developed during the course.  This event was attended by 90 participants including donors, NGOs, UN agencies and media.

All background materials for the course have been posted to www.disasterriskreduction.net.

Discussing the Good Enough Guide

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PHOTO: OXFAM

“All affected people should be treated as dignified, capable human beings, rather than as helpless objects. The way aid is provided may be as important as the aid itself. Affected populations should participate in the making of decisions that affect their lives. Participation is both a universal right and good management practice.” (Annex: ‘Principles, Standards And Evaluation Criteria For Humanitarian Aid’ The European Consensus On Humanitarian Aid (2008/C 25/01)

In May of this year, ECHO published “Review of Existing Practices to Ensure Participation of Disaster-Affected Communities in Humanitarian Aid Operations,” a review of methodologies and best practices to engage host communities as active participants in humanitarian responses.

This report provides an overview of policies and best practices in participation drawn from relevant case studies and successes of various humanitarian and development organizations, while highlighting risks and challenges to increased participation of local and affected communities in humanitarian operations. The report includes an analysis of donor funding policies and provides insight into how policy is formulated and executed in various humanitarian emergencies and events. ECHO undertook this review in an effort to increase understanding in the field about current trends and best practices in participatory approaches to humanitarian interventions documented over the last five years by key actors in the sector.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • Increasing need to consider participation of affected communities in humanitarian operations and responses from a rights-based approach in all areas of operations.
  • Identified key factors that influence participation levels, most notably the context (scale and nature) of the crisis.
  • Benefits of community participation in humanitarian response are growing and include cost effectiveness, stronger monitoring and evaluation, stronger advocacy, keeping the interventions appropriate in evolving situations, and increased safety and security in regards to humanitarian access.
  • Each humanitarian event will require its own approach to community participation and crosscutting methodologies including Do No Harm, provision of information, community consultation, mobilising the community, maintaining dialogue with the community, and maintaining flexibility.  These are all fundamental components to participatory approaches in humanitarian responses.
  • Continued risks persist that hinder community participation, including context, traditions and customs of local leadership, and managing expectations of communities, donors, and humanitarian organizations.

The report also includes a set of recommendations for future humanitarian interventions, with the aim of integrating community participation in the design and implementation of humanitarian operations within the context of the local community.

We encourage you to review the report and let us know what you think in the comment section below!

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The two week Horn of Africa deployment, conducted by Sajilu (World Vision) and Syma (Oxfam) came to an end October 5th.  Below Sajilu shares with us the remainder of his experience.

“Kenya’s Got Talent” winners received the copies of the Good Enough Guide!

During the last two days of the workshop, spirits remained high.  As we reviewed our field day of testing the assessment tools a number of accountability aspects were highlighted. Some of the issues that came up were around having a conducive and safe space for different members of the community to participate in an assessment. The assessment team noted the importance of ensuring that men and women were separated during the discussions.

Our last accountability session was around sharing information (assessment findings) with communities. To start off the session a YouTube video prepared by the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) that drives home the message on why information sharing during the initial phases of an emergency can save lives was shared. A few PowerPoint slides were then shared with the participants. The key message was that humanitarian agencies regularly extract information from communities through various data collection exercises, but rarely share that same information with communities. The presentation underscored the importance of sharing information with communities so that they can understand how their data is being used and can help verify its analysis. During the plenary session, participants reflected on their experiences in sharing information with communities and all thought it to be a positive experience.

The last part of the deployment was a reflection exercise with our colleagues from ACAPS. It was agreed that the deployment added value to the Kenya Initial Rapid Assessment (KIRA) process. This was affirmed by informal interactions with the workshop participants. The next stage of the KIRA process is to conduct trainings in different regions of Kenya. It is important that the accountability momentum gained is not lost. I am confident that our in-country ECB colleagues will make this happen.

The deployment was a success and a good learning experience for me and Syma. A big thank you goes to all those who supported this deployment!

To read Sajilu’s post about the first half of his deployment with Syma, click here.

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This blog post was submitted by Mariane Mathia, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer with CRS Jerusalem.  After discovering that accountability was being implemented across programs, but not in a unified manner, Mariane collected the following information, used it to conduct an internal workshop, and is now helping to implement an accountability strategy across all departments. Thank you Mariane for sharing your experience!

There are four simple steps to ensure accountability (the 4 Cs!):

1. Count: This step focuses on basic tracking of inputs and outputs through routine project control systems. These may include distribution records, warehouse registers, cash-for-work records, etc. They assure that the beneficiaries received the intended goods or services of the project or intervention.

2. Check: This step focuses on verification of content and process with the beneficiaries. It is about checking whether the outputs are appropriate and relevant and whether they will be effectively utilized per the intended purpose.

3. Change: This step focuses on improving interventions based on counts and checks, the intervention may need to be changed or adapted. The information should be reviewed by staff with program decisions made accordingly.

4. Communicate: This step focuses on consistent exchange of information. Consider the range of information needed by multiple stakeholders for timely information for decision making, and the importance of the accuracy of information. Both good and bad news should be delivered with the source of information, and an explanation if it is incomplete. Communication should be extensive and consistent with beneficiaries (men and women, old and young, different social and ethnic groups), government, other agencies, and donors throughout the life of the project.

Banner displayed at a CRS event

Means of Communication

At every CRS activity a banner is placed with information about CRS, its vision, mission and objectives. The information is presented in clear language (Arabic and English), formats, and media (announcements, flyers, etc.) in order to provide beneficiaries with timely, relevant and clear information.

Opportunities for involvement: Dates and locations of distributions are announced in city councils, mosques, and municipalities. On every distribution site a flyer is posted with contact information for beneficiaries to call if they have any complaints, questions, or comments about the distribution process.

In line to provide feedback at a CRS office

Dealing with complaints: Beneficiaries complain either by phone or come to the office. The Head of office or CRS coordinator asks them to fill a complaint form. The forms are studied and investigated with head of office in order to resolve such problems as complaints about a distributor, unavailable goods in distribution points, increasing prices, or bias in the distribution cycle.

Beneficiary Satisfaction: Beneficiaries are involved by filling the Beneficiary Satisfaction Forms during or after distributions. The form utilized in the surveying process gathers feedback from beneficiaries on the aid distribution, selection of beneficiaries, compatibility of the distribution points, treatment of beneficiaries during distribution, and the level of satisfaction of the commodities received. The information is used to inform the M&E Satisfaction Report. This report allows CRS to analyze beneficiary feedback to make appropriate changes to the intervention to improve the delivery of goods and services.

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The following videos are in Spanish. A rough English translation has been provided below each video for non-Spanish speakers

Daniela Zambrana – Viceminister of Transparency, Government of Bolivia

Good afternoon, my name is Daniela Zambrana. I am from the Ministry of Institutional Transparency, and I fight against corruption. The workshop on accountability was a good experience for me. I really enjoyed the experiences that they have shared – many projects that are unlike the ones that I am used to seeing.  This has brought me experiences to try to implement and some tools that I can use in the projects that I am carrying out.

Alexander Fortin – Oxfam

Hi, I am Alexander Fortin. I work with Oxfam, and I have been participating in these workshops over the last few days. What I found most valid, well, most interesting, was the presentation from our partner from Kenya who you can tell has a lot of experience with accountability, and from there, I was able to better understand how you can evaluate your work in the best way possible: seeking the perspectives of the beneficiaries, always returning to see how it’s going and taking suggestions from the beneficiaries to improve the projects. I think for me that has been the most interesting. And I think that it has been even more valuable to reflect on his experience.  Then, in my work, we are just now developing a qualitative analysis that will actually serve to understand the people’s perceptions, and we are going to integrate this new tool that we are using into our accountability work, and into our future planning at the Oxfam level, and also at the Oxfam Bolivia level – how we will integrate this aspect of accountability into our next projects.

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Jambo! It has been nine days since Syma and I have been deployed to Nairobi to support OCHA, ACAPS and UNICEF to build a more coherent and comprehensive approach to Rapid Needs Assessment in Kenya. Essentially, our task is to ensure that accountability elements are considered in the Rapid Needs Assessment Training that ACAPS is leading. After a two hour short hop from Lusaka, it was nice to meet my colleague Syma from Oxfam (I am sure she had a long haul as she was screaming for coffee!).

Monday morning we got to meet our wonderful ECB host, Elizabeth (who, I must add, has been terrific throughout this deployment). We spent the whole of last week preparing for the training working with Emese and Susan from ACAPs.  We introduced the elements of accountability to the trainees, how to collect data with accountability in mind, integrating the cross cutting themes and sharing information (assessment results) with communities. In addition, we were also asked to come in throughout the workshop to raise the accountability flag wherever necessary.

Syma Preparing for the Workshop

Syma has been good in thinking out of the box and coming up with innovative ways to weave accountability into the training workshop. With good discussions and a busy time preparing the materials, the week flew past! Over the weekend, Syma amazingly found time to get herself some useful ‘clappers ‘ as workshop material. These are a set of colourful plastic hands that really make a nice clapping sound!  She also did not miss out on the wonderful art Kenya offers and bought herself a snake made of soft drink bottle tops, as I spent the morning at a museum tracking the origins of humankind and understanding the long and interesting history of Kenya.

After a week of preparation our ‘real’ assignment kicked off. The venue is a good one hour from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi and offers great game views along the way. After a brisk lunch, we headed straight to the workshop. Our first task was to introduce the basic elements of accountability. To achieve this, we used the ‘Bus to Tentaka’ scenario developed by my colleague Goldan from WV Sri Lanka. The scenario is a busy bus station with a lot of passengers waiting for a weekly bus. When the bus comes, the passengers surge and swarm the bus, some passengers inevitably fail to get seats, while those lucky enough to get into the bus are delayed. A conflict ensues in the process. This created a good discussion forum on accountability and set out a nice platform. The session went well and a quick peek at the session evaluation forms shows a generally positive impression from the participants.

Syma Facilitating – “Doing The Data Collection With Respect” Session

Having set the tempo on the first day on Sunday, it was much easier to keep the accountability momentum on the next  few days of the workshop. Syma shared a presentation on good accountability practices before, during, and after assessment data collection. Evaluation forms for this session gave very high marks! An assessment scenario developed by Oxfam, but contextualized for Kenya, was used to test the participants’ understanding of good accountability practices during assessments. The importance of engaging community leaders and managing community expectations came out as key lessons for this session.

 The next session was aimed at highlighting cross cutting themes in the context of a Rapid Assessment. Some of the cross cutting themes included disability, gender, protection and environment. To make the session spicy, it was structured around a talent show called Kenya’s Got Talent. Participants were asked to choose one cross cutting theme and do a 90 second performance before a panel of experts (Cross Cutting Themes SMEs). This really brought the house down while sending the message home on cross cutting themes. In addition to the presentations, the ECB team set up an Accountability Corner in the workshop venue to allow participants to go through various accountability resources available. The Good Enough Guide has been a hit.

We are now at the end of this hectic yet exciting deployment. We got a chance to visit communities within Nairobi’s informal settlements to test the assessment data collection tool. It is always refreshing to meet communities and get to hear their stories. During the debrief session for the field work, it was encouraging to note the awareness of accountability issues among participants. We look forward to finishing strong.

Stay tuned for more updates from Syma and Sajilu on their successful deployment to Kenya!

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Emmanuel with World Vision Kenya recently completed the second deployment to Bolivia. Below he shares his experience!

This deployment was my first, and a very interesting learning experience for me. Time seemed to fly while preparing for the workshop, with 5 weeks of prep seeming like only 5 days! After over 20 hours of travel, I arrived in Bolivia. I must admit that the night before the workshop felt short and was full of interruptions, as I checked my watch continually. The desire to begin the deployment kept me awake!

The focus of the workshop was mainly on sharing different experiences implementing accountability in the field. The theme of the first day was designing accountability systems. I began with a brief overview of the efforts of my experience in Kenya. This introduction itself spoke volumes of the desire and expectations to bind together key learnings on accountability practices being implemented by the different agencies. We then moved on to an overview of the Good Enough Guide (GEG), led by fellow Standing Team member Tania, with CARE Bolivia. Next, the group shared general background of the projects that both the participants and the facilitators had been working on. It was evident that everyone was eager to learn more about implementing accountability mechanisms. I must admit that the selection of the participants was truly the special ingredient for the greatest recipe! The team was enthusiastic. They were ready to listen, ask questions and contribute to the accountability agenda.

The key to the success of this event was the ability to seek new ideas, as well as see the commonalities between the presentations. The room was packed with knowledge and experience, which resulted in a rich discussion full of questions and recommendations. Within the first day it was clear that the Bolivia consortium is on the right path, and deployments such as this one will be the tool to cement the foundation for future success.

The second and last day built on the first, as the team shared steps for starting up and implementing accountability systems. I learned together with the team as we covered the step by step process, and then I moved on to share my experiences in Kenya establishing our community help desk and the interactive radio programme. A number of other agencies in the consortium who have been implementing radio projects also provided ideas that made the learning even more interesting! The day moved along well, with participants gaining confidence in establishing accountability systems.

By the end of the day the team seemed to have a clear understanding of how to best incorporate accountability into a project, so we put their learning to the test. Three presentations were put forth for pilot projects that will be starting soon. The participants were broken into groups, one for each pilot, and given the task to plan for an accountability initiative. It was amazing to see the teams present confidently on their new accountability initiatives with a clear outline of how to go about them and the tools to use. As the facilitator, I tried to provide more insight for each of the new interventions and offered suggestions as to how they could be made more effective.

I truly appreciated the knowledge-sharing approach that was taken at this workshop, and I believe it was very successful. I am grateful for the support of Ingrid, who organized the workshop, Yamil Antonio for being the best photographer, my co-facilitators, Tania, Ximena and Jacquline, our translator who ensured that language was never a barrier, and of course, the warm and enthusiastic participants who were always eager to learn.

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