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Archive for the ‘Team’ Category

From Katy, Standing Team Coordinator

In early 2011 when I joined the ECB inter-agency Accountability & Impact Measurement Standing Team as the coordinator, I honestly had no idea what kind of experience I was in for. I was passionate about accountability to beneficiaries. I had learned about the original ECB Standing Team from 2007. I had served on CARE’s internal Quality & Accountability team. I knew the team had the support of the AIM Advisers, who were each organization’s champions for accountability. And the Standing Team ‘experiment’ seemed to present an incredible and rare opportunity.

But I also knew that what lay ahead of us would be hard. We would be forming a large, inter-agency team of accountability specialists from six agencies. These people would not know each other (with very few exceptions). We all spoke different languages and came from all over the world. Some of us were very experienced accountability practitioners and others were just starting out. Some were senior staff, others more junior. Most were humanitarian workers but some came from the development side of their organizations. Before the first workshop, many of us had never traveled beyond our own country.

I am happy to say that the last two years have gone well beyond my expectations. The journey has been a beautiful one.  Together, with our Standing Team members, our field ‘clients’ who requested our services, our AIM Adviser champions, and our sector partners, I can confidently say we have met the expectations and goals we originally set out for ourselves.

We held three incredible face-to-face learning workshops. The first two, Accountability Fundamentals and Joint Evaluations, were held in 2011 to prepare the team for deployments. These focused on building a common understanding of accountability principles and frameworks, understanding AIM tools, developing deployment protocols, and committing to documenting our learning. The last workshop was held to document and learn from our experiences individually, as agencies, and as a team, to review and interrogate our model, and to consider options for the future.

We developed two amazing tools: the Standing Team toolkit and the Good Enough Guide Training of Trainers module.  The toolkit houses an extensive number of top notch tools and resources from agencies and sector networks on “how to’s”, including case studies and practical experience. The Good Enough Guide Training of Trainers module is part of a suite of tools to help agencies to implement accountable systems and create accountable practices and ways of operating.

We committed to four deployments this year. We exceeded that goal! We facilitated eight deployments to six countries (two to Bangladesh and Bolivia, one to Nepal, Niger, the Horn of Africa, and Indonesia). Deployments often helped country offices to identify accountability gaps and put action plans into place. Others were to facilitate trainings on accountability. These deployments were generally very well received, and several of our clients cited the team’s deployment as one of the most significant experiences for their consortia.

We created a fantastic deployable team of 30 accountability champions from six agencies. This is the achievement I am most proud of! We have all grown so much in our understanding of accountability thanks to these deployments, where we served our colleagues in country offices. These have been well recorded in reports (posted to the ECB website) and in our blog here.

The future of the team is unknown as of now. But at this point, I believe we have a solid base of evidence on what has worked well and what could be modified to improved the model.

I have very much enjoyed getting to know the team members from around the world. I have learned so much about complaints & feedback systems all over the world.

In closing—I thank you, accountability champions, for making the Standing Team an incredible experiment!

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Group picture!

Here are two terrific pictures of our workshop in action. You can feel our enthusiasm for accountability from these images! Click on an image to increase the size.

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questionnaire results

Here are the results of the questionnaire results of the questionnaire

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The Standing Team learning workshop is quickly approaching! December 3 – 5th Standing Team members and other stakeholders will meet in Dhulikhel, Nepal to discuss and debate the past and future of the AIM Standing Team. This workshop will provide a place for Standing Team members, clients, and AIM Advisors to provide honest feedback on this model’s successes and challenges.

As you know, this Standing Team model has been an experiment. We’ve done both trainings and deployments, and we are now at a critical reflection juncture.  We would love to hear your thoughts!

  • What kind of demand is there in the sector for this model?
  • What ideas do YOU have for increasing accountability to beneficiaries?
  • How can we operationalize our commitments to beneficiaries?

Post any thoughts here on the blog or email them to Katy (klove@care.org) and Sarah (sarnason@care.org).

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Eating healthy is a virtue not many would dispute. But even though we all know that we should get a variety of nutritious foods every day to keep ourselves and our families healthy, the demands of daily life often help us rationalize dietary shortcuts. As one mother told me, “With all the work I have to do, I don’t have time to cook all these complicated recipes. I know we should eat more healthy food, but the kids don’t like it. They just want to eat the regular stuff.”

The sentiment is instantly relatable and one that could easily be heard in family households across the U.S. But it wasn’t a suburban American mother rationalizing her family’s habit of eating fattening foods. The explanation came from a farmer in a remote hamlet in Timor-Leste during a focus group discussion (FGD) about the high incidence of malnutrition in the impoverished country. Although a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables are sometimes available and accessible in local markets—and in many cases growing unattended in natural areas around houses and farms—poor Timorese families often limit their meals to a repetition of starchy staples.

MAP: Sara Gonzalez, Carole Reckinger

The FGD was one of many conducted as a qualitative compliment to a midterm evaluation of a Food Security project being implemented by Mercy Corps. The FGDs were aimed at capturing unexpected feedback from beneficiaries. The regular evaluation measured progress toward program targets, which include increases in on-farm production and household incomes, reductions in post harvest loss, and the establishment of small businesses to support those efforts. By looking beyond the original targets and ensuring that the program is accountable to the communities it hopes to benefit, Mercy Corps learned about key food security issues it hadn’t been addressing—such as food preference and climate change—and added project activities to address the gaps.

I joined the AIM Standing Team in 2011 while working as M&E and Food Security Advisor with Mercy Corps in Indonesia and Timor-Leste. As a member of the Standing Team I’ve had the privilege to participate in engaging and well-designed workshops in both Jakarta and Casablanca. By Joining the Jakarta workshop I became an official Standing Team member, helping to advance Mercy Corps’ commitment to accountability and to the ECB consortium. Among the things we covered was how to sell accountability,” and, in fact, membership on the Standing Team itself has been an important lever to prioritize accountability. Charged with conducting the midterm evaluation in Timor-Leste, I was able reference the Standing Team, the blog, and the Good Enough Guide. And even though AIM materials are emergency focused, the food security project team saw the value of including open-ended feedback from beneficiaries in the study.

The workshop in Casablanca emphasized the fact that communication is an essential component to promote accountability and transparency. Communication in projects is not just about sharing information. It can also be used for trust building, conflict resolution, effective participation, and provision of psychosocial support. Participatory activity is better documented by photography and video, and they convey a human context that is impossible to capture any other way. After the workshop, I put a heavy emphasis on applying photography and video to Mercy Corps projects. I created a photo essay and video for a spice market development project in Eastern Indonesia, a photo essay and video for a food security project in Timor-Leste, and another video for an aquaculture project in Timor.

The final visual communication products made the voices and experiences of beneficiaries far more prominent in otherwise dry technical reports and presentations for donors and partners. More importantly it helped to improve understanding and buy-in of the project efforts among the communities, in the government, and even within the project team at Mercy Corps. Projects often have many disparate components, and the overall vision can be lost or confused. By using voices, stories, and images from the communities where we work to bring project activities together under a shared vision, understanding and buy-in is improved among all project stakeholders. When the vision is shared, relevant new ideas and feedback can converge to strengthen it.

In response to feedback from the community during the evaluation in Timor-Leste, Mercy Corps added activities to help farmers reduce risks from climate change—such as crop diversification—and to encourage household diet diversification. Both initiatives require that the community be willing to buy, cook, and eat food that they typically wouldn’t. Using research undertaken by UNICEF and Timor’s Department of Health, we created a cookbookof locally appropriate dishes. The dishes included vegetables that Mercy Corps has begun to support the seed replication for among project farmers, as well as tilapia fish—supported by an aquaculture development component of the project.

PHOTO: Tom Pfeiffer

To disseminate the recipes and ignite community interest, the project funded 50+ community food events where the books were made available to all. Each event included music by a local band and at least four recipes were cooked at each by community members and shared. Mercy Corps limited its presence in order to build community ownership of the events. The project video is entirely in the local language and includes the testimony of several community stakeholders. The video is shown at the food events and other community meetings, helping to communicate the vision of the project and solicit continued relevant feedback from the community.

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The Standing Team members to be deployed to Bolivia and Bangladesh have been determined! Both deployments will take place in late April.

Hugh and Brian will deploy to Bolivia. Hugh is ECB’s Shelter Accountability Adviser and Brian is an AIM Adviser for Mercy Corps. In Bolivia, Hugh and Brian will plan and facilitate a four-day training for about 30 participants from various ECB agencies, UN agencies and other organizations. The training fulfills a request from OCHA to build capacity of accountability and impact measurement among ECB and non-ECB agencies and for these agencies to come to agreement on basic elements of the practice of AIM in accordance with the Good Enough approach for emergency and non-emergency settings. For more information on this deployment, see this previous blog.

Shagufta, Saji, and Hannah will deploy to Bangladesh for one to two weeks at the end of April. Shagufta is the Design, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager at MercyCorps, Pakistan and an AIM Adviser. She has ten years of experience in DM&E and has worked in various emergencies in Pakistan. Saji is Manager of Relief Programming with World Vision, India. He has emergency response experience in India and Myanmar, as well as DM&E experience. Hannah is the Senior Humanitarian Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability & Learning Adviser, and a Save the Children AIM Adviser. In Bangladesh, the Standing Team members will review and document the current practice of accountability of the 7 agencies of the consortium, and create an action plan for improvement. Again, for more information see our previous blog.

Thank you and GOOD LUCK to Hugh, Brian, Shagufta, Saji, and Hannah for taking on this important AIM Standing Team task. We will keep you informed on the learning that comes out of these first two deployments, so stay tuned!

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So, you asked for more case studies…and we have found you some!

Why do accountability? A business case from Sri Lanka is a case study that examines the contributions of an independent Humanitarian Accountability Team (HAT) within World Vision’s Sri Lanka’s Tsunami Response Team (LTRT) program.  In order to demonstrate what accountability to beneficiaries looks like on the ground, this study makes the case for having empowered humanitarian accountability teams in the field and describes what is needed to make them work.

After the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Tsunami Response Team (LTRT) was formed with a Humanitarian Accountability Team (HAT) set up within it, separate from the technical programming and program support teams. By the way, the HAT Team Leader was one of ECB’s Staff Capacity Advisers (and former AIM Adviser), Alexandra Levaditis! The HAT complimented the program implementation by focusing on community engagement and liaising with NGOs and the government. The field-based HAT included Stakeholder Representatives that worked closely with communities and District Liaison Officers to coordinate activities and communicate with other NGOs and the government.  The operational responsibilities of the HAT included facilitating assessments, refining beneficiary lists, managing community complaints and dealing with many government liaison and coordination issues.

Advantages of the Humanitarian Accountability Team

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  • National staff have learned that the consideration of local perspectives and needs is valuable, because it helps the staff to better meet those needs.
  • The HAT served as the primary point of contact in the field, which built trust and therefore improved communication and the quality of the program services. For example, when a project budget was cut, World Vision was able to convey this to the community and prioritize programming according to  needs. Such communication helped deter/reduce corruption because complaints could be made.

Splitting responsibility for accountability and programming

  • Having a HAT focus on beneficiaries allowed it to find problems and solve them more quickly. Since there was a HAT representative on the senior management team, this kept the latter in tune with beneficiaries’ issues/needs.
  • It was easier to hire staff when the job descriptions did not require both technical expertise and accountability expertise, a rare combination of skills. Technical staff were able to perform their job well without having to consult with communities and handle complaints at the same time. HAP staff could focus on beneficiaries and, for example, conduct greater quality community consultations.

Saved scarce resources

  • “Through good community engagement and liaison with stakeholders, HAT was able to save LTRT over USD 5 million in construction costs by preventing either unsuitable or unneeded construction in the south.”
  • Working with communities to refine beneficiary lists reduced them by 40% on average.

Enabling Factors that made the HAT successful in the LTRT program

  • Senior leadership needs to support HAT staff to be able to follow through with complaints internally to resolve problems.
  • The HAT should be separate from other units and have its own budget so it can focus on accountability only, maintain independence and protect its budget from cuts.
  • All staff, from guards, receptionists and drivers to engineers, need to be sensitized to the value of accountability and trained how to address beneficiary complaints and questions. This is to avoid non-HAP staff incorrectly handling complaints or questions.
  • The HAT only focused on one area of programming (shelter) so as to not be spread too thin. This was the area with the greatest risk of accountability issues.
  • The cost of running the HAT was 3% of the annual project budget ($1.3 million out of $40 million per year).

So, have a look at the World Vision Humanitarian Accountability Team case study!

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To get to know each other, participants were presented with a wall of sticky notes. Each note had a little fact about another participant (gathered from a pre-workshop competencies inventory). Each participant chose two notes (making sure neither were about him/herself) and started trying to find who those facts matched. When they found the right person (the treasure), that person told a little story about what was on the note.

Here’s what kind of treasures exist on the Standing Team:

Kassoum: Ask me about voucher programming and I consider myself as “expert” on secondary data review.
Amadou: Ask me about outcome mapping and ask me about participating in a joint evaluation.
Angela: Ask me about the People First Impact Methodology (P-FIM) and ask me how food poisoning can impact a joint evaluation…
Saji: Ask me about the real time evaluation in Myanmar and ask me about my part in the end-of-project evaluation for the Tsunami response.
Matt: Ask me what I’m learning on the job about being an evaluation team leader and ask me about capturing data using video.
Oliver: Ask me about gender-sensitive M&E and ask me about after action reviews focusing on accountability.
Sekai: Ask me about the Joint Initiative Urban Program evaluation and ask me about the two main types of evaluation that exist.
Adhong: Ask me about the Red Cross/Red Crescent Code of Conduct and ask me about being a part of a joint evaluation.

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The Royal Standing Team Theater presented an outstanding role play of a meeting to discuss the roles and responsibilities of several people involved in an ECB consortium joint evaluation. Several participants changed their “hats” from that of a Standing Team member to new “hats”:

  • Saji (blue baseball cap): Agency Y’s Head of Programs, based in the country program office and deals with ECB consortium counterparts.
  • Matt (black Indonesian Peci): Agency Y’s project manager who ran the field response that is now being evaluated. He will join the evaluation team both as a key informant and to introduce the team to community members and serve as a translator when needed.
  • Adhong (yellow floppy hat): Evaluation Team Leader, from the ECB Standing Team.
  • Loretta (no hat): ECB consortium facilitator, running the meeting to introduce the men to each other and help them begin discussing their roles and responsibilities.

During the role play and in the discussion that followed, we brought up several interesting points:

  • Who develops the data collection tools? The team leader is responsible for finalizing them, but only after consultation with the evaluation team and others from the participating agency (in order to understand what is commonly used by them, what is appropriate in the given cultural context, etc.)
  • Who is responsible for disseminating the findings? The consortium agencies bear the primary responsibility. However, when the evaluation team leader takes that hat off and returns to being a member of an ECB agency in his/her primary post, he/she can also help share the learnings from the evaluation within his/her country and throughout that agency.
  • Is the Standing Team evaluation team leader an insider or outsider? Both! He/she is an insider because everyone participates in ECB but holds a more external/objective perspective, not having participated in the response.

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After a great and incredibly productive week, with lots of work and lots of fun, our time together came to an end.  We facilitators were hopeful that we met participants expectations. We were able to achieve our objectives for the workshop, which included:

  • learning about agency and sector AIM tools
  • sharing challenges in implementing AIM and reviewing options
  • building the inter-agency multicultural team who will deploy together
  • understanding deployment protocols
  • securing commitments to sharing learning from deployments

The workshop, then, had a final activity, where we tossed a ball of string to each other, each person sharing one sentence (and only one!) about something they learned that week. One participant noted “I learned that there are people who care about accountability to beneficiary communities as much as I do.”

After tossing this ball around several times, we made a web. In the coming months and years, we will rely on each other and support each other in our work. Though we live far apart, we have committed to sharing our learning and experiences through the blog, case studies, phone calls, and more.

Thanks everyone, for a terrific workshop!

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