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From Sarah, co-Standing Team coordinator

It has been a few weeks since I left the ECB Project and my work with the Standing Team, but certainly not too late to offer reflections on my experience and thanks to my colleagues.

My work with the ECB AIM Standing Team was a tremendous growth experience for me.  I learned so much from the inspiring work being done by the Standing Team members, which I will carry forward.  While I gained a great deal of knowledge on the successes and challenges of implementing accountability systems, the lessons I will hold closest go beyond these technical details of accountability systems.

One of the aspects of the Standing Team that I valued the most was the fact that it brought together professionals from a variety of geographic locations, with different backgrounds and varying levels of experience. I learned during our Nepal workshop that when new energy and perspectives are combined with years of practice, the outcomes can be exciting and unexpected. I learned how much our programs can be improved when we share our experiences across agencies and across cultures.  I learned that the keys to real collaboration are patience and a truly open mind. Finally, I learned that, when working across the world, as our agencies do, face-to-face meetings (though costly) are incredibly valuable for meaningful dialogue, building camaraderie, increasing motivation, and reaching common understandings!

Thank you to all of the Standing Team members and my ECB colleagues for teaching me so much. I am extremely grateful.  Best of luck!  And don’t forget to use the AIM Standing Team Toolkit!

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Losing one of our own

Idrissa, on the right

Idrissa, on the right (photo courtesy Zahairou Mamane)


We recently received news that we have lost a member of our team. Our friend and colleague, Idrissa Amadou, passed away earlier this week. We mourn his loss and send our condolences and prayers to his family.

Idrissa joined the ECB world as a part of the Niger consortium in 2008. He was a CARE staff member of and contributed to the global development of the ECB Knowledge Management & Learning strategy. He was passionate about creating a learning environment within CARE and the larger ECB world.

In 2011, he was nominated to join the ECB Standing Team by his CARE global accountability Advisor.  He participated in the Casablanca training on Joint Evaluations. Idrissa left CARE in early 2012, taking a position with Oxfam in Burkina Faso. Luckily for us, his Oxfam colleagues were keen to support him, and he kept up his membership in the ECB team.

The ECB Niger consortium requested a deployment for Standing Team services in October of 2012.  Idrissa was a logical choice and the consortium requested that he participate in the deployment. Along with another colleague from CRS, he traveled home to Niger to participate in the two-week deployment. He gave his all for those two weeks and then some.

Idrissa on his Niger deployment

Idrissa on his Niger deployment (photo from Niger consortium)

In 2011, Idrissa said this about himself:

“Since I am with CARE, I have occupied a position that has a link with accountability and impact measurement, and this is my current job area.  I believe in this process and I am convinced that it is the best way to ensure that we reach people who are in need.  It is one of the best way to contribute to CARE’s vision and mission of ending poverty and social injustice and the Standing Team provides a space for learning and sharing.

I support accountability and impact measurement by sharing experiences and participating in real emergency situations.”

We celebrate the life of Idrissa Amadou. We give thanks for the contributions he made both to our team and to our sector. We remember him for his warm smile, his friendly nature, and his kind ways. We deeply appreciate the advocate that he was for the most vulnerable and for disaster affected populations.

We will miss him.

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Over the years, we worked closely with Silva Ferretti. Not only was she a co-facilitator in all three of our workshops, she also worked closely with the coordinator to develop all of the key Standing Team tools. Following our recent workshop in Nepal, she leaves a final note to the team (and the final pictures):

It was a pleasure to co-facilitate the Nepal workshop, and to have the privilege to see again many AIM Standing Team members I met in Jakarta or Casablanca. And of course, to meet new team members! It is always such a lively crowd.

I was impressed by how much the team had achieved, and the ripple effect of members’ work over the last 1.5 years. Clearly the AIM standing team had facilitated much needed learning and sharing on accountability and impact measurement.

It was refreshing to see the passion, the enthusiasm and the knowledge brought by each participant in the room, and to be reminded of the importance and the benefit of connecting people and organizations.

So, I wish good luck to the AIM Standing Team members and participating agencies. Keep up the good work you are doing!

Here are the pictures taken during the workshop – the people, the flipcharts, and all, in no particular order! – to remember the workshop and our fun and energizing days together! Just click on the link below.

Pictures from the Learning Workshop

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Questionnaire

Fill the questionnaire by following this link…
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGUxTGlBWEFEVklxU3hJV1poSjQwMVE6MQ

or directly from this page:

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Preparing video

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Each group was then asked to produce short videos (max 2 minutes), to share the main findings of the previous activity. The perspective of  clients and of providers had to be captured.  They had to convey strategic points, rather than the details of a deployment. They could for example focus on:

  • Impact of the deployment
  • Value of deployments
  • Most significant learning

Before starting action, we reviewed again the guidance provided in previous workshops on how to capture good videos.

The videos where then shared and commented for feedback. We had some technical issues, but we managed to solve them!

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Everyone was asked everyone to take off one shoe and put it in the middle of the room, in a big pile.

Everyone had then to go pick up a shoe that was NOT THEIR OWN.

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They walked  around the room to try to find their own shoe (and the owner of the shoe they were holding).

When they met the person who is holding their shoe or the person whose shoe they are holding, they  introduced themselves.

In this introduction they told their new friends a bit about themselves:

  • where they are coming from,
  • how their journey to Dhulikel was,
  • what their relationship to the Standing Team is,
  • what their professional background is…
  • and where their shoe comes from!

Back in plenary, each person introduced her/his new friend briefly to all, sharing the information they just collected.

Stand up if…!

And then participants were asked to stand up if….

  1. You are from Nepal
  2. You come from Bangladesh
  3. You are not from Asia
  4. If you journeyed for several days to get here.
  5. You work with CARE or CRS
  6. You are an employee of Save the Children or Mercy Corps
  7. You work with Oxfam or World Vision
  8. You are a member of the Standing Team
  9. You have deployed to a country office on the Standing Team
  10. You have just finished a deployment a few days ago, or will be deploying in a few day’s time
  11. You received the deployment services of the Standing Team
  12. You worked closely with the deploying Team.
  13. You  have worked to implement the recommendations of the Standing Team
  14. You are familiar with the Standing Team toolkit
  15. You have used the Good Enough Guide
  16. You can train others on the Good Enough Guide
  17. You have used the GEG ToT tool
  18. You read the Standing Team blog
  19. You have commented on the ST blog
  20. You have worked closely with your accountability Advisor
  21. You have shared your accountability learning with your agency
  22. You’re excited to get to work here!

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Define common aims and objectives. Ensure effective leadership. Ensure alignment. Demonstrate visible support and reliable commitment. Prioritize staff time and facilitate and support the process.

 
Though most will agree that collaboration is critically important to humanitarian work, strengthening collaboration is not always easy. In fact, successful collaboration does not happen without considerable effort and organizational support.

Following multiple interviews captured from across our field teams “What do we know about collaboration: the ECB Country Consortium Experience” highlights 10 key factors for successful collaboration. The document offers suggestions on how to overcome possible challenges and links to ECB tools that will help with country-level consortium work.

Take a look through this reference tool and feel free to share it widely with your colleagues in non-ECB countries! This is a great opportunity to pass on some of our learning with those that may be considering developing a consortium approach.

The guide is currently available in both French and English, and a Spanish edition will be availably shortly. 

Though collaboration can be challenging, it is also exciting and profoundly important. Building trusting relationships can take anywhere from months to years. This document informs readers about successful approaches and tools for developing a consortia and staff capacity at a country level. Please take a look and let us know what you think in the comment section!

Ensure transparent, effective communication. Clarify roles and responsibilities. Fund the process. Find common approaches. Manage crisis within the consortium.

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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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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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In this recent blog, we discussed a study and report on the communication efforts during the response to the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 and the cholera outbreak that began the following October. The report, written by Imogen Wall with Yves Gerald Chéry, is entitled Ann Kite Yo Pale: Let Them Speak: Best practice and lessons learned in communication with disaster affected communities: Haiti 2010 . Here we continue with some examples of communication with local media and local people during the response.

Agency Communication with Local Media

After the earthquake, there was a desperate need among the disaster-affected to receive and to provide information. International aid agencies worked mainly with international media, not the local media that was quite active after the quake. In general, local media found it difficult and frustrating to engage with humanitarian actors, as well as access international agencies due to the barriers of language.  Few staff of international agencies even long-established in Haiti spoke Kreyol. Local journalists could not access the UN base outside of the city to attend press conferences for the first few months following the natural disaster, and press releases and situation reports were not translated into French. Even a year after the quake, journalists were still finding it hard to work with humanitarian agencies.  The report states:

Given the lack of dedicated local communication staff, few organisations were prepared to spend any time going to local radio studios and giving interviews or explaining their work. Those that did, however, found that communicating did not just help fill the information vacuum among the affected population, it delivered considerable operational benefits.

Below are examples of aid agencies that benefited from engaging with local media:

World Food Program (WFP)

The WFP had to manage food distribution to more than a million people. After a chaotic first run, they introduced a voucher system and hired a local spokesperson, Fedrique Pierre, to explain the system to the local media and thus to the affected population. CDAC Haiti, a consortium of humanitarian agencies and media organizations that coordinate communication in emergency response, put WFP in touch with local radio stations. Mr. Pierre gave more than 150 interviews in his first month and became so popular that he was nicknamed ‘Mr. Rice.’

Because there was no systematized feedback mechanism, ‘Mr. Rice’ decided to give out his mobile number.  Hundreds of people called and texted him to relay their gratitude for the information or tell him which area lacked food. (SMS-based feedback mechanisms were quite common in the earthquake response). He created a spreadsheet on his computer to track all the information received on his phone, and WFP used such information in the operational and decision-making processes, “enabling WFP to respond quickly to any problems.”

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

The UNFPA hired a Haitian American spokesperson who spoke fluent Kreyol to work with local and international media. “He worked with the gender-based violence team to record and broadcast a series of public service announcements (PSAs) with advice for victims. Based on anecdotal feedback, UNFPA say the response to the PSAs helped convince the Police Nationale d’Haiti to step up their patrols in the camps.”

Jamil Simon

Agency communication with people

Due to high mobile phone usage, the people of Haiti were able to communicate with agencies unlike ever before. The ENDK radio show shared the phone numbers of agencies, and feedback was collected through phone calls and SMS. Few agencies established feedback systems in the early phase of the response. Those that did, however, did not find the flood of feedback unmanageable, as some agencies expected, and confirm that this feedback was invaluable, allowing them to gather real-time information on survivors needs.

Recommendations

The study recommended the following for humanitarian aid agencies:

“The humanitarian system and agencies need to recognise the importance of communication as a sector and as an essential aspect of successful operational delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

There is a need to:

  • Reform humanitarian funding criteria to include communication as a legitimate form of humanitarian assistance
  • Incorporate communication work into the project design and budget
  • Prioritize communication with affected communities at the cluster level, employ local communication staff
  • Develop a feedback system for the disaster-affected, explore SMS or web-based feedback systems
  • Coordinate communication to avoid duplication of efforts and provide consistent and accurate information

For more about communication in emergency response, see this blog, and to read more about the work of CDAC Haiti, click here.

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