The Grand Bargain in Practice: IFRC improving responses through community feedback data
As part of its Grand Bargain commitment and approach to ensure people and communities affected by crises influence humanitarian responses, IFRC has been championing its real-time community feedback mechanism during the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They gathered more than half a million individual insights (ranging from feedback, rumours, concerns and misconceptions) from affected people in less than two years – and acted upon them.
One of the pillars of the Grand Bargain is ensuring that the design of the humanitarian response and management decisions are responsive to the views of affected communities and people. The first step is appropriate community engagement, to be able to understand people’s needs and vulnerabilities, and to adapt the response according to their priorities. The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been championing this approach through feedback mechanisms – an illustrative example comes from an epidemic response in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Knowing the priorities and needs of communities
Since the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu (DRC) started in August 2018, the Red Cross of DRC, with support from the IFRC and in close partnership with the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected and analysed over 530,000 feedback data through a simple community feedback mechanism and a novel approach to analysing qualitative feedback data. Over 800 Red Cross volunteers recorded rumours, observations, beliefs, questions, suggestions by the community during health promotion activities. These views were recorded in paper form as free text, followed by local staff coding the entries according to a set of themes and a defined coding system. Feedback was then analysed to highlight overarching themes and main categories, and visualised by OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange service.
Knowing community’s needs, priorities, views and misconceptions about Ebola helped Red Cross and the wider humanitarian network to inform and adapt the humanitarian response and their communication with people, ensuring relevant information reached them. “We strongly believe that one of the only ways to ensure humanitarian responses are effective is by continuously adapting our work according to the views of the people we serve. We can only do that if we invest in our capacity to collect, analyse and visualise feedback data,” noted Pascale Meige, Director, Disaster and Crisis (Prevention, Response and Recovery) at IFRC.
A telling example are adapted burial practices as a result of the feedback that Red Cross analysed locally, which led to a significant decrease in negative feedback on burials and increased the number of community alerts on deaths requiring safe and dignified burials.
Collecting and analysing feedback on such scale, and ensuring it is reflected in an adapted humanitarian response, requires appropriate investment. Aid agencies are responsible to ensure that their staff undergo coaching and capacity building to ensure they can roll out the system with quality and at scale. According to IFRC, “the support of donors is needed, to fund more significant accountability initiatives long-term with enough dedicated staff, to offer flexibility in moving away from initial programme outlines, and to continue to put pressure on organisations to establish feedback mechanisms.” Both donors and aid agencies could also look into how to use existing and simple technology to make the data collection and analysis even more efficient, real-time, and scale it up at the collective level.
Last but not least, organisations must work together for successful community engagement, especially by ensuring efficient collaboration between different feedback mechanisms. IFRC for example has collaborated with UN OCHA on creating specific coding for community feedback data using Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) tags, which will ensure different organisations can easily share feedback data with one on other, particularly for collective feedback mechanisms, while also allow data to be visualised more easily.
IFRC is working on adapting the Ebola community feedback systems for the COVID-19 response and to other responses beyond epidemics, such as large-scale cash programmes. IFRC also created a simple tool, the ‘feedback starter-kit’, for any organisation anywhere to collect, aggregate and automatically visualise feedback data through an excel spreadsheet. The tool was piloted by the Malawi Red Cross and the Indonesian Red Cross, and is also currently being adapted for the COVID-19 response globally.
Disclaimer: Information in this article was provided to the Grand Bargain Secretariat by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).