Thursday, April 12, 2012

Extract: Policy Briefing from BBC Media Action. March 2012

Our beneficiary SMS feedback project has been covered in the March edition of the BBC Media Action's monthly E-newsletter. Bellow is an extract and at the end you can find a link to the full brief. 

"Still left in the dark? How people in emergencies use communication to survive – and how humanitarian agencies can help"

Feedback on community projects: The Danish Refugee Council

The Community Driven Recovery and Development (CDRD) project in Somalia provides small grants to communities for local projects identified and managed by community committees. In the interests of effective long distance management – and transparency – the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) has placed as much project information as possible online on a dedicated CDRD website and on facebook, including photos of theprojects at key stages – a requirement for the release of new tranches of funding.

One unexpected and positive side effect of the online approach has been direct engagement from the Somali diaspora. DRC have seen a number of cases in which Somalis overseas have become interested in projects, especially those in their areas of origin, to the point of donating their own money to support these particular projects. “We have had people from the diaspora topping up the money for the community,” said one DRC staff member.

DRC are now orientating their online strategy to target such members of the diaspora. “We hope that putting information online through social networks will give more opportunities to the diaspora that would like to support initiatives that take place in their community of origin, but with which they may not have strong links.” DRC then applied to the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) for support to establish mechanisms, primarily SMS, whereby benefi ciaries could contact the project directly with feedback and complaints, and to support their social media work. All feedback is posted on the CDRD website, organised via the Ushahidi mapping system that is managed via one simcard installed on a galaxy tablet, requiring no special arrangement or set-up by a telecom company. The primary motivation was to open direct communication channels with community members without the mediation of gatekeepers – such as community representatives and local authorities – who liaise directly with fi eld staff as a matter of course.

Feedback is translated and managed by two local staff members. DRC staff visit communities to explain the system and how it works to ensure everyone understands how to use it. To overcome problems of illiteracy, the project’s Somali staff are developing partnerships between schoolkids and parents (as the children are often more comfortable with new technology). “We see this as a pilot.” said one staff member. “We also run a big wet feeding programme in Mogadishu. A system like this could allow us to collect statistics – if we get 500 messages from one kitchen then that will tell us about food quality”.

To date the project has received fewer SMS than anticipated (under 100 in three months), most of them complimentary or saying thank you for support. One of the biggest challenges is working out how to respond and engage, especially with those whose information or requests do not relate to DRC’s work. DRC believes that a system level approach may be needed in the longer termDRC stresses that its work in this area could not have happened without support from the HIF, which has given them the space and staffi ng capacity to develop the software and models necessary. 

You can download the original full policy brief from the link bellow. The above extract is on page 8.  

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