Sarah Holst June 3, 2016

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The Collaboration Fund supports organizations within and outside Feedback Labs to experiment with and build innovative tools and approaches to closing the feedback loop. Two key requirements to receiving support from the Collaboration Fund is a commitment to partnering with an least one other organization in developing and implementing a project, as well as structured sharing of learnings with the wider Feedback Labs community. You can read more about this year’s winners here.

nepal

 

Following the earthquake which hit Nepal on 25th April, 2015 a number of studies demonstrated that there were negative perceptions about the distribution of aid and that relief was not reaching those who needed it. One such report was conducted by Ground Truth, who then engaged Integrity Action to respond to some of the relief distribution issues highlighted in the report.

This pilot was designed to test whether coordination and distribution of aid could be improved by introducing a citizen-driven feedback loop. Integrity Action and Youth Initiatives decided to amplify citizen engagement by training volunteer, youth monitors. These monitors ensured that the needs and concerns of those worst affected were taken into account by aid agencies, government and other organisations involved in the disaster response.

Integrity Action conducted this pilot in partnership with Youth Initiatives in Nepal, GroundTruth, and Accountability Lab, with funding from Feedback Labs. The pilot findings suggest that the creation of this feedback loop – between citizen monitors and those responsible for relief – improve disaster response. It also demonstrates that citizen engagement and a solution-focused approach increases implementation effectiveness. At scale, this approach has the potential to transform the responsiveness of aid agencies based on the needs and priorities of citizens.

Pilot Implementation

Following the earthquake which hit Nepal on 25th April, 2015 a number of studies demonstrated that there were negative perceptions about the distribution of aid and that relief was not reaching those who needed it. One such report was conducted by Ground Truth, who then engaged Integrity Action to respond to some of the relief distribution issues highlighted in the report.

This pilot was designed to test whether coordination and distribution of aid could be improved by introducing a citizen-driven feedback loop. Integrity Action and Youth Initiatives decided to amplify citizen engagement by training volunteer, youth monitors. These monitors ensured that the needs and concerns of those worst affected were taken into account by aid agencies, government and other organisations involved in the disaster response.

Integrity Action conducted this pilot in partnership with Youth Initiatives in Nepal, GroundTruth, and Accountability Lab, with funding from Feedback Labs. The pilot findings suggest that the creation of this feedback loop – between citizen monitors and those responsible for relief – improve disaster response. It also demonstrates that citizen engagement and a solution-focused approach increases implementation effectiveness. At scale, this approach has the potential to transform the responsiveness of aid agencies based on the needs and priorities of citizens.

Initial Surveys

To identify areas of focus and build on GroundTruth’s report, Youth Initiatives carried out a survey across the 5 districts of Nepal  to better understand the situation, needs and priorities. Findings demonstrated:

  • Only 1% of homes were suitable for living due to earthquake damage
  • 1 in 5 people faced problems accessing relief
  • 1 in 5 people felt that the relief efforts lacked transparency
  • 29% of people were not satisfied with the assistance they had received
  • Almost 50% of households had not received their primary cash relief entitlements for the winter

Monitors gathered these findings by carrying out 1,000 household surveys1 and identifying key gaps in the 5 districts’ relief efforts. The monitors worked with relief organisations and local governments to suggest improvements.

Water scarcity: Monitors have been able to identify gaps in the provision of aid. Through focus group discussions with women’s associations and cooperatives, they realised there was a scarcity of water and inadequate sanitation facilities. The monitors were able to bring this problem to the attention of the local government and the responsible organisation, who are now working to explore new ways of water distribution, including the construction of a water reservoir.

Creating Integrity Hubs

From the initial findings, Youth Initiatives realised that in many cases those responsible for relief efforts were not aware of the issues communities were facing. In response to this they established Integrity Hubs where key stakeholders from government, NGOs and communities discussed the monitors’ findings, identified solutions, and implemented them collaboratively. This approach succeeded in providing a platform for dialogue and raising awareness about the discovered problems.

Together the solutions identified by those involved in the Integrity Hubs have led to:

  • 1,448 households receiving information through Youth Initiatives monitors on what aid they are entitled to, and how to access it. These households are now equipped with the knowledge to enable them to access food, clothing and water. Youth Initiatives will follow up to check that they are accessing the resources.
  • 6 of the 24 problems (25%) discovered by the monitors during this pilot have been resolved (to date)
  • 141 families have received food, blankets and warm clothes through the recommendations made by the monitors, who would otherwise not have received this support
  • 119 primary school children received warm clothes and books as a direct result of the intervention
  • In Sindupalchowk, after discovering that the intended beneficiaries of a World Vision International project were not receiving financial compensation for damaged homes, monitors engaged with World Vision staff and helped them to remap the eligible households. As a result, 100% of eligible households received the vital financial compensation.

Although these results are modest, due to the size of the pilot, the exciting implication is that applying this approach more widely across disaster areas could be transformative. This intervention provided vital relief to families who otherwise would not have had access, and also set up structures and relationships to ensure sustainability. Based on recommendations from by Youth Initiative’s trained monitors and agreed within the Integrity Hubs, the following have been implemented:

  • Village Development Committees (VDCs) in all 5 districts are now sharing lists of households who are entitled to relief benefits. Monitors, equipped with this information, are able to support those eligible households to register and receive those benefits.
  • VDC staff in all districts now attend monthly meetings where monitors share citizen feedback on the effectiveness of relief aid.
  • Youth Initiatives has developed relationships with other local activists to combine efforts around collecting feedback and monitoring responsiveness

Expanding Monetary Compensation for Damaged Homes: In Sindupalchowk, monitors discovered intended beneficiaries from the World Vision International project were not receiving monetary compensation. Each eligible household should have received 7,500 Nepali Rupees towards repairing their damages to their homes sustained in the earthquakes. After discovering via survey that the majority of households were not receiving their allotted funds, monitors communicated this information to local World Vision staff. Together, they discovered that some homes had not been included in World Vision’s records. After constructive engagement between the monitors and World Vision, monitors helped remap households, to create a complete record of eligible households. As a result, 100% of eligible households received the vital financial compensation.

Lessons Learned

Throughout this pilot it has been critical to ensure local officials understand that the work being carried out by monitors is to support the relief effort in a constructive and non-confrontational way. Disclosing reports from joint stakeholder meetings at times were met with resistance, especially when negative findings had been reported and discussed. However, local officials supported the goals of this pilot. Officials in all districts willingly attended monthly events to hear feedback from monitors on the effectiveness of aid and relief. As disasters can often strain fragile links between communities and government, it is essential to build trust between citizens, government and aid agencies during the relief effort. This also manages citizens’ expectations – providing continual feedback to citizens involved can further help to monitor and manage these expectations.

Looking to the future

The pilot covered a relatively small geographic area so the results are correspondingly modest, but applying this approach more widely in disaster-affected areas has great potential. Citizen monitors have been able to identify, share and respond to problems as well as create a platform for citizens, local officials and aid agencies to engage with one another. There is more to do but the pilot shows the potentially transformative effect of using trained monitors to make sure feedback from citizens is heard, and their concerns addressed quickly and effectively.


1 100 households across 10 VDCs were selected and asked questionnaires which involved questions around effectiveness, transparency and accountability in relief recovery response and the means of information dissemination which had taken place, including its effectiveness

 


sarah-integrity-actionSarah Holst is head of Integrity Action’s Community Integrity Building team based in London. She brings many years of experience from the International Development sector mainly working in fragile and post conflict states. Integrity Action is an organization and an active network of committed NGOs, universities and policy makers, working closely with governments, media organizations, businesses and our peers to identify ways of making integrity work in some of the world’s challenging settings.

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