In public discussions and representations of the refugee crisis there is often something missing: the voice of refugees themselves. In this Labstorm, GlobalGiving led an open discussion on a new tool or process to amplify the voices of refugees. How should aid organizations collect feedback from refugees? How can GlobalGiving amplify feedback already collected by other organizations? What will the role of that information look like both inside and outside refugee camps?
There are a variety of ways that humanitarian organizations collect feedback from refugee communities already, and that feedback is used in a variety of ways. However, some existing sources of refugee feedback are largely untapped, and the responsibility that aid organizations have for using and sharing that feedback equitably is substantial. The LabStorm discussion provided three key takeaways on feedback and the refugee crisis:
- Ambient feedback has huge potential. Collecting feedback can be taxing on traumatized populations, and there are a number of relatively untapped channels through which refugees already indicate their needs and desires. Talent Beyond Boundaries, an organization which interviews refugees about their skills and professional experience to create CVs that they use for advocacy, was surprised to find that many of their clients heard about TBB not by word of mouth, but by Facebook posts from past clients. Social media is widely used by refugees to discuss the ever-changing collection of challenges they face and is already used by organizations to more quickly adapt services to the changing needs of refugee populations; GlobalGiving could adapt those practices to reframe the refugee crisis.
- Listen to host communities too. The humanitarian focus of refugee crises naturally tends towards, well, refugees. But the host communities where refugee camps are located can grow to resent the complexities the camps create, and frequently have distinct challenges of their own. For the long term safety and stability of the refugee population, aid organizations have to listen to the host communities and be responsive to their problems before they become intractable. Gathering feedback from those communities could help aid organizations maintain a healthier relationship between host community and refugee populations.
One important methodology Internews uses to identify community issues before they develop into more serious problems is called “Deep Hanging Out.” Aid workers and employed refugees go out and talk to individuals in casual and undirected conversations, making sure they hear the refugees’ true experiences, not just what they want to hear. This approach allows Internews to find and squelch rumors before they spread to dangerous levels, and allows for organizations to amplify refugee concerns that are unexpected.
- Feedback should belong to the people who gave it. Labstorm participants agreed that, however it is collected, feedback must end up in the hands of the refugee community. In large part this is because the circumstances and needs of highly mobile populations change quickly and drastically. What’s important to know now might not be what’s important later, and it’s too easy for data to be extractive and not empowering – especially in the unstable information environment of refugee populations.
For example, a labstorm attendee noted, refugees arriving in Greece at first need a great deal of information on how to find the resources and services they need – but after their arrival, those refugees only need the legal documents to move onward toward Europe, something information services can’t provide. TBB gives all of their clients copies of language tests, CVs, and other skills documents – they might not be helpful in getting legal documentation, but could be useful once they have resettled and are looking to prove their skills and experience to an employer. Internews makes sure rumors they collect are dispelled quickly, making their collected feedback immediately useful to those who gave it.
The global refugee crisis is massively complex, and solutions depend on a wide range of actors. But refugee voices are going to be part of the solution, and incorporating their feedback in innovative and responsible ways is critical. Want to stay involved? Reach out to us at [email protected] if you’d like to learn more from GlobalGiving. Contribute your thoughts below and check back here, on the Feedback Labs Blog, for updates on how we help drive this momentum forward.