The British Red Cross has launched its Community Engagement and Accountability hub to provide tools, resources and training materials to volunteers and staff within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and aid workers across the sector.
The hub is a free online platform with over 300 resources, providing a ‘one stop shop’ for anyone mainstreaming community engagement and accountability. Materials range from a ready-to-download three-day training package, to a toolkit designed to help set up and manage complaint and feedback mechanisms in any context.
Sophie Everest, British Red Cross community engagement and accountability adviser, said: “Community engagement and accountability is a core approach within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, and has been a real growth area across the sector in the last few years. From Bangladesh to Mozambique, I have seen the real impact a feedback-centred approach has made to the quality of our programmes and the lives of the people we help.
“We’re delighted to be able to capture and share the invaluable experience held within the Red Cross Movement. We’re hoping everyone will benefit and that this will lead to further innovation and collaborations across the sector.”
The hub, which has been funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, brings together information and expertise from across the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement and is available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic.
The hub also houses a chat forum for users to share their expertise and experiences, and an online library of tools covering topics including rumour tracking, radio programming and mobile cinemas.
“Aid operations only work when we work with people. When we engage, we learn, and we create a better response for people in need. We are seeing the difference this work makes right now during the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo. By listening and acting on community feedback, the Red Cross has been able to gain acceptance and access in more areas. Over 880 volunteers have gone door-to-door to exchange information and address concerns.”
Community engagement and accountability involves integrating participation and communication with communities into humanitarian responses. Establishing appropriate and trusted two-way communication channels allows the Red Cross to listen to communities and adapt its programming based on the feedback it receives. This helps to ensure responses are reaching the right people in the right way. It also helps ensure operations are accountable to the populations they serve.
- Find the new Community Engagement and Accountability hub online at: communityengagementhub.org.
Community engagement and accountability in action
Sierra Leone cholera outbreak
In March 2012 a major cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone had claimed 34 lives and affected 2,137 people.
As part of their response, the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society launched a mobile cinema with support from the IFRC. The cinema toured the country showing an animated film about cholera prevention alongside hygiene promotion activities.
The film also included a hand washing demonstration and a song giving the recipe for home-made oral rehydration solution. The film screening was followed by a discussion where people could suggest solutions to the issues in their community.
A mid-term review of the mobile cinema initiative showed that more than 13,000 people had attended across five districts. Most importantly, it had also reached its objectives of improving knowledge of safe hygiene practices and how to prevent the spread of cholera.
Myanmar: setting up a feedback system
When the Red Cross in Myanmar ran a community consultation about how to feedback on the support they had received, they discovered something important.
They found that it was culturally inappropriate to complain when people are trying to help. Indeed, people were reluctant to raise concerns or make complaints and have little awareness of their right to do so.
Through community consultation, a variety of channels are now being used to gather feedback, including face-to-face, community meetings and mothers’ clubs.
They discovered that the Burmese word for “suggestion” carried far less negative connotation than some alternatives and suggestion boxes are also in place in every village. Community mobilisers with regular access to the villages, have been trained to gather feedback and advocate for people’s right to share their views and complaints.
Tackling Zika rumours in Panama
A key component of the Zika response was monitoring rumours and misinformation in communities about the virus. Panama Red Cross teams found that many pregnant women were too frightened to attend important antenatal appointments because of fears that the Zika virus could be fatal, like HIV or AIDS. These fears came from the fact Zika, like HIV, could be transmitted through sex. Once the Red Cross knew about this rumour, they provided communities with the right information through door-to-door visits, TV, radio and posters. This meant that pregnant women would feel safe to attend their vital pre-birth check-ups.
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