ECB Project helps CRS Pakistan build staff capacity in accountability
“It is very important for CRS to be responsive to community members and what they have to say about our programs so that we can continue to improve,” says Jack Byrne, CRS Pakistan country representative. With this ethos at the forefront of their program, we hear from CRS staff how they have developed their accountability work in the field.
Feedback from communities affected by the 2010 Pakistan floods has been abundant. CRS carried out needs assessments for affected populations; beneficiaries were well informed about CRS and the assistance they were providing; and people had access to speak with staff during field visits. However, the Pakistan program team saw an opportunity to steadily systematize and improve their accountability practices with the support of ECB Accountability tools and specialists from multiple agencies.
The CRS team used and adapted a number of ECB resources including the Key Elements of Accountability in order to develop an accountability framework for the flood response. Staff attended an inter-agency accountability training on the Good Enough Guide, led by Hana Crowe, Accountability Senior Specialist for Save the Children. CRS staff also participated in meetings of the Islamabad accountability working group, together with other ECB agencies, in order to share their experiences and best practices.
Lisa Beyl Escobedo, Program Manager and point person for accountability with CRS, used the Good Enough Guide checklist created by World Vision to conduct an internal assessment with CRS field offices. “It was a very useful tool; staff could identify where they were already doing things well, even if they were not labeled “accountability”, and identify areas where they could improve.” Lisa discovered all field offices were already practicing accountability measures, though usually informally and not always documenting the responses. Lisa helped staff to implement some simple tools, borrowed from other ECB agencies, and to develop a more systematic approach to documenting feedback and follow-up actions.
How did CRS gather formal feedback?
In Sindh, where CRS had not previously worked and where the flood devastation was the most widespread of all of CRS’ programming areas, the need for a formal feedback mechanism was felt early on to help manage the scale of the response. Maria Josephine “Pipin” Wijiastuti of CRS Indonesia and an active participant in the ECB Indonesia consortium, came to Sindh to help set up a feedback mechanism and to lead the initial orientation sessions for CRS and partner staff. The feedback mechanism included suggestion boxes, a dedicated phone number and email address to receive feedback, and a “help desk” staffed during distributions where people could give feedback and discuss the project. These mechanisms had previously proven helpful in previous emergency responses:
During both the 2009 IDP crisis and the 2010 flood response, Save the Children’s systems for increasing accountability to beneficiaries have been critical to improving program quality. Our complaints and response hotlines, in particular, have helped us identify issues, resolve them, and determine what gaps we need to address to improve our services, and avoid repeating mistakes. Perhaps more importantly, the hotlines have given beneficiaries the opportunity to voice their concerns, and know that their opinions matter to us.” Allison Zelkowitz, Deputy Team Leader – Programming, Emergency Response and Recovery Program, Save the Children
Orientation sessions for field staff were developed from ECB Project training materials and examples of participatory feedback and monitoring from the Participation Handbook for Humanitarian Workers (Groupe URD, 2009). These sessions were designed to increase awareness about accountability and explain practical steps to put it into practice in the affected communities. Pipin applied her past experience managing feedback systems during the Jogjakarta earthquake response in 2006, and the West Sumatra earthquake response in 2009.
We also put a complaint in the complaint box because some of the shelter material from one of the shelter kits was missing. We complained about it and were very happy because the response was provided very quickly: the material came in two days.” Feedback from Sindh Project Participant
CRS field staff were used to giving out their cell phone numbers to beneficiaries in the flood response and past emergencies. They often received feedback, questions, and complaints directly. In Sindh, however, many women staff are uncomfortable doing this and they were able to refer people to a dedicated telephone “hotline” for community members to contact CRS. In Besham, beneficiaries have the choice of either calling the Program Managers directly on their cell phones or calling a dedicated hotline. “We used the telephone number to inform CRS when internally displaced people had returned to our village (who are from our village) and require shelter. We used the phone most to communicate with CRS.” Feedback from Sindh Project Participant
Organizing and Systemizing CRS’s Approach Really Works
Program managers are now seeing the benefits of being more systematic about accountability in their respective response activities. Fazal Mabood notes, “It’s critical to be accountable to the people we serve in order to preserve CRS’ reputation with the communities; being responsive to grievances builds our credibility.” Khalid Abbasi found that accountability approaches are helping CRS and local partner staff to do their job better
The Accountability Learning Working Group (ALWG) was formed after the 2010 flood in Pakistan with the aim to be a resource to strengthen the quality and accountability in Flood response. All ECB agencies are active members of this forum and work together to promote and support quality and accountability by sharing learning and resources at various levels. Shagufta Jeelani, Accountability and Impact Measurement Advisor (AIM) for ECB and Monitoring & Evaluation Design Manager for Mercy Corps says that “this forum is the product of ECB's mutual commitment of promoting quality and accountability in emergency and recovery interventions”.
In addition, field staff are feeling the need to have more human resources to properly manage their accountability activities. Now that the urgency of the response is reduced, CRS Pakistan will conduct more in-depth staff training on accountability and will continue to build awareness amongst community members so that they can better understand their right to provide feedback and understand the channels through which they can communicate with CRS.
The way that you came to our community, in a very respectful manner, that was very wonderful. You let us make our committee and designate the people responsible for that committee and you involved us all the time at every stage so that is very good. Wherever you want to go, if you go with this approach, you will never have any problems. If you stick to the same strategy, even the criminal people will not bother you.” Feedback from Sindh Project Participant
This article was written by Loretta Ishida, Lisa Beyl and Maria Josephine “Pipin” Wijiastuti from CRS and edited by Andrea Stewart. Contact us for more information on this work in Pakistan.