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ECBinter-active Bangladesh: Coordinated Assessments
Coordinated assessments, also known as joint needs assessments (JNAs) are a collaborative multi-agency approach to capturing data about a communities core needs.
A questionnaire and analysis approach enables rapid assessment data to be shared on-line within 72 hours of an emergency.
The benefits, challenges and opportunities of coordinated assessments were discussed the ECB inter-active conference.
Cartoon © ECB project 2012.
View the summary presentation by Alexandra Maclean & Abdul Wahed, CARE, and Sandie Walton-Ellery of The Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS)
The ECB approach to needs assessment is based on a multi-sector, multi-stakeholder approach to consensus building around the key information needed and an appropriate methodology for colelcting and making sense of this information in the initial days and weeks of a disaster. In contrast to existing approaches to assessments that often result in a fragmented picture of needs, the coordinated, or joint, approach recognizes that the key decisions at the start of a response to a disaster are strategic ones, for which an overview that multiple stakeholders buy into is essential in order to ensure that the right assistance reaches the right people at the right time.
This session included a mini-simulation exercise that enabled participants to better understand the importance of going to the right information sources for the right data. Participants learnt that there is a variety of information sources involved in an assessment:
- Affected communities
- Local authorities
- National and international NGOs
- UN agencies
- and others conducting multi-agency assessments in the affected communities.
A rapid assessment aims to understand both the quantitative and qualitative impacts of disasters, i.e. how many people are affected and how they were affected.
Groups were able to consider some of the key elements of a successful multi-agency assessments including:
- Clarity on the overarching objectives for the assessment
- Pre-crisis data management
- Quantitative information (how many affected?)
- Effective Coordination and participation
- Assessment tools that work within Bangladesh (questions, data processing, training).
The Bolivia Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies: Emergency Response to Landslides in La Paz, 2011
Download this presentation by the ECB Bolivia consortium
Participants were able to learn about assessment coordination from a different perspective during the mega landslides in La Paz, Bolivia in 2011. The Bolivia Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies shared how they have created more confidence amongst a large group of agencies and improved their ability to work together to meet the needs of affected communities during an urban emergency.
In Bolivia the coordinated assessment approach:
- Improves staff skills and uses new methodologies
- Elicits commitment from the agencies to support local staff
- Streamlines methodologies used between agencies.
This presentation at the inter-active event built upon a learning exchange visit between Bangladesh and Bolivia in 2011. During this visit the Bolivia consortium team presented key issues and shared learning with ECB Bangladesh stakeholders, participated in a ECB Bangladesh multi-agency simulation, and learnt more about the unique operational context in Bangladesh.
Different organizations collect beneficiary data for the donors to allocate quick funds for disaster relief immediately. The data collected is often erroneous and overlaps with that of other organizations. As a result, it becomes difficult to analyse the data and take immediate decisions. There is a gap between what we see in report and what we see in field.
"The consortium approach is a new way of working together, particularly in responding to an emergency in a rapid and swift manner. Working together using a similar approach is a way of reducing the waste of resources and time, as well as generating good outcomes.
"A consortium approach in the case of a major-scale disaster involves agreeing to work together and develop contingency plans, make joint need assessments, and deliver need-responsive services in a much better way. The consortium approach yields much better outcomes than an individual approach does."
Olivier Brouant, The Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). Photo © ECB project 2012.
What I have learnt is the great coordination and the dedicated attention that is required for it to be effecive. If we do not have effective coordination we would diminish the potential for impact on saving lives as well as longer-term recovery, and even then improving resilience.
It is really critical to get this learning embedded in our organizations from the higher level management all the way through to the field people who are working closely on the ground in response efforts. Without that we would be failing our humanitarian standards to reach the goals. My role is now to think how these learning would translate into actionable strategies for the future.
ECBinter-active Bangladesh Participant
Benefits and Impacts of Working in Collaboration
Participants, while reflecting on the benefits and impacts of Coordinated or Joint Needs Assessments (JNAs) as a consortium approach, identified that they:
- Reduce overlapping information in a particular area
- Save time which is a crucial element of any disaster management action
- Reduce data inaccuracy
- Use human resources more effectively and optimally
- Help local government staff and community leaders to better coordinate their assessment activities with NGOs
- Identify the actual needs of the beneficiaries by asking specific and clear questions
- Avoids irritating the disaster-affected people by asking the same types of questions from different organizations
- Avoid inviting too many outsiders in the affected areas, and creating confusion regarding relief work
- Create a common database for sharing information among other NGOs, donors and the government
- Provide a better analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data
- Hasten the assessment procedure and provides necessary aid quickly
- Help the organizations to keep track of the long-term recovery progress of the beneficiaries
- Ensures a proper selection of beneficiaries and rationalizing priority for immediate, comprehensive and effective emergency responses
- Joint activities between agencies has improved allowing many stakeholders to work together in situation analysis, needs assessments, and beneficiary selection thus leading to more effective delivery of emergency response programs
- Capture quick yet accurate and quality data that helps in efficient delivery of the actual and need-responsive emergency services
- Provides a better analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data
- Creates a common database for sharing information among other NGOs, donors and the government, and helps the organizations to keep track of the long-term recovery progress of the beneficiaries
- Helps the local government staff and community leaders to better coordinate the assessment activities
- Empowers and mobilizes target communities
- Quicken media and policy response to emergencies
- Create opportunities of continuous dialogues among the major stakeholders
- Provides opportunities to influence policy reforms and actions
Challenges and Difficulties of Working in Collaboration
The participants (pictured right) identified the following challenges with JNAs:
- To perform efficiently, JNAs require effective coordination among the member organizations and building trust.
- Identifying common ground for the organizations to collaborate for working on specific goals or issues
- Avoiding bias against/towards organizations with some organizations wanting to focus on their field of interests and resources.
- Sporadic initiatives taken with the affected communities do not significantly improve the post-disaster situation
- It is not easy to measure the impacts of capacity building initiatives for joint needs assessment in the remote disaster-affected areas (e.g. water logging areas).
- To perform efficiently, the JNA requires effective coordination among the member organizations and trust building.
Cartoon and photo © ECB project 2012.
A group of recommendations were captured to guide the ECB supported Assessments Working Group. Some examples of these recommendations are summarized below:
- Greater efforts to mobilize local government to support effective coordination
- Larger organizations can lead the consortia piloting together with smaller organizations in order to provide different capabilities, roles and responsibilities
- The different consortias that work for disaster management and humanitarian responses should be aligned further under a single consortium to avoid duplication
- The consortium could develop a database of different NGOs and their interventions
- After any disaster, needs assessment reports will be shared with other NGOs and partners to support decision-making with donors
- Connections could be created with more organizations to integrate specific technical information on land movement, Cyclone Preparedness Programs (CPP), etc into the assessment planning and pre-crisis data.
Emergency response is not a single agency job. In any kind of emergency which is high in scale, we need to work together hand-in-hand. Our ultimate objective is how we can maximize the impact and deliver the services to the intended program participants. Participating in the ECB Project Bangladesh consortium is great because all together we are bringing in tangibly good results.
The conference gives us a wider network to interact with frontline people, the program participants, academics, practitioners, decision makers and leaders. Thus we get a sense of the activities, challenges, effectiveness, good things and the areas for improvement at all tiers of the organization.
I shared two ideas: (i) to invest much more in the staff capacity building of the national NGOs rather than the international NGO staff who often do not stay in the country; and (ii) to create a database of information such as population by village, age and sex, maps, demography, number of hand-pump tube wells etc.
If anything happens you can draw a picture by group discussion, triangulation or any other shortcut method and identify the magnitude of devastation and emergency. Creating that sort of depository is, therefore, extremely useful for the Joint Need Assessment.
Monzu Morshed, Deputy Chief Operation, CARE