Our Top Ten #Commisaid Moments of 2014

Source: Thu, 27 Nov 2014 04:06 PM
Photo courtesy of Mariko Hall, who earlier this year wrote a blog on what the ETC cluster was learning about technology use in humanitarian response.
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For those who watched (and can remember) the 1958 American musical variety show ‘Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beechnut Show’ you will have witnessed the remarkable rise in popularity of ‘top ten lists’. Not to be outdone by David Letterman’s 'The Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme With Peas,’ the CDAC Network has compiled the ‘Top Ten Moments of Communicating with Communities (CwC)’ for 2014.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to 2014’s list. The continued commitment and enthusiasm of CDAC Network Members has helped make many of these moments possible and each one represents significant progress for CwC. We hope to seefurther progress for CwC in 2015. In no particular order, here are our top ten moments:


1. Collective commitment to understanding information and communication needs in Iraq

In August, for the first time in a humanitarian response, a multi-agency needs assessment was conducted by CDAC Network Members to understand the information and communication needs of displaced and host communities in Northern Iraq.

The assessment report revealed that displaced Iraqis had limited access to reliable information, which was severely impacting their ability to cope with the humanitarian crisis. CwC needs were consequently included in the Iraq Humanitarian Needs Overview and Strategic Response Plan. CDAC Network Members and others gathered at a #CDAC Learn event in October to discuss findings and lessons from the inter-agency deployment. A short video was produced highlighting some of the topics discussed.

Common needs assessment questionnaires, developed collaboratively by CDAC Network Members, were translated and used during the study. The CDAC Network ‘Quick and Easy Guide’ to assessing information and communication needs, developed with support from ACAPS, has also been used this year in Gaza, Jordan, Central African Republic and Myanmar.

2. CwC is on the international agenda

The Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) was launched in December 2014. It defines nine commitments to place communities at the heart of response. It was fantastic to see the inclusion of commitment 4: Communities and people affected by crisis know their rights and entitlements, have access to information and participate in decisions that affect them. In her keynote speech, Gwi-Yeop Son (OCHA’s Director of Corporate Programmes) pledged the support of UN to ongoing CHS process.

In addition, in December, the Deputy Secretary General of the UN – Jan Eliasson – addressed the Annual Global Humanitarian Policy Forum recognising the importance of access to information by affected communities. This was followed by the launch of the Global Humanitarian Overview for 2015 in which the Executive Summary states: Putting people and their needs at the heart of humanitarian response involves continuous communication with communities affected by crisis. It’s great to see CwC on the international agenda and in 2015 the CDAC Network aims to build on this momentum to ensure that CwC becomes a predictable, coordinated and resourced component of humanitarian response. 

3. CDAC Network Foundation Training

This November marked the first round of CDAC Network Foundation Training with 20 participants joining the pilot course, in Thailand. The training was attended by representatives from seven CDAC Network Member agencies, 12 Humanitarian Information and Communication Roster Members and one participant from the NORCAP roster. Participants attended from South and North America, Africa, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East. The training materials were drawn from fantastic resources shared by Members and the training joined by facilitators from BBC Media Action, Internews and OCHA who shared their wealth of experience.

The pilot training was a great opportunity to test the new course and CwC materials. It lso brought together a diverse group of participants (94% of the participants felt that diverse range of geographic backgrounds helped their learning). Following the feedback modifications have been and further roll-out is planned for 2015; 100% of participants said they would recommend the training to colleagues and that there was useful content to apply in their current roles. We look forward to being oined by new participants next year.

4. The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC) acknowledging the need to get affected communities back online

In April of this year, Mr. Jakob Kern (ETC Chair, WFP) announced that the ‘capacity to communicate’ is a basic need in a disaster and that the ETC is working to see how best it can support the connectivity of affected communities. Mariko Hall from the IT Emergency Coordination branch of the World Food Programme – the leading organisation of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster – posted a blog for the CDAC Network on this topic and what the relief community is learning in terms of technology in humanitarian response. CwC was also a theme at the Working Group on Emergency Telecommunications (WGET) meeting earlier this year, and will now be planned as the lead theme for the next WGET meeting in 2015.

5. ALNAP’s report: Rhetoric or reality? Putting affected people at the centre of humanitarian action

In 2014 ALNAP's Annual Meeting brought together over 180 participants from more than 100 organisations to discuss better engagement of affected populations with a report launched later in the year. The discussions and subsequent report highlighted the challenges of cost and capacity that humanitarians face in engaging with communities. It also explore the need to learn of ‘collective’ ways of engagement and the importance of documenting and sharing how effective engagement works in practice in order to build the greater body of evidence.

6. CwC and AAP Working Groups applying lessons learnt in the Philippines

Established and strengthened through the response to Typhoon Haiyan in late 2013 and early 2014, the CwC and AAP working groups in the Philippines were able to effectively apply learning in preparedness for Typhoon Ruby, which hit the Philippines  in early December 2014.

Preparedness efforts included prepositioning staff, emergency broadcast equipment and solar powered radios to where the Typhoon was likely to hit; distributing newsletters and public service announcements through Radyo Abante; and activating local media networks in potentially affected areas.

Once the Typhoon made landfall, CwC/AAP working group Members sprang into action, assessing community information needs, setting up feedback mechanisms and using multiple channels of communication to ensure communities have access to the information they need. PECOJON and First Response Radio collaborated to ensure 98.7 FM radio was on air as soon as possible, to meet information needs of communities in Eastern Samar.

Collaboration has been successful in the run up and aftermath of Typhoon Ruby, and the trust and relationships developed during the Haiyan response has been key in effecting a well organised CwC response.

Gil Arevolo, OCHA’s Manila-based CwC Officer, is writing an article about the experiences of the CwC/AAP Working Groups during this latest response and we will be posting it on the CDAC Network website soon.

7. Collaborative ways of working with local media in the Philippines

In response to the devastating typhoon in late 2013, humanitarian and media development agencies collaborated with local media actors to set up local emergency radio stations in the Philippines. The CDAC Network Typhoon Haiyan Learning Review found that the humanitarian stations had contributed substantially to the accountability and effectiveness of the humanitarian response. The review includes case studies on Radyo Abante and Radyo Bakdaw.

Radyo Abante began life as an emergency suitcase radio station, set up by First Response Radio (FRR) within six days of Typhoon Haiyan making landfall. CDAC Network Members came together to contribute funding and equipment, to train a local team of journalists and keep the station on air.

New affiliate members PECOJON have shared an article about Radyo Abante, and how the station worked with humanitarian actors through CwC/AAP Working Groups. The Learning Review included case studies on Radyo Abante and Internews’ Radyo Bakdaw in Guiuan and the roles they played in improving the effectiveness and accountability of the humanitarian response.

8. Joint HAP and CDAC Network Deployment to the Jordan

In May 2014 the CDAC Network Secretariat joined HAP International on a scoping mission to Amman, Jordan. The deployment included stakeholder discussions with key UN, INGO, CBO, MDA, donor and local media representatives; field visits to host and camp-based communities; and the facilitation of a half-day CwC stakeholders’ workshop. At the time of the deployment, many initiatives to strengthen community dialogue had already achieved results in terms of better engagement, information sharing, and establishing trust between the communities and ‘humanitarians’. Several more CwC activities were in start-up/planning stages. These included a refugee newspaper in Za’atari camp, a planned Hackathon, and strengthening the UNHCR hotline in partnership with local mobile phone operator Zain. 

Following the scoping mission and report a consultant was hired by WFP and seconded to UNHCR to support communication and information sharing in relation to the move from blanket to targeted distributions to Syrian refugees in Jordan. This consultant also participated in the CDAC Network Foundation training.  

9. Improved communication, feedback and accountability in the Ebola Response

Led by Plan International, coordinated feedback mechanisms have been established to help manage complaints and feedback during the Ebola outbreak. Many agencies, including Save the Children and UNICEF are coordinating to use the system which is supported by UNICEF’s RapidPro technology to effectively coordinate communities’ inputs and responses.

The CDAC network’s new Affiliate Member Ground Truth are supporting Plan International’s work to help track the perceptions of both frontline health workers and communities on issues that are central to the success of the response. This includes tracking whether people are prepared to follow quarantine restrictions (and if not, why not), the impact of stigma on reporting of cases, and overall progress in the fight against Ebola. For the first time in a humanitarian operation, these real-time surveys are bringing the perceptions of people who are closest to the action into the management process.

UMCOM, a new CDAC Network Member has collaborated with other actors in the Ebola response, including BBC Media Action, Internews and SIMLab. In this blog they highlight the benefits of collaboration.

10. The Message Library is now available in at least seven translated languages

With support from Translators without Borders, the infoasaid humanitarian communication messages are now available on the CDAC Network website in a range of languages, including Arabic and French. This is also thanks to a new Message Library tool that was developed by Thomson Reuters Foundation as part of the new CDAC Network website. The enhanced tool will allow the Network to quickly upload new langauges, split this down to country-specific contexts and also embed the library on other websites. For instance, new messages have been uploaded to include the latest information for the Ebola response, and are available in local languages including Krio.

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The CDAC Network is a growing platform of more than 30 humanitarian, media development, social innovation, technology, and telecommunication organisations, dedicated to saving lives and making aid more effective through communication, information exchange and community engagement.

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