Communicating with Communities in South Sudan

Source: Fri, 11 Mar 2016 01:19 PM
Image Credit: Internews
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Exciting possibilities on how to connect and learn more from people suffering due to one of the world’s biggest and hidden conflicts have been presented in South Sudan. Preliminary proposals for major work streams were given at the March meeting of the Communicating with Communities working group of agencies. The engagement is facilitated by the UK funded DEPP initiative that aims to reimagine community engagement and improve emergency preparedness.  It encourages novel, experimental ideas and models to improve information sharing to improve response and enable those most affected to inform the response.

 Here is a brief outline by Mayank Bubna, South Sudan Programme Manager for DEPP based at Internews, of some of the ideas and concepts being developed for use in the country.

Access to Information(Lead: Goal and BBC Media Action). This group focuses on mapping and improving access to good information and tailoring messaging to make it relevant, whilst design standardized guidelines for types of messaging. Among the concept notes proposed are:Media Landscape Guide (MLG)– Originally developed by the Infoisaid project, the MLG is expected to be an online (and leaflet) guide with comprehensive information on the media and telecommunications landscape in South Sudan. It will serve as a useful preparedness tool and secondary data source should an emergency strike, and will improve project design and implementation. The work stream aims to develop such a country guide that profiles media outlets, summarizes traditional means of communication, and presents overview on the state of freedom of the press in South Sudan among other things.

  • Message Library (ML)– Like the MLG, the ML was developed by the Infoisaid project, and is expected to be a searchable database of messages that acts as a reference for those wanting to disseminate critical information to affected populations in an emergency. MLs have been developed in different contexts in collaboration with different UN clusters working in humanitarian response. It can be used both as a disaster preparedness tool and following the outbreak of an emergency. The South Sudan Message Library consolidates, vets and updates existing messages (and builds new ones) for various threats and hazards among other things.
  • People tracing and Family Reunification – Work stream partners also plan to improve household level integration with regards to people tracing and family reunification of “lost children”. Presently, the track record on successful reintegration remains a mixed bag. Innovative CwC programming that engages with families and communities that have had demonstrated success in family reintegration, building lessons learned from those experiences, and sharing that with families and communities struggling to cope with the program of reunification feature as key components of this idea. See also ICRC’s ongoing and related “face book” initiative.

Information Sharing & Partnerships(Lead: Internews). This work stream focuses on the macro systems and processes to manage data and information networks. Three major projects have been identified as potential activities in the coming months:

  • Perceptions Monitoring– how communities perceive issues has consequences for humanitarian response and on people’s lives. Perceptions lead to rumours, which lead to bad decision making. Need agreement on common processes to triangulate information with an aim to confirm or reject rumours or perceptions when possible. The work stream aims to develop a project around rumour tracking in South Sudan. Examples of rumour tracking in humanitarian emergencies, from NepalLiberia and the Mediterranean.
  • Information Sharing and Dissemination– Different agencies have multiple information streams and types of information for communities. This often leads to confusion. With the goal of keeping information locally relevant and timely, this project aims to build common countrywide messaging to improve coordination and keep community expectations real.
  • Feedback mechanisms– Fairly advanced systems allowing communities to register complaints exist within many PoC sites in South Sudan. Yet, considerable room for improvement exists in introducing more transparency in responses to feedback, managing expectations and expanding services beyond the PoCs. A project here would examine the feedback channels being used in communities, the information that may be provided or shared, data streams in and out of influential info points in communities, and set up structures to allow agencies to coordinate across a common platform. Examples from other places include call centers in Iraq, and the UN Inter Agency Common Feedback Project in Nepal.

Capitalizing Indigenous Knowledge(Leads: OSIL and Global Street Samaritans).This work stream celebrates and endorses local capacity and the ability of South Sudanese communities to resolve internal crises. The group examines the issue of raiding and violence in and around cattle camps, which remains a perennial source of conflict in South Sudan. It targets a youth demographic from select cattle camps, and uses ethnographic research techniques to learn what peacebuilding, conflict prevention or early warning techniques the youth use to evade or negate such violence. Lessons learned from one community will then be transferred using peer-to-peer dialogue and interactive/narrative communication (e.g. theatrical performances and storytelling) to other youth communities that are struggling to cope with the cattle raiding problem. Additionally, a series of scenario-based learning tools and media modules will be organized as training and advocacy material for the international actors working in areas affected by cattle camp violence. The group continues to seek out experienced field partners and revising the scope of the project.

CwC as M&E(Lead: Forcier). The work stream pushes the boundaries on broadening the scope, tools and methods of doing M&E and making donors and the international community more accountable to the end-beneficiaries. Three concept notes were proposed during the discussion:

  • Expanding an ongoing Social Network Analysis initiative in South Sudan that measures information flow in communities and examines where the natural nodes and enablers of communication are in the humanitarian community.
  • Using an omnibus surveyto collect nationwide survey data on a bi-annual basis, and specifically look at questions related to how communities communicate within themselves; perceptions towards humanitarian response of groups outside PoC sites; and recommendations by communities on how organizations can improve their two-way communications.
  • Participatory M&E Methods– including participatory mapping and participatory video making. Both require community involvement and some training and can be linked to specific CwC or M&E indicators. Both are excellent at visually demonstrating the life cycle of projects, more engaging that conventional reports, may be presented as unedited or edited work, and can be easily shared with other communities. One example of the effective use of community video as an M&E tool. Another example of peer-to-peer learning using video and how participatory video can have real impact on programs and in communities. It was suggested during the meeting that participatory methods may be the most interesting and novel approach forward as a marked shift from conventional M&E practice and in empowering communities to have a say in the design of future humanitarian response programs.

For any further information or to share any suggestions please contact Mayank at

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