A reflection on managing rumours: a blog by Angela Rouse
In the twelve years I’ve worked in the humanitarian sector I’ve seen people fleeing their villages with as much of their belongings as they could carry upon hearing that rebels were advancing towards them – unsure whether it was true, but unwilling to risk staying. I’ve seen UN vehicles burnt because of malicious rumours that ‘foreigners are stoking the war here just to keep themselves in jobs’. I’ve seen a feedback mechanism flooded with names on slips of paper as misinformation spread that this was how you get registered as a beneficiary for a new project. I’ve seen intimidating demonstrations by youths against NGOs due to rumours about their recruitment practices overlooking local capacities. And many more besides these.
I’m not sure I gave rumours much thought until I had to start dealing with the fall-out and realised the power of good information to combat rumours. Having become aware of some of the innovative initiatives to tackle rumours by CDAC Network member I wondered whether we could investigate practice in this area and provide guidance for practitioners on what they could embed into their work to better deal with rumours. Over the last months I have worked with Jon Bugge and am pleased that we have been able to launch the guide.
This will prove a valuable reference to programme staff working in humanitarian contexts and help them come to a new understanding about rumours. It aims to raise awareness of the importance of rumours and provide practical guidance as to how to identify and address them. In doing so I hope that we can address, reduce and prevent harm as a result of rumours. So, pssst, pass it onto a colleague!
Angela Rouse works at the Secretariat of the CDAC Network, based in London, and has 12 years' experience in the sector. She has managed a variety of response programmes in countries like Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, and has held various roles around capacity building and interagency collaboration through positions with the Emergency Capacity Building Project, CARE International and the CDAC Network. Her particular interest is how humanitarian agencies interact with the communities they serve to co-create a response built on existing coping mechanisms.