Safeguarding: Communities trust in our ability to listen, react and respond is key

This project aims to introduce a mobile case management tool across Oxfam’s Middle East humanitarian response with local and global partners to capture, analyse and respond to feedback data to inform the response and give those affected voice for improved support and services.

The importance of the link between feedback mechanisms and safeguarding is undeniable when pushing a survivor led approach. If the communities we are seeking to support do not trust us to help solve issues with programmes, such as targeting or quality of distributed items, they will not trust us to effectively manage misconduct issues such as safeguarding. We must get the basics right, not only to uphold our commitment to the Core Humanitarian Standard and improving the quality of our programming, but to increase the likelihood that the people we are working with will speak up with more serious concerns should they arise. Trust in our ability to listen, react and respond appropriately is key.

Your Word Counts began as a project focused on programme feedback, but we are now pushing the project forward with exploring the intersection of this with reporting misconduct. What has become clear is that more knowledge and understanding of safeguarding and misconduct as well as how to report concerns is required in the sector. Not only do we need to demonstrate how to report misconduct on all levels, but also work on the culture to ensure that reporting is the right thing to do and people feel safe to do so. As a small innovation project, there are small steps we have taken such as including safeguarding, anti-corruption awareness and misconduct reporting into the accountability training. This training gives attendees basic knowledge of what accountability is, international standards we are committed to, Oxfam’s dimensions of accountability, Responsible Data to ensure we uphold respect for privacy and some of the key definitions of safeguarding, anti-corruption and how to report concerns. Quite a lot to fit into one day but people leave with a broad knowledge of accountability, why it is important and how to report misconduct before we delve into designing the programme feedback mechanism. The system itself has also been altered to direct people to the ways in which they can report misconduct from the beginning. When the mobile application is opened, a note appears reminding users to only log programme feedback through this mechanism and to revert to misconduct mechanisms if needed. The system then links to the relevant ways to report different types of misconduct, reinforcing the knowledge and understanding of how to report different issues.

What could we do differently?

Keeping and treating feedback mechanisms and reporting misconduct systems separately requires considerations at the individual level when we think about the people affected by crisis or poverty. As Bond’s Eight Principles for Feedback states, “mechanisms for hearing safeguarding concerns on their own and in isolation from our programmatic practice will not be sufficient in creating safe channels for issues to surface. Accountability and feedback mechanisms on the other hand are often not designed with safeguarding at their forefront, but when they are effective, they can create the necessary trust and can become an additional, or even preferred, channel for these concerns.” Building trusted mechanisms in collaboration with communities that are context specific is a way to support survivors in feeling safe to report. Therefore, feedback mechanisms need to be designed with safeguarding and misconduct at the forefront and safeguarding systems need to consider feedback mechanisms as the entry point of reporting for the communities where we provide support. We should be flipping the top down reporting mechanisms that have shown little evidence to work and focus on participation, trust and communicating with communities.

What are the next steps?

The first step (after a safeguarding risk assessment) is to apply Human Centred Design principles and methodology in working with programme participant communities, local staff, and partners to understand their needs and preferences for misconduct reporting. This would also include learning what staff and partners feel is acceptable/not acceptable behaviour and what they understand the risks to be in their context. This approach seeks to develop solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all stages of the problem-solving process, starting with the people you are designing for and ending with new solutions that are tailored to suit their needs. From this, one could determine what points of entry are required, how the data is handled and its associated internal workflow, and how closing the loop is reported back to the individual or group who raised the issue originally. By taking this approach, Oxfam is putting the people we are supporting first and will be able to more effectively support them in reporting safeguarding, fraud and complaints against staff in meaningful and contextually appropriate ways.

Author: Emily Tomkys Valteri, ICT in Programme Accountability Programme Manager, Oxfam GB

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

Web design by Teamworks