November 02, 2012 / by Arab salem
From Danish Refugee Council’s INSITE (Intranet)
For many humanitarian organizations, making sure that aid and donations reaches the intended people is never an easy task. DRC’s SMS feedback system in Somalia proved that creativity could indeed approach this challenge.
The great thing about our SMS feedback system lies in its simplicity. Thousands of Somalis rely on humanitarian aid, and majority of them have mobile phones, in addition, many Somalis in Diaspora are active on social media, especially Facebook, we saw an opportunity and we acted immediately.
In early 2011, my colleague Ivanoe Fugali and I submitted a proposal on SMS feedback project as a piloting accountability system for the delivery of humanitarian aid in Somalia using SMS feedback and social media. The whole idea was about gathering feedback from beneficiaries in an innovative way using SMS via a local SIM card, a tablet and zero setup at the field level, and encouraging them to express their demands, aspirations as well as engaging them the process of formulation of humanitarian interventions, planning, monitoring and evaluation.
Soon enough the proposal was accepted and selected for funding from the Humanitarian Innovations Fund and by now, the project was implemented in many towns and villages and town in Somalia including Mogadishu.
I think we did succeed in making a difference, we started receiving feedback directly from the people whom we are here to help. We were expecting to be flooded with complaints and demands but to our surprise, the majority of the feedback came from beneficiaries expressing appreciation for the work DRC has been doing, let me share with you some examples, “We thank you for the dignified way you have helped us with your humanitarian support,” said one female beneficiary from Mogadishu, while another said, “I would like to thank DRC for helping the poor people, but in recent months you are late, what happened to you?”.
The process does not end there, the feedback messages are relayed to the project’s public website online map, twitter and Facebook. Most importantly, our accountability team in Somalia follows up on SMS received, get back to the sender and report the results to the website. The project received international acclaim and was described as “The very first Humanitarian ‘Customer Calling Center’”.
This project was also a success story for DRC for encouraging and supporting creativity. I’ve been with DRC Horn of Africa for five years before joining the IA, my focus and passion was and still is how to add value to our DRC operations by utilizing technologies in the most creative ways. Thus, I always admired the culture of innovation in DRC and its people.
For me, innovation is not just about coming up with new ideas, it’s also about organisation’s willingness to accept, adopt, implement and mainstream such initiatives.
“For me, innovation is not just about coming up with new ideas, it’s also about organisation’s willingness to accept, adopt, implement and mainstream such initiatives.”
Now it’s my turn to the baton to Alexandra Strand Holm, the Regional Information & Communications Officer of Horn of Africa, who is full of exceptional ideas and always up to new challenges. At the same time the focus of the relay shifts to quality.
In the media
Humanitarian Innovation Fund, Case Study: SMS Feedback and Accountability in Somalia http://www.elrha.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/36951-HIf-case-study-DRC-Somalia-proof-v7.pdf
The very first Humanitarian “Customer Calling Center” https://crisismapper.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/the-very-first-humanitarian-customer-calling-center/
SMS feedback from DRC aid beneficiaries in Somalia http://reliefweb.int/node/503102
AID POLICY: Accountability in action http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95791/AID- POLICY-Accountability-in-action
DRC news story: SMS feedback from DRC aid beneficiaries in Somalia http://drc.dk/news/news/artikel/sms-feedback-from-drc-aid-beneficiaries-in-somalia/
Policy Briefing - BBC Media Action - Still left in the dark? How people in emergencies use communication to survive http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/publications-and-resources/policy/briefings/policy-still-left-in-the-dark
About the Norm Relay
DRC’s cooperation standards, with focus on creativity, quality, efficiency and job satisfaction, are practiced every day all year. But to make them even more present in our work relations, we are starting a relay here on INSITE.
The person who has the depeche, will pass it on to someone who will write, film, draw or in other ways share his/her personal experience with job satisfaction – or the opposite.
We started with job satisfaction, while creativity is in focus now, and before Christmas we will have read about everyday experiences with quality and efficiency. The aim is not to tell as many hooray-stories as possible, but to keep focus on:
- the standards
- that these standards should be used to improve relations, atmosphere and climate
- that the standards create opportunities for good discussions about behavior, that seems inappropriate