Taking action – designing more effective responses based on community feedback

Listening and acting on community feedback is one way to enable the agency of communities and provide assistance that is both effective and dignified.

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Collecting data is a good step, but we need to feed that data into decisions.
Emily Janoch, 2022, Beyond data: the power of listening

Listening and acting on community feedback is one way to enable the agency of communities and provide assistance that is both effective and dignified.  In this article we showcase an example of where community recommendations were fed back into the design of future services, and the changes that people observed as a result of closing this learning loop.

In a recent article, we shared some recommendations communities had made on a heatwave response in Pakistan in 2021. These lessons fed into contingency planning for 2022 as part of the preparation cycle for disaster risk financing being supported through Start Network. The intensity of the heatwave in 2022 was such to initiate another response through the financing mechanism Start Ready, providing an opportunity to assess how well the learning had been implemented and opportunities to refine the approach further.

Evaluating Locally Led Early Action
Learning Report prepared by Start Network and GLOW Consultants in 2021 which provided recommendations from communities on how to improve the assistance provided.

The main service provided had been temporary cooling facilities where people could access free water, a place to rest in the shade and key information related to heatstroke. The heatwave messaging campaign also extended to posters and banners placed around the city, including on rickshaws, and messages delivered through TV and radio.

A poster describing how to prevent heatwave posted by Bright Star Development Society Balochistan as part of their behavioural messaging campaign in 2021

In 2021, the response agency, Bright Star Development Society Balochistan (BSDSB) had provided three cooling facilities for 20 days. The feedback from communities was that they wanted more of these and for longer. In 2022, they were able to secure funds to establish five facilities for 30 days through Start Networks Disaster Risk Financing mechanism, Start Ready.

The Evidence and Learning team at Start Network worked with GLOW Consultants in Pakistan to understand from communities whether they had noticed any changes in the services being provided this year in comparison to the previous year, as well as listening to their suggestions for further improvements to the services being provided.

Sixty people (43 men and 17 women) using the cooling facilities were interviewed at random across the five different cooling facilities. Most were interviewed in the predominant local language of this region -  Baluchi - but some also preferred to speak in Sindhi, Urdu, Pashto and Saraiki. The people interviewed ranged from daily and agricultural labourers through to local traders and van drivers, and civil servants and housewives.

 

Researchers from GLOW Consultants interviewing people accessing the cooling facilities in 2022

More than a third of those interviewed (43%) noted that they had used a similar facility last year. They were asked what differences they had noticed and most referred to an increase in the number of staff and water coolers, and the creation of a separate space for women with a female staff in attendance. This female-friendly area was one of the key recommendations from the evaluation in 2021, and the implementation of this change was appreciated by both men and women.

They [cooling facilities] were similar to these but they were combined a space for men and women which made it very uncomfortable for both, but now it is best way.
40 year old male van driver interviewed in the Sindhi local language while accessing the cooling facility at Harnai Phatak
These spaces are really nice for women as they have proper space to have some rest and no one will judge them.
45 year old female trader interviewed in the Balochi local language while accessing the cooling facility at Baqra Mandi Chaakar Road.

A few of the respondents also noted changes they saw in the staff themselves, that they were more confident and better trained, and able to converse in a diversity of local languages.

Yes, people are more accommodating or probably I am more comfortable. Last year I remember I was trying to talk to one of the staff members and he could not understand my language.
36 year old labourer interviewed in Sindhi local language while accessing the cooling facility at Harnai Phatak

The changes made by the agency not only enabled more people to access the facility – so it was more effective -  but made people feel more comfortable.

Female friendly spaces were a great step because in our city we don’t feel comfortable to sit with unknown men. So, it brought us comfort
23 year old female laundress interviewed in the Balochi local language while accessing the cooling facility at Talli Bus Station.

The community had still more ideas to make the cooling facilities even better. Based on feedback from all 60 people interviewed who had accessed the current improved cooling facility, their recommendations fell into three distinct areas.

  1. Scale up and consider making these a permanent feature
  2. Get mobile and consider ways to reach those in remote areas
  3. Treat as well as prevent

Scale up and consider making these a permanent feature

In 2021, one of the main recommendations, a testimony to its success in meeting a real need, was to increase the number and duration of the facilities. The agencies acted on this in 2022 but are somewhat limited by the funds that they have available to them to respond. Fortunately, there has been some uptake of their cooling facility idea by other people and organisations– even some of those being interviewed noting that they had relatives providing similar stations or they wanted to do something similar for other communities. Respondents also put forward the idea that people could provide water coolers outside their homes as well, and that the agency could provide training for other people to establish their own cooling facilities. There were also calls to increase the duration these were available, at a minimum, and to ideally have these as permanent features.

They should make them permanent in this season and should increase their quantity
38 year old shepherd interviewed in the Saraiki local language while accessing the cooling facility at Talli Bus Stop.

Get mobile and consider ways to reach those in remote areas

There were suggestions to look at ways to increase reach through mobile units. Some-one recommended having a fixed unit at the centre of the market, with mobile water units that then circulated around the market, or a mobile van or rickshaw. A few others noted the importance of considering ways to reach remote and rural communities who are also exposed to the heat and working outside to earn a living.

This is a good idea no doubt but along with a cooling station, you can also have a mobile van that does the same job. The rickshaw you are using to deliver message can be turned into a cooling facility that not only provides water and kit but also spreads awareness.
38 year old shepherd interviewed in Balochi local language while accessing the cooling facility at Harnai Phatak

Treat as well as prevent

A few respondents noted that the staff at these facilities could also be equipped with the training and basic equipment to deal with any heatwave cases.

 

The facility should have proper medical aid so that people who get heat stroke can get first aid as soon as possible because it gets worst if we will try to travel directly to hospital.
49 year old housewife interviewed in the Balochi local language while accessing the cooling facility at Quetta Jacobabad Bus Stop.

It is quite likely that there will be a heatwave next year in Sibi. Our disaster risk financing model builds in learning from each response into the contingency plans for the next year. In this way we hope to continue to learn from communities on how to better provide more effective and dignified support during crises.

The recent State of the Humanitarian Report notes that there are “little signs of agencies using feedback mechanisms to adapt projects ..”. This example provided from Baluchistan in Pakistan, demonstrates that it is possible, especially when assistance is being delivered by local organisations – who remain in areas where crises happen - and when there are contingency plans in place based on learning and in anticipation of crisis.