The IRC's Client Voice and Choice initiative and Ground Truth Solutions are piloting an approach to better understand and strengthen how humanitarian assistance incorporates the preferences, aspirations, and expectations of the people at the focus of aid. This document details the methodology and findings of the pilot examining the IRC’s South Sudan protection program.
The IRC Protection program was implemented in the UN House Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites I. and III. in Juba, South Sudan. Information and Counseling Centres provided internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the sites with information on accessing available services and sought to raise their awareness of human and refugee rights.
The program team identified vulnerable clients living in the camp, namely IDPs from Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states and host community members from Central Equatoria State. Slightly more females (approximately 55 percent) than males live in the sites, all of whom qualified as prospective clients for the Protection program.
The project, funded by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, closed suddenly in February 2016 following a donor decision to not extend project funding.
Summary of Key Learning from Pilots
- Consider third-party facilitation to strengthen the accountability of the implementing team for following up on client feedback. A third party—external to the project team, either internal or external to the agency— can play an important role helping the project team think through the reasons for and implications of the feedback received from clients and holding the team accountable for its enquiry and subsequent follow-up action.
- Prioritize client responsiveness alongside program implementation. Buy-in, ownership, and adequate prioritization of the client responsiveness process by the implementing team is important to effectively support any feedback mechanism, including and especially when faced with implementation challenges.
- Invest in language capacity to communicate with clients. Language capacity to communicate with all clients, not just those speaking the dominant language, is an important consideration. While the IRC team had both Dinka and Arabic speakers, and the external firm that collected data recruited enumerators speaking these languages (through not always the same dialect), this meant that all clients had the opportunity to share their views and hear the team’s response.
Next Steps and Recommendations from these Pilots
Given that the IRC has stopped its Protection programming in the PoC sites, this case study does not examine next steps or recommendations for the program team in relation to that specific program. However, below are a number of recommendations that staff implementing broader Protection programming in South Sudan, South Sudan country management, and Protection specialists in other locations may wish to consider. IRC Juba Protection staff reported following up on some areas to improve the projects they moved on to implement:
- Consider client perspectives in exit strategies. Review policies and procedures around program exit in terms of client communication and the program exit implications to plan for and exit in a way that addresses client concerns.
- Levels of client satisfaction cannot be compared across programs in different sectors. Programs providing information as a service may need to work harder to raise awareness among clients of the program’s service and how it can assist clients to meet their basic needs. Ultimately, it is the client’s choice to determine the value they place on one service over another. However, as decisions about client services should not be based solely on client perspectives, so too must we not undermine the value of information provision and protection programming more broadly.
- Foster a culture wherein we can learn from failure. It is important for teams and organizations committed to improving client responsiveness to communicate to and convince staff that negative feedback should be proactively learned from and adapted to improve programs in response. Negative feedback can sometimes be a good sign, in that our clients clearly feel comfortable to express their views with us. Senior management play an important role in fostering an organisational culture that permits staff to openly discuss and learn from failure.