Ground Truth’s Constituent Voice – Providing Community Feedback Against the CHS

20 September 2016
Nick van Praag, Diana Szasz

by Nick van Praag, Diana Szasz

Nick van Praag is Director, and Diana Szasz is a Senior Consultant at Ground Truth Solutions.

In this post, Nick van Praag and Diana Szasz from Ground Truth Solutions look at how Ground Truth’s Constituent Voice™ methodology can complement the CHS by providing feedback from affected communities on issues related to the CHS. This helps organisations deliver better programmes and projects on the ground, as well as measuring their organisational performance.

When it comes to putting affected communities at the centre of humanitarian action, a challenge to any normative framework is ensuring compliance. Part of the promise of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) is that it comes with a verification framework to enable organisations to find out if their policies and processes are up to scratch. The framework does not get into managing projects and programmes, yet organisational aptitude to respect the CHS and performance management on the ground are two sides of the same coin. In this post we look at how Ground Truth’s Constituent Voice™ methodology can complement the CHS verification scheme in making these linkages explicit.

Including the perspective of crisis-affected people in the way humanitarian programmes are monitored and fine-tuned leads to better quality humanitarian action while, at the same time, enhancing compliance with the CHS. This is the proposition Ground Truth is testing in Ethiopia, Mali, Nepal, and Lebanon with DanChurchAid and Save the Children Denmark, through the ECHO-funded Listen, Learn, Act project.

We’ve found that Ground Truth’s standard lines of inquiry, which revolve around trust and competence, relevance and timeliness of aid, and people’s sense of ‘agency’, relate closely to those CHS commitments on which affected people’s perceptions are especially relevant – notably #s 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The feedback collected in successive light touch surveys provides organisations with a stream of data on how affected people rate them against the CHS commitments. The data also offers leads on how to fix things that don’t seem to be working and, over time, allows organisations to track whether course corrections make a difference.

Some reflections on the linkages between the CHS verification framework and Ground Truth’s approach:

  • Organisational assessment and performance management. The CHS verification options are well suited to whole-of-organisation reviews, helping to identify areas for learning and capacity strengthening. Ground Truth’s methodology adds value by assisting organisations in using the CHS to inform their performance management and learning systems at the project and programme level.
  • Improvements in policies, systems and practice. The CHS verification framework focuses on driving improvements in policies and processes that affect operational delivery. Ground Truth provides organisations with insight from intended beneficiaries about how they are doing on their commitments, helping them adjust their programming in response. This leads to better outcomes and better compliance with the CHS.
  • Cycles long and short. The CHS Verification Scheme offers four assessment options – self-assessment and peer review which are two-year cycles, and independent verification and certification which are four-year cycles. Ground Truth’s rapid feedback-to-action cycles, ranging from a few weeks to six months, fill the gap between the less frequent milestones of the CHS. Timing of Ground Truth data collection depends on the speed of change on the ground and how quickly organisations can act on what they learn.
  • Complementarities and synergies. Feedback collected systematically for programme management purposes can also inform organisations’ self-assessments under the CHS, reducing the need to collect new data and bringing down the costs of these larger exercises. Likewise, regular feedback data can be a powerful predictor of self-assessment results, prompting agencies to modify their application of the commitments between the cycles.

Bottom line: If humanitarian agencies put in place systems to gather and respond to feedback on issues linked to the commitments in the CHS, it will not only help them deliver better operations on the ground but provide a tool to measure their overall compliance with the standard.