“To be accountable, we need the people we serve to tell us what works and what doesn’t” – Coffee with Mai Muhsen, Accountability Coordinator, NRC Jordan

21 March 2018

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Jordan seeks to regularly engage with affected communities and ensure all feedback and complaints are received, addressed, followed up, and utilised to enhance the office’s understanding of the consequences of its programming. In order to increase impact, NRC launched in 2016 a centralised, transparent and widely communicated complaints, response and feedback mechanism (CRFM). This mechanism is operational across all NRC core competencies and in all locations where NRC works in Jordan. We had a virtual coffee with Mai Muhsen, Accountability Coordinator with NRC Jordan, to find out more.  

What is the Complaints, Response and Feedback Mechanism?

CRFM is a channel for the people we serve to complain, give feedback (positive or negative), and provide suggestions. This mechanism provides a safe, accessible, and confidential channel for them to communicate their feedback or complaints. It’s important to have an independent system where the people we serve can complain and report any grievance related to NRC’s services or staff. This helps NRC identify gaps in service delivery and address them in order to best serve our beneficiaries. This way, we ensure that we remain accountable to them.

How can people contact NRC?

In 2015, and as part of the preparation for the launch of this mechanism, NRC consulted beneficiaries on the modalities they believe are safe and accessible for them to use. They chose four modalities and NRC invested in ensuring that all four are operational. We provided complaints and suggestions boxes that are placed in all of NRC’s locations in camps and urban settings. Another modality is face-to-face communication; we have a focal point in each distribution centre or drop-in centre where NRC runs its operations. A third is the CRFM email, and the fourth is the complaints and feedback phone line.

How does this mechanism work?

It depends on the case. If it’s a complaint – and this includes NRC’s services and staff – we have specific procedures and timeframes, and each complaint is handled individually.

We follow a strict procedure from the moment we receive the complaint until it’s closed. We ensure there is a “complete feedback loop”. This means we send an acknowledgement message containing the complaint’s unique reference number, we then refer it to the relevant department with a set timeframe within which to provide an adequate response. They address the complaint and provide us with a response in order for us to close the complaint. The quality of each response is verified internally as well as with the complainant. This is very important to ensure quality responses that adequately address the complaints.

For example, for service complaints, the timeframe – i.e. the complete feedback loop – to close them is 14 working days, for other serious complaints such as a breach of code of conduct including sexual exploitation and abuse, the timeframe for the initial acknowledgement of a complaint and addressing it is much shorter, but, of course, these investigations can be very lengthy.

What about feedback and suggestions?

There’s positive and negative feedback, and the same applies to suggestions. Those also go through a complete feedback loop, but it does not follow the same one as for complaints. We ensure that, where applicable and possible, suggestions and feedback are taken into consideration in our programming. For example, NRC designated a smoking area and put in place a no-smoking policy in the distribution centre in Zaatari refugee camp, as some refugees asked that smoking be not allowed in the main waiting area.  Another example, also from Zaatari refugee camp, is a suggestion from a refugee to send SMS messages to announce distributions. NRC implemented this one and the refugee called to thank us for implementing his suggestion. What we are preparing for in 2018 is to feed back our learning to the people we serve through creative methods.

How does NRC learn from this mechanism?

Each quarter, I prepare reports containing analysis of findings as well as recommendations for programmes based on the contacts. Programmes review the recommendations and respond to them by improving their processes, adopting suggestions etc.

Tell me a story of an important call you received from a beneficiary.

I believe that everything we receive is important because, in practice, we have learned something from each contact we have received over the past two years. Sometimes a simple complaint, such as a delayed stipend payment, sheds light on several gaps in implementation and leads to small but significant learning about our processes… We learnt through looking into complaints and feedback that our ways of working can always improve. We know, now more than ever, that to be able to learn and be accountable, we need the people we serve to pick up the phone and tell us what works and what doesn’t.  Their feedback helps us identify how we can be better and motivates us to constantly aim for, and work towards relevant, high quality, and accountable service delivery.

In the near future Mai, together with Francesca Lubrano di Giunno, the shelter manager of Zaatari camp, will tell us more about the full CRFM cycle from their respective perspectives. In this blog you will also read more about the creative methods that they are planning to implement in order to inform affected people and communities about the impact of their feedback and complaints.