Putting people first in humanitarian operations

Acting on the perceptions of crisis-hit people is a smart way to improve humanitarian performance. But aid providers have made slow progress in doing so. This is the challenge that Ground Truth Solutions addresses by systematically listening and responding to the voices of people aid agencies set out to help.

We offer a light-touch way to integrate feedback from affected people into the design and implementation of programmes. The goal is to support better performance by grounding humanitarian aid in the needs, priorities and expectations of affected people. To learn more about our mission, click here.

The Ground Truth Constituent Voice Cycle

Deciding what you need to know is the starting point
We start by looking at what each programme sets out to achieve – to understand the theory of change. This involves talking to staff running the programmes. What do they know already? What do they want to know more about? Next, we craft questions and test them with affected people. Do they understand the questions? Do they get at the right issues? The focus is on perceptions, not facts – on people’s trust in aid agencies, on the relevance and timeliness of services, on people’s sense of empowerment and their sense of the way things will turn out for them.
Ask few questions, but ask them frequently
Ground Truth’s survey instruments are short and to the point. Intervals between data collection vary from two weeks to several months. Timing depends on agencies’ capacity to digest feedback and the speed of change on the ground. Data collection methods depend on context. Options range from face-to-face interviews – using pen and paper, tablets or smartphones to record data – to SMS surveys and enumerated calls. We usually work with local enumerators, but some agencies may collect their own data.
Translating the data into follow-up action
The next step is to analyze the data and compare the results with information from other sources. After discussing the feedback with operational staff, we prepare a summary report, including suggestions for follow-up inquiry. The goal is to present the data in a clear and simple format that agencies can understand and track with ease.
Communicating the findings to affected people
We talk the data through with agency staff to get a better sense of what the findings mean. Equally important is dialogue with people from the affected communities. They need to feel their feedback is taken seriously. At a minimum, it is important to inform communities promptly about the survey results and how agencies plan to respond to what they learn.
Using feedback to drive programme adjustments
This is when agencies adjust their programmes in response to the feedback. While glaring problems should be addressed at once, agencies may also track troubling perceptions for a while before addressing persistent obstacles. The goal is to use regular feedback to match accountability to affected populations with performance management.
Tracking performance over time
Tracking perceptions over time is a more powerful source of intelligence than one-off surveys. The length of time between rounds depends on how fast things are moving on the ground and how quickly agencies can process the findings. Whether action is taken or merely considered, the cycle starts over again. Each round brings the opportunity of revising questions to make sure they continue to provide useful, actionable feedback.

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