Over the last ten years, the recognition has steadily grown that it is essential to directly involve people affected by disasters into their recovery. In communication, attitudes have shifted from mass information towards substantive two-way communication and from sad, forgotten suggestion boxes to active feedback loops that inform programming.
This change was made possible by hundreds of staff in dozens of organizations who have changed attitudes and developed guidelines and standard operating procedures, case studies and terms of reference for communication with communities (CwC) and, most importantly, who have demonstrated that this approach leads to better and more sustainable humanitarian response operations.
Along the way, it has become increasingly hard to keep track of current best-practice, but also of what we mean when we talk about CwC as a cross-cutting service to all sectors. Is it signs? A hotline? Rumour-tracking? Focus groups and assessments? A Facebook page? Providing internet connectivity to a camp? All of the above?
The CDAC network’s new how-to guide for communication with disaster-affected communities, “Collective Communication and Community Engagement in Humanitarian Action“, is a one-stop-shop for current best practice in the CwC sector.
Senior managers can get an idea of what to expect from a CwC team, team leaders find advice on how to advocate for CwC and practitioners find a wealth of resources that can help them design CwC programs. For example, I often find it difficult to come up with a budget and I find setting up hotlines a little daunting; the guide includes a budget template and links to selected resources that cover various feedback mechanisms, such as hotlines.
Unfortunately, CDAC seems to have messed up a little when creating the PDF document itself. Many of the URLs to the key resources go over multiple lines, but, when you click on them, the browser often only opens the first part of the URL, which, of course, won’t work. By copying and pasting the URLs, instead of clicking on them, you can work around this issue, but it is a real shame, because, in my opinion, the guide’s many linked resources are its biggest added value. (Update: I contacted CDAC regarding this issue and they have now fixed it).
As with all resource collections, the challenge will be to keep the document up to date, but for now, the CDAC guide is the ultimate guide to communicating with communities.
What are your thoughts on the guide? Please leave them below!