The importance of strengthening the role of displaced and displacement-affected populations in data collection exercises, including profiling, is widely recognised. However, the question of how to do so concretely remains a challenge.
A recent half-day event on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), co-organised by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Permanent Mission of Denmark in Geneva, highlighted lessons learned and good practices. Building on these discussions as well as our own experiences, we held a JIPS team workshop to look at best practices, different methodologies and country experiences to enhance community engagement in profiling processes. Here is what we learned:
Key lessons underlined by participants to the CRRF event included the recognition that community-led organisations have limited resources to engage in data collection processes or capacity-building activities. In addition, uncoordinated processes may create fatigue among both involved communities and community-led organisations, thus leading to a lack of trust and willingness to further engage.
In response to these lessons, participants highlighted the need for data collection processes to take into account all concerned groups from the start. In addition to early buy-in it is critical to build mutual trust between relevant stakeholders (incl. government authorities, communities, UN and NGO actors) on various levels (global, regional, national/local). Including feedback loops at different stages of the process can furthermore help to ensure a two-way communication stream with affected communities.
The inclusion of all concerned groups is right at the heart of our work at JIPS: displacement profiling being collaborative by nature we consult with a broad group of stakeholders, including local authorities, local NGOs, volunteer groups and so on. We aim for a comprehensive approach to profiling displacement situations by looking at both displaced populations and host communities. Moreover, we aim to ensure that the results of a profiling exercise reflect the reality of displaced communities as well as take into account their priorities and capacities to build durable solutions with long-lasting positive impact.
In 2017 we explored some ways to better include communities affected by displacement, through the profiling exercises in Sittwe township, Myanmar (read more below in video-storytelling) and Sudan. In 2018 we will continue this work with a strong focus on when, during a profiling process, to engage with communities, and what methodologies to use at each stage.
As we discussed at an JIPS-internal workshop held in mid-December, one of the key challenges of better integrating communities in displacement profiling is to understand which methods might best support, i.e. match the particular objectives and time constraints of each step in a profiling.
Let’s look at some of these existing practices from a profiling perspective:
Collaborative mapping is an approach to collect and organise spatial information through crowdsourcing, web-mapping and community-based activities. It can help to understand communities’ perceptions and their use of the environment. By carrying out the process collaboratively, mapping itself becomes an instrument to create evidence with the affected populations, to foster dialogue among groups and to encourage community-driven data that better reflects the perceptions and realities of displaced and host populations.
Collaborative mapping can be an asset for profiling, for example to define collaboratively the units of analysis or to fill data gaps (e.g. mapping of population groups or defining boundaries for area-based approaches) in the early stages of an exercise or to evaluate the use of and access to infrastructure by the affected communities in urban areas. Maps can also be used as visual instruments to share results of a profiling, by presenting them to the community in accessible formats that encourage feedback and validation.
Another way of communicating profiling results back to IDP communities is video-storytelling, i.e. sharing information through video. This proved useful in the case of the Sittwe camp profiling in Myanmar (2017). Building on a community workshop with enumerators from the IDP camps, project partners (incl. CCCM/DRC) together with IDPs produced a 15-minute film on key findings. The film screenings met a strong interest from the communities who wanted to understand the data and to take part in discussing how the evidence would improve their situations.
In focus group discussions and in-depth conversations with members of a community facilitators and participants often face the challenge of keeping track of what was said at different points of the discussion. Important linkages between topics discussed might be overseen and key information gets lost. In addition, some topics might be too sensitive for participants to share openly at such discussions. Documenting discussions through visual methods, such as drawing, photo documentations, mapping of relationships and timelines, can help overcome these challenges and make critical points more tangible. It may also contribute to building self-awareness about relationships that participants and/or the community are not yet aware of.
This approach proved valuable in the already mentioned profiling exercise in Sittwe, Myanmar where we mapped, together with IDPs from the camps, communication channels between humanitarian organisations and affected communities. This not only showed existing gaps, but also sparked great interest within the community to receive back information about the results of the exercise.
Recognising displaced and displacement-affected populations as critical partners in a profiling exercise, we need to further explore ways to engage meaningfully these groups in profiling processes, from selecting relevant indicators to validating the data and formulating evidence-based recommendations. Community engagement in profiling ultimately marks the step from acquiring data for communities to acquiring data with communities.
Our internal workshop also brought to the forefront key considerations for community engagement in profiling:
As part of our 2018-2020 strategy (to be released soon), we will refine our practices of how to include community engagement in displacement profiling, as well as pilot selected approaches in different contexts and stages of the data collection process, including joint analysis of results. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with us, and stay tuned for more!