Community Engagement and Accountability Webinar Series

Featured event

The role of social media in times of crises has grown exponentially. During disasters like the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Facebook and Twitter were crucial components of the humanitarian response as they allowed actors involved in relief efforts to disseminate life-saving messages and offering affected communities a space to seek help.

However, the use of social media by humanitarian organizations to engage and communicate with (not about) affected people, is to date still vastly untapped, and there is lack of practical guidance, good practices and lessons learnt.

Organised jointly by ICRC and IFRC, This webinar looks at this exsisting gap and aims at providing an overview and practical tips which can help humanitarian actors start use social media to engage affected people at times of crisis.

Further support and guidance can be found in the brief guide developed by IFRC, ICRC and OCHA on the same topic.

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The webinar

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Questions and answers

During the webinar we have collected a number of questions that you can find here below. Some of these were addressed in the webinar (see the recording above – coming soon). As we had a great interest in finding out more about specific topics we have collected all the questions – and provided answers to them.

See questions and aswer

Q: Which team function within a response is in usually in charge of the monitoring of the conversations?  The skills to use these tools typically sit with social media/comms specialists but to really be able to distil the info you have to also have knowledge of the context, programmes, ops etc.

A: Monitoring often sits with comms, social media, or reporting, but it could also easily be with information management. However, it is good practice to have contacts or even focal points with programme staff as well, so that you can involve them in answering the questions and responding to feedback.  

Q: How do you ensure the information gathered is shared appropriately within your own response team and broader?

A: This can take many forms. By email is by far the most common. It also depends a little bit on the size of your team. In Nepal for example we used Flipboard to keep everyone in the loop and it worked very well in that case.

Q: To what extent do you think Facebook ads are really necessary?

A: Facebook moves more and more towards a model where you have to “pay to play”. The most recent experiment that Facebook is running in six countries show that Facebook intends to continue to go down a route where updates from friends are emphasized and updates from pages are de-emphasized. The times of free, easy Facebook traffic are definitely over.

Q: Are there certain contexts where you think this approach wouldn’t work? What conditions are required to make it effective?

A: This is much more challenging in countries with poor ICT infrastructure. However, even there, a lot of people might be using messaging services like Whatsapp, which require different approaches, or low-bandwidth products for Facebook or Twitter. Also: even in countries with very low ICT infrastructure having a monitoring strategy in place is worthwhile, not least because of the diaspora which can be very influential. As an example you might want to look at is the work done by the Peacetechlab in South Sudan.

Q: Is there a problem of “fake news” on social media platforms? How best to tackle this on social media platforms?

A: It is definitely a problem and not easy to solve. You can address it by having a good monitoring system in place and by preparing and saving answers to recurring rumours. I’d like to recommend two documents to you: The CDAC guide to working with rumors and the verification handbook.

Q: What leadership and cultural factors are needed to support this approach within response teams?

A: I would say: openness. A lot of disaster responders come from a command and control background which makes it very difficult for them to feel comfortable with networks that are not hierarchical.

Q: We’re using Facebook surveys, Twitter polls etc to gauge comprehension and collect feedback on outreach via social media in local languages. Are there suggestions on how to increase participation of target audiences on social media channels?

A: By asking the target audiences to be involved in creating content. We have seen in many cases (some of which are documented in the guide) that target audiences react better to communication that comes from a member of the same group. By involving them in creating the content you will get better and more relevant content and increase acceptance and ownership.

Q: How often do you think we should publish on Facebook?

A: I don’t believe there is a hard rule. It’s more about “how often do you have truly interesting content?” The worst thing you can do on Facebook is publish content that is not interesting and engaging for your target audience. Keep in mind that Facebook penalises “boring” pages by showing their content less frequently! How often you publish will also depend on whether you are in the middle of a crisis or not.

Q: What are your thoughts about using social media to actively ask local, affected communities questions? For example about (geo) locations of important sites like schools and hospitals, if those are unknown.

A: I think this depends very much on the context. In a conflict situation I would be very careful with this because the people posting GPS coordinates could be accused of spying. But in other contexts it certainly can be a good idea. However, my first approach would probably be to try to see whether there is a local OpenStreetMap group. Try googling “Open Street Map [name of country]”. Many countries have volunteer groups that are involved in mapping. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team might be able to reach out if you have difficulties finding someone.

Q: Facebook Ads – would there be any scope for the Movement or individual National Societies to negotiate for an allowance of free ads?

A: I think this a question to discuss with the IFRC Secretariat bilaterally.

Q: Is there an international country-by-county guide to social media penetration?

A: We are Social” produces a good overview every year. However, keep in mind that your audience is normally not “everyone in country X”. If you want to know what your target audience is using – talk to them.

Q: By using social media to engage with communities, might we be excluding some population groups (e.g. elderly, disadvantaged communities)? How to ensure that people do not fall through the cracks in our engagement?

A: You are definitely right in saying that not all groups can be reached via social media. That is why social media should only be one channel. This is not about replacing other forms of communication with social media, but about using social media as an additional channel to reach people.

Q: How can I make sure, when I release info as aid across different platforms, that I am not swamping these channels or confusing people?

A:  I think this comes down to having consistent key messages. It’s only confusing if people hear contradictory information. If you prepare your key messages and then develop content that is appropriate for each channel you will not confuse people. Ideally, you will also coordinate this with other organisations so that everyone speaks with one voice. Take a look at the Bangladesh example in the guide!

Q: How effective do you think is trying to build this preparedness long term before an event occurs, and not only in the moments of early response? What are the challenges of a long term preparedness communication strategy?

A: I think the biggest challenge is to find and take the time to actually do it. Even though we always preach disaster preparedness, I find that a lot of organisations are still not investing enough resources and capacity at preparing themselves. To do it effectively it definitely helps if you have good project management skills.

Q: In many organization, especially NGOs, social media is used for fundraising purposes. How do you navigate the internal restrictions or the external difference between a fundraising account versus an information sharing and report back focus for disaster-affected communities?

A: This depends a lot on your context. If you are a national NGO where affected people and potential donors are more or less the same group (maybe just separated by distance), then I think keeping it on the same page can work very well and show what you are doing to help. If, on the other hand, your affected community is very different and even speaks another language, then you should probably set up a separate channel for them.

Q: Curious to know your thoughts on using social media in fragile contexts where not everyone has access to social media, but those who do, may be influential within their communities. Examples could be South Sudan or Congo.  Any examples?

A: In those countries influencers, for example from the diaspora, can indeed play an important role, both positively and negatively. I don’t know an example from Congo of the top of my head, but for South Sudan you might want to look at the work done by the Peacetechlab.

This webinar builds on the newly published guide developed together with ICRC and Ocha. This brief guide, tryies to address the current gap in available guidance on how to effectively use social media to help people in crisis. The publication provides advice on how to use social media to liste, speak with, and be accountable to, affected people through practical tips and case studies from within the Movement and the wider sector.

Past events

CEA Webinar – Listening and acting on people’s voices: Beyond lip service to participation

The webinar highlights great practices of both high-tech and low-tech solutions and brings further reflection on how we can move away from paying lip service to the theory and rhetoric of participation and move into valuable action, listening and responding to and acting on people’s feedback.

Speakers of the session:

  • Dibya Raj Poudel, Head of Humanitarian Values and Communications Department, Nepal Red Cross Society
  • Nick van Praag, Director of Ground Truth Solution
  • Francesca Basile, Head of Migration, Italian Red Cross Society