Humanitarians increasingly recognise that keeping people connected to each other, providing information for and communicating with people affected by conflict or natural disasters are among the most important elements of emergency response. People affected by crisis should be able to influence relief efforts, provide feedback on services and know this feedback is acted on. The quality, effectiveness and timeliness of humanitarian action is improved by involving people in this way.

At CDAC Network, we invest in country-level, multi-stakeholder communication and community engagement platforms that sit within the national humanitarian architecture and, where possible, are led by national actors.

With an overarching goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian response by systematically engaging communities, the Platforms seek to ensure that:

• affected communities are provided with timely, relevant and actionable life-saving and life-enhancing information in preparedness for and in the event of a disaster; • humanitarian actions are informed by the constructive participation of communities throughout the humanitarian programme cycle, including regular feedback solicited from communities on key aspects of humanitarian performance at the strategic decision-making level; • the most appropriate approaches are used to listen to communities’ needs, feedback and complaints, including sensitive complaints; • the collective service augments local capacities so that national responders are better prepared in future responses; and, • that all humanitarian responders are held to account by affected people through visible and predictable means.

Investing in such platforms at the preparedness stage not only enables national and international aid agencies to undertake capacity strengthening work, such as advocating for revisions to national disaster management acts or providing training, but also ensures that capacity can be rapidly scaled up when a disaster hits. The relationships created during preparedness activities, and the understanding of respective roles and expertise is critical to more coordinated action and better services for communities. Digital technology plays a critical role, supplying information and data and driving greater connectivity with and among communities.

The platforms are supported by services available from CDAC Network such as global advocacy, specialised training support, research and learning.

Communication and Community Engagement (CCE) Platform activities can include:

• Functioning common feedback mechanisms and fine-tuning skills in data collection, data analysis and how to respond to perceptual feedback from affected people, including course correction. • Innovative flexible funds management: establishing flexible funding mechanisms at the National Platform level that can support collective ways of working and garner deeper collaboration, with locally defined and locally approved components. • Training and capacity strengthening on CCE to ensure full Platform capacity: CDAC offers e-learning and four training categories on CCE to support project staff and managers. • Rumour tracking and management: Expertise in rumour tracking and management, a relatively new skills area for the humanitarian sector and one that CDAC leads on. • Simulation on CCE for preparedness: Skills in designing and implementing preparedness simulation exercises, which include the private sector. • Landscape Guides: Researching and developing Media, Telecommunications and Linguistics Landscape Guides that are regularly updated. Linguistic skills have not been prioritised enough in the past in landscape research. • Message libraries: Knowledge of establishing a Message Library, contextualisation and socialisation. These are online, searchable databases of prepositioned message sets, which have been technically reviewed by experts providing a starting point for those wanting to rapidly disseminate critical information to affected populations. • Innovation in safeguarding approaches: Developing skills in safeguarding innovation through community-led safeguarding systems. Applying a user-centred design process to a nationally-led Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) complaints system for reporting concerns about aid providers; bringing crisis-affected people and national entities together with tech-focused innovators. This is a new area of exploration by CDAC Netwiork and one that we will focus on more the future. See CDAC note: “There’s no place for hierarchy in safeguarding’, Oct 2018 • Better connecting CCE in humanitarian and development work: Skills to better harness the lessons and tools from the digital development sphere for use in disaster-affected community contexts, including the better linking of CCE in the humanitarian-development nexus humanitarian-development nexus: See the CDAC 2018 Forum Report: Hearing the Roar! Digital inclusion and community voices beyond the humanitarian-development divide. There is a real need to better explore ‘citizen participation’ linked to good governance in the development sector and ‘community engagement’ in the humanitarian sector and related synergies.