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Complaints Handling

Listening to the People: 5 Simple Ways to Improve Project Performance through Citizen Feedback

Amar Inamdar's picture

There’s been a lot of talk about beneficiary feedback – a fancy term for asking people impacted by aid projects what they think. But we've been playing catch up when it comes to analyzing where and how we’re using these techniques – and whether they’re working. Until now.

A new World Bank paper looks at one particular tool for collecting real-time feedback – Grievance Redress Mechanisms – and starts to answer these basic questions: Where are they? Do they work? How will they help? For the first time, we now have data available on the distribution, quality and impact of grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) in the Bank's portfolio.  Beyond just the quantitative data, there are 23 in-depth case studies of GRMs in operations - highlighting both disputes resolved and challenges faced. Focusing on what works and why, this report provides World Bank staff and clients with concrete data to support their work to improve GRM implementation and results.

For example, did you know...

  • Half of all World Bank-supported projects now include a GRM in project design?
  • GRM usage is still predominantly tied to triggering one or both of the World Bank safeguards policies that require a GRM?
  • The World Bank’s Africa region has the most higher-risk projects and the Middle East/North Africa region (MENA) has the fewest, but 70 percent of Africa's higher-risk projects have a GRM compared with only 22 percent in MENA?
  • GRMs exist on paper but not always in practice: less than one-third of the Bank-supported projects sampled could provide data on grievances received or resolved.

The report makes five simple recommendations for things that the World Bank can do better:

The Umpteenth Blog on using SMS Feedback in Projects…Now with Support!

Aaron Seyedian's picture

With shiny apps hogging the mobile spotlight these days, one could be forgiven for forgetting about SMS (“Short Message Service” or text messaging).  But although apps often disguise themselves as universally useful, their data and hardware requirements preclude their widespread use in poor countries.  Amongst the world’s poor, SMS is still king.  Given the World Bank’s mandate to serve the exactly that population, and in response to demand from staff, I recently attended a 2-day Frontline SMS training here in DC.

The training took place on the 2nd floor of the OAS building, otherwise known as the “OpenGovHub.”  The hub hosts many organizations working at the intersection of data, governance and development, including Ushahidi, Accountability Lab and Tech4Dem.  Though only one block from the World Bank, it definitely has a Silicon Valley vibe - open offices, young CEOs, bumperstickered laptops and standing desks abound.  Thankfully, this open and informal environment carried right into the training, giving participants the chance to experiment with the software and engage in candid discussions with Frontline’s leaders.  Two days of training, only one Powerpoint presentation. I know, right!?

On the second day, I was particularly struck by a question posed by Frontline CEO Laura Hudson.  In explaining the design tenets of using FrontlineSMS, she asked us:  “What decisions can you make that exclude the fewest voices?”  That’s a question the Dispute Resolution & Prevention team wants all staff designing grievance redress mechanisms for their projects to ponder as well.

Imposing Conditions or Adding Value? Smart Ways to Manage Risk and Improve Performance

Amar Inamdar's picture

"Why do you want people to complain about our project?"  Jacques Buré, a Senior Highway Engineer in the World Bank, faced his incredulous client.  They were building a major road in Kazakhstan, with a $2.13 billion World Bank investment and over 1,000 kilometers across Central Asia. Jacques had just broached the subject of a grievance mechanism and he could hear the skepticism behind the question: yet another condition imposed by the World Bank.  And this one seems too much: what could possibly be the rationale for soliciting complaints?

This story kicked off a day-long deep dive which brought together over 40 staff from the World Bank and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. It touched core issues about how to better manage complex risks on development projects; improve client relations; build on country systems; and shift the way the World Bank presents its policies and standards from 'because we tell you' to 'here's how this adds value and improves performance'.  Building on experienced practitioners and outside experts, the session was run by the Dispute Resolution and Prevention team – part of the World Bank’s Risk Management unit. It emphasized how to overcome operational challenges related to implementation of grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) and make the business case to our clients on how a GRM can add value. It struck a deep chord with many of the project teams in the room.

Complaints Handling: Small is Beautiful

Sabina Panth's picture

I wish to share some thoughts on the design of a new governance tool that I recently came across – Grievance Redress and Complaint Handling System, which entails a genuinely focused bottom-up methodology that instills permanent strength to demand-driven accountability.

An effective system of complaint handling is characterized by multiple complaint uptake locations and channels for receiving complaints with a standard set of procedures. While this is promising, formalizing and improving already existing informal and traditional structures of grievance redress, such as panchayat village councils in South Asia and chieftaincy systems in Africa, can be easy to manage, cost effective and sustainable.  Moreover, many donor projects now mandate formation of local user groups, such as village-road-user-committees, district-road-user committees that comprise of labor employees and beneficiaries of the project and function as watch dogs during project implementation. These groups can be mobilized to institute local grievance redress committees, which would work to address and resolve their concerns and queries pertaining to a project.