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Complaints Handling

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.

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.