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I agree whole heartedly with Caroline Anstey’s blog on the need to learn from the business sector about the value of consumer feedback. The private sector has historically been investing in market research to design and improve products and services. The development sector has not traditionally “beneficiaries” as customers in the same way. Given the development sector represents billions of aid dollars each year, if it were run like a business, data on customer satisfaction would certainly be sought as a key to survival in the market. Development actors in the 1970’s, most notably civil society and NGOs, advocated that recipients of aid should actively participate in project design and decision making as a precondition for relevant, responsive and effective aid. The concept of feedback mechanisms or citizen engagement is therefore not a new one. However, with the increasingly popular usage of mobile phones and SMS in developing countries, never before have communities been able to engage in providing customer feedback to service providers. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,(IFRC) is historically rooted in face to face communication on a daily basis with those receiving services through its expansive community volunteer network around the world. IFRC’s more recent experience with beneficiary communications programmes in Indonesia, Haiti and Pakistan was a game changer in how internet based technologies support effective disaster response and communication. IFRC defines beneficiary communications as: Beneficiary communication aims to save and improve lives through the provision of timely, relevant and accurate information and support an environment of transparency and accountability through the creation of feedback mechanisms. Transparency and accountability is key for citizens to be able to participate in the process of improving their situation in both humanitarian and longer term development settings. For IFRC, empowering communities to access and provide feedback on services and resources is key to reducing vulnerability and building safe and resilient communities. IFRC fully supports the World Bank’s efforts to mainstream citizen feedback in all of its projects and is actively engaged as a global partner of the Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability.

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