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Collective approaches to communication and community engagement: models, challenges and ways forward

Research report

Written by Kerrie Holloway, Veronique Barbelet, Amanda Gray Meral, Oliver Lough, Alexandra Spencer

Hero image description: Charging bank of mobile phones Image credit:AMISOM Photo

The humanitarian system is not accountable at the collective level to the communities it serves. This is despite increasing collective approaches to communication and community engagement (CCE) that build on several prominent initiatives focused on making humanitarian action more accountable to affected populations and responding to their feedback.

UNICEF, on behalf of the former Communication and Community Engagement Initiative, commissioned HPG to identify solutions to current bottlenecks and challenges to collective approaches to CCE, develop evidence of their added value and limitations and highlight future implications, given the rapidly changing nature of humanitarian crises. 

Our study, synthesised in this report, identified seven principles that make a collective approach to CCE effective:

  1. Leadership commits to early and ongoing collective accountability.
  2. Works with existing coordination structures and to allow cross-sectoral decision-making.
  3. Builds on and complements individual accountability mechanisms.
  4. Facilitated by individuals with leadership, coordination and technical skills.
  5. Supported by buy-in from key stakeholders in the response.
  6. Facilitates local leadership, engagement and capacity.
  7. Adopts contextually relevant, inclusive and effective CCE practices.

Kerrie Holloway, Veronique Barbelet, Amanda Gray Meral, Oliver Lough and Alexandra Spencer