Closing the Loop

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Closing the Loop: empowering communities to get better services

Shar-e- naw, Kabul, AfghanistanShar-e- naw, Kabul, Afghanistan
Year Founded:
2005
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Scaling
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In Afghanistan, officials cannot account for one third of aid between 2002 and 2009 – GBP 23 billion. Such losses show the need for greater accountability of development projects. In the last decade, technology-driven solutions have failed to ‘close the feedback loop’ between state and communities.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if thousands of lives in Afghanistan could be improved through mainstreaming community integrity building?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Up to 25% of aid in war-torn countries is lost to corruption and mismanagement. This affects poor communities the most as it impacts vital development outcomes such as access to health, water, education and quality of roads. A focus on technology-driven solutions has often failed to ‘close the feedback loop’ between state and communities, neglecting context analysis, constructive engagement and responsiveness to communities’ concerns.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Learning from experiences of community-driven development and participatory governance, our constructive community integrity building approach fosters collaborative learning, problem diagnosis, generates an evidence base and recommendations, and resolves problems in public and infrastructure services through locally driven solutions. We work with our partners to facilitate meetings to enable communities to voice their concerns and elect community monitors who will then monitor development projects. The evidence monitors collect will be shared with the entire community. If problems are uncovered the monitors will work with all stakeholders (government, contractors, citizens) to identify solutions and fix these problems.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Noqra Road is vital for residents in the Injil District of Herat Province. It serves around 35,000 people that live in the district. Five months into the construction of the road, community monitors discovered that there were serious divergences from what the construction company was supposed to provide and what they had done till then. The quality of the road was poor and it had only been made five meters wide instead of the eight stipulated in the contract. The monitors gathered evidence and went on to mobilise the community resulting in protests and direct campaigning with the contractor, provincial council and the governors' office. These efforts paid off and the contractor rebuilt the road according to the terms of the contract.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Globally, between 2010-2013 Integrity Action and our local partner IWA have trained 2,500 community members to monitor 850 projects, valued at over USD $255m. Through our Fix-Rate metric we measure transparency and accountability of development projects and whether problems are resolved to the satisfaction of key stakeholders. We have a fix-rate, the percentage of identified problems that are resolved, of 50-80% in infrastructure projects. In Afghanistan, between 2008 and 2013 together with our partners we have trained 845 community monitors. Through our approach the rate at which projects are fixed has reached over 83%. We monitored 281 projects valued at $247m. Afghanistan stands out as the most remarkable case amongst our portfolio, because of the high fix-rate, the number of projects worked on and President Karzai asked IWA to monitor all government funded infrastructure projects.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Integrity Action has a strong track record in ensuring project sustainability by working through local systems and procedures building sustainable institutional capacity. Sustainability is also ensured as our approach is cost effective. For example, if 1% of a large project’s costs are invested into our approach and that has the result of reducing the loss rate by even 4% this would represent a threefold net return on investment.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Others working on development accountability: Development Initiatives, Global Witness, the International Budget Partnership, TI, and multilateral development partners such as the OECD, UNDP, the World Bank. Top-down approaches, such as anti-corruption commissions, have often failed in war-torn countries. Tactics of naming and shaming have been tested but don't provide for collective problem solving and action. Our proactive integrity based approach has led to greater community engagement, transparency, budget allocations and improved goods and services through locally-driven solutions.
Team

Founding Story

Integrity Action was founded in 2003 by Fredrik Galtung and Jeremy Pope in response to challenges facing the anti-corruption movement with the realisation that integrity offers one of the largest opportunities for improvements in equitable and sustainable development. Fredrik and Jeremy both understood early on that traditional and compliance based approaches to anti-corruption did not produce the desired results and that a more proactive integrity based approach was needed. Over the last 10 years we have refined our approach to what is now know as Community Integrity Building.
About You
Organization:
Integrity Action
About You
First Name

Joy

Last Name

Saunders

LinkedIn URL
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Integrity Action

Organization Country

, Shar-e- naw, Kabul

Country where this project is creating social impact

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Impact
Full Impact Potential: What are the main spread strategies moving forward? (Please consider geographic spread, policy reform, and independent replication/adoption of the idea or other mechanisms.)

Scale our approach nationally, across Afghanistan and then further into the Asian region. Institutionalising integrity building through government policy and practice.

Barriers: What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

External security risk. We overcome this by operating in relatively secure areas; strengthening relations with different stakeholders through collaborative governance. Integrity Action and our partners do not name and shame but build skills, trust and incentives to open governance, fulfil human rights and bring real improvements to the lives of the most disadvantaged.
Spoilers (opponents) who actively work to ‘spoil’ our work. Context analysis and sensitivity are critical to understanding spoilers and constructive engagement is key to counteracting them.

Sustainability
Partnerships: Tell us about your partnerships.

We facilitate the Network for Integrity in Reconstruction (NIR) - a network of civil society organisations in 11 countries and
the Integrity Education Network - the world’s largest integrity education network of over 450 academic institutions in 26 countries. In Afghanistan, President Karzai called for the publication of all government contracts (Presidential Decree 45) and asked our country partner to monitor all government projects.

Closing the Loop
How does your project primarily ensure that feedback delivers results?

Demonstrate how closed feedback loops can make a difference in people’s lives.

Please elaborate on your answer to the above question.

We facilitate meetings to enable communities to voice their concerns and find solutions. During these meetings, members will elect community monitors that will be trained by us. These monitors then collect data on the transparency, participation and effectiveness of development projects. Evidence will be shared and validated with stakeholders through community meeting and DevelopmentCheck, our online tool for community feedback on projects. If they uncover problems, the monitors will work with contractors, local government and the community to fix these problems, thereby closing the loop.

Languages: In what languages are you able to read and write fluently?

English, French.

2nd Round Questions
Thinking about your feedback loop; what information are you trying to get from whom, to whom, and to bring about what change?

At Integrity Action we want to change the negative impact that corruption, fraud and mismanagement can have on development projects, thereby affecting vital development outcomes such as to education, water, healthcare, roads and social services. We want to guarantee that citizens have better services but are
also empowered to ensure that policies are appropriate, information can be trusted, and that fewer public funds are wasted. We do this through our Community Integrity Building (CIB) approach which involves community monitors collecting data on the transparency, participation and effectiveness of development projects in their communities. This information is subsequently shared with a Joint Working Group (JWG). JWG are a collaborative forum bringing together community representatives, local authorities and potentially other stakeholders such as contractors to jointly learn, review findings and develop practical solutions to problems initially identified by the local communities. Using this approach we ensure that that the feedback provided is integrated into a process and triggers an informed, appropriate 
response to resolve an identified problem.

What is the purpose of your feedback loop?

Improve quality of programs

If other, please specify

Protecting public programmes from corruption,fraud and mismanagement

What mediums or mechanisms do you use to collect feedback? (check all that apply)

SMS, Paper, Phone or voice, Website, Physical gathering, Other.

If other, please specify

DevelopmentCheck.org - our groundbreaking online community monitoring tool

Could you briefly describe the way you collect the feedback?

Once the community has identified priority projects, the trained community monitors then make information requests, collect data on development projects through site visits, where they take photos, assess the project against the contract and/ or plans (if available), conduct beneficiary surveys, share their results with stakeholders and work with them to address any problems found. Our partners use DevelopmentCheck.org, our online community monitoring tool, to share their findings on development projects and engage authorities to resolve problems and therefore better meet communities’ needs. They enter data through the online questionnaire, upload photos, videos and project documents. Once verified, this information is publicly available and shared in community forums and by community radio. Project data and case studies are also shared through social media, including Facebook and YouTube. We are further exploring ways to link DevelopmentCheck.org with e-government tools, such as data portals, online budget monitoring, and e-procurement sites. Finally, we have developed a smartphone application to allow real-time reporting on these projects. This data provides evidence to generate pressure for improved services and projects.

What mechanisms are in place to protect people from retribution?

Other

If other, please specify

The collaborative nature and engagement of all stakeholders reduces retribution risks

What are the immediate benefits or incentives for people to provide feedback?

Other

If other, please specify

The opportunity to 'fix' the problems that matter the most to them, meeting the needs and expectations of their communities.

How do you ensure new and marginalized voices are heard?

Other

If other, please specify

We have a multi-stakeholder approach and actively target and engage poor and marginalised community members.

What are the incentives for the intended recipient to act on the feedback?

Other

If other, please specify

The evidence collected is, in most cases, enough to create the leverage for change.

How does the feedback mechanism close the loop with those who provided feedback in the first place?

Meetings discussing results with providers

If other, please specify

The feedback is discussed in Joint Working Groups where all stakeholders are given an opportunity to provide feedback.

How is feedback published/transparent?

On a website

If other, please specify
Give two concrete examples of how feedback loops have brought a program or policy more in line with citizens’ desires.

Case Study: Kyrgyzstan
Larisa Kuznetsova and Sulaimanova Suimkan were both trained as community monitors as part of Integrity Action’s work in Kyrgyzstan. They have since been using their training to address inadequacies in the provision of services for people with disabilities in Osh. In 2012, along with other monitors they analysed the way the city served people with disabilities. Sulaimanova Suimkan said, “We identified many cases where people didn’t know about their right to benefits. For instance the parents of a disabled child should receive benefits if their child has had a disability for over a year, but many parents don’t know about this.” They shared their findings with the local Joint Working Group (JWG) that was established under Integrity Action in Kyrgyzstan to bring together local government workers, elected members, government suppliers, CBOs and active members of civil society including youth committees. The JWG held three meetings in the latter part of 2012 to agree an action plan to address the issues and hold local government accountable for the lack of provision for people with special needs.The JWG created a booklet providing important information about the different benefits disabled
people were entitled to. The booklet also featured the addresses of all organisations and institutions that offer services in Osh. Before this booklet was produced, people with disabilities could not easily find out their entitlements and many were forced to pay bribes to receive benefits. Now they know where to access documentation and which institutions to contact about services. As a result the number of people who pay bribes for access to services has reduced. Larisa has also used what she learned to successfully apply for a $25,000 grant to establish a health and fitness centre for people with disabilities. The centre opened in July 2013 and provides users of the centre access to specialist treatment. Staff at the centre also provide advice on benefits and services that people with disabilities can access.

Case Study: Kenya
A 30-year wait for access to clean water has finally been resolved in rural Kenya. Integrity Action worked with local partners to establish a Joint Working Group (JWG) of residents and local government workers who were mobilised to urge their area MP to secure funding for local boreholes.
Basic training on legal and Constitutional rights by local Integrity Action partner, the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ), was key.
‘ICJ gave us tools so we knew how best to demand better services from our officials,’ says community monitoring chairman Stephen Chaka. ‘Before, we were afraid to approach the government ministers, but because we learnt about our rights, we were able to start getting results.’
Six boreholes have been drilled and four solar-powered pumps and two hand pumps have been installed. The women and children’s arduous 10km trip for water is now a thing of the past

If there was one thing you could change to increase the impact of your feedback loop, what would it be?

Institutionalisation of our Community Integrity Building approach. We would like to see adoption of our approach at national level. We have had some success with this in Palestine, Indonesia and Afghanistan but being able to mainstream the approach in more countries, and at policy and national level would dramatically increase the impact of our approach, thereby improving the lives of millions of people in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

What are your biggest challenges or barriers in “closing the feedback loop”?

Ensuring the quality of the data provided

If other, please specify
Are you aware of The Feedback Store?

No, but I can see myself using it as a resource

What are the main uses you can envision for the Feedback Store?

Communication, inform some of our own tools & resources, and sharing it with our partners.

What is the one thing you would most like to see changed to improve the competition process?

n/a

What are you doing to make sure that feedback providers know that they are empowered by the information they can give and that they know exactly what the information they are providing?

All data/feedback is verified and published by us and we work with country partners to engage local, national and international authorities to ensure the identified problems are resolved to the community’s satisfaction and a fix can be achieved. Achieving a 'fix' is in fact the resolution of a problem to the satisfaction of the main stakeholders, in our case, the providers of the data/feedback. This feedback is used in Joint Working Groups where feedback providers are present. So they see how that information is used and brings positive change. Ultimately, this means that citizens have better services but are also empowered to ensure that policies are appropriate, information can be trusted, and fewer public funds are wasted.

Comments

Matt Kepple's picture

It's good to hear that there are initiatives that enable the voices of citizens to be heard. I can see how a tool like this is good at ensuring a good quality of service. I would like to understand more about how the tool actually prevents corruption.

Mari Kuraishi's picture

I'm not entirely clear on how Closing the Loop is different from DevelopmentCheck. The latter is impressive in what it has done to rectify failures in implementation, but the paragraphs describing the solution aren't anywhere as specific as what's described later as DevelopmentCheck. I like the careful selection of monitors etc and the orchestration of group dynamics but wonder if that may make scalability harder to achieve.

Mickael Hoelman's picture

Congrats for winning the Ashoka Changemakers. I have seen the similar project in East Timor too. The biggest challenge of this model is on how to encourage real participation from regular community instead from the cadres that have been trained by the project. Great if you could share your strategic model and lesson on success/ failure of the model. Again, congrats !

Lisa R Tucci's picture

I wouldn't exclude it to developing or war-torn countries...We could seriously use that in Italy, as the Aquila Earthquake and now Expo2015 scandals prove...
Perhaps getting on board w/Western economies would provide more finances for training in other places.

I am unclear how the monitors are let in and how they stop the corruption, esp if govt forces are the problem.

Dear Lisa,
We primarily work in developing and fragile states but our approach can be applied in developed countries as well. Our Community Integrity Building (CIB) approach is context sensitive. It is interesting that you ask as we had requests from Washington DC to see if the approach could be applied in a local context there. As for the monitors, we train community monitors. To date we have trained more than 2500 who have monitored more than 850 projects. They make information requests, collect data on development projects through site visits, where they take photos, assess the project against contract and /or plans (if available), conduct beneficiary surveys share their results with stakeholders and work with them to address any problem found. They have resolved problems in more than 50% of projects where problems were identified. Thanks to their efforts hundreds of thousands of people in these countries have better public services and are also empowered to ensure that policies are appropriate, that information can be trusted and the fewer public funds are wasted. You can find out more about how our approach works here:
http://www.integrityaction.org/sites/www.integrityaction.org/files/docum...

Dear Mari, Thank you for your comment. Our overall approach is called Community Integrity Building (CIB). This approach has five phases: 1. Context sensitivity 2. Joint learning 3. Evidence Base 4. Constructive Engagement and 5. Closing the Loop. Within each of the phases there are a number of steps to follow and tools to use. DevelopmentCheck comes into play during step 3 (Evidence Base) and is our innovative online reporting platform for citizens feedback on development projects. Closing the Loop (step 5 within our CIB approach) is when solutions put forward by the Joint Working Groups (JWG) are actually implemented. Activities that support the closing of the loop step include: putting forward smart, locally sensitive policy recommendations, engaging potential spoilers or pre-empting the actions they can take where possible, making clear that fixes are a joint achievement and not the credit of civil society, or an NGO, but a genuine collaboration between public officials and local citizens, close working ties to key public institutions, sharing and disseminating best practices and public hearings inviting all stakeholders to present the main successes, challenges and lessons learnt.
To conclude and in response to the last part of your comment, we believe that CIB offers a constructive, sustainable approach to identify, monitor and improve development projects and services. The approach as proven to be cost effective e.g. in Palestine in 2013 the Teacher Creativity Centre (TCC) supported 1,280 monitors in 40 schools to gather data on 40 projects with more than 200,000 beneficiaries. In terms of scaling, TCC is working with the Ministry of Education to integrate social audits in the curriculum, thereby institutionalising our CIB approach. There is no doubt that our approach faces challenges. Civll society mobilisers require resources to develop communities, capacities to provide the evidence base to inform and improve policy and practice, and constructively close the loop. The key lies in strengthening partnerships across government, civil society and business. This means connecting affected communities with local, national and international policy-making and practice, ensuring bottom-up feedback and user-orientated solutions. You can find out more about CIB’s practical application here: http://www.integrityaction.org/sites/www.integrityaction.org/files/docum...

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