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In Pursuit of Sustainability: Encouraging change

Profile photo of Alex Ross
Alex Ross
February 1, 2024
February 1, 2024
As we face challenges in securing sustainable funding, survey results on people's opinion of how Loop should be funded suggests that donors, UN/INGOs should fund through as a public good and through program M&E budgets. There was positive feedback on the novel Charitable Franchise Model but an awareness that new approaches requiring change takes a lot of time and investment to integrate successfully.

In these early days of evidencing and trying to scale Loop we have been finding it hard to get funding to offer Loop as a collective service or public good in a sustainable way. We continue to explore potential revenue streams and costing brackets. 

To support this thinking we did a survey to ask a range of actors about who they think should be paying for Loop and how much they would expect to pay.  We sent the survey to actors across the spectrum of the Humanitarian, Development, Philanthropic and donor space. While it was a small sample it clearly shows that there is no one clear answer or costing that people / organisations are expecting.

For example: When we asked people what they thought it would cost to run a Community Feedback and Monitoring and Safe Reporting tool annually in each country, the responses ranged from $2,000 per month at least to $3 million (this budget included supporting 40 local organisations to mainstream Loop for one year as well).

40% respondents thought that donors should fund Loop as a public good. 1 thought UN and INGOs should fund it at the country level and 40% thought it should be part of program budgets of INGOs and UN Agencies. Only one respondent thought local organisations should pay for it.

When asked what budget lines you have available if you were to use it, 1 said: zero as we have our own mechanism. 1 said that they could include it in existing Safeguarding and HR budget lines. All others said they would have to fundraise for this specifically and include it in budget lines, for example as an extra hotline service cost in proposal writing.

We asked people, if it was 100% free would they be likely to use it? All said yes except 1 who said they had their own mechanism and didn't need anything else. 1 said yes but that there are other internal costs to consider to train staff, integrate it into systems etc.  Nobody said it was not relevant to their work.

Some comments included:

‘If established in a country it is easier to make the case internally, especially if others are part of it.’

There was a valid question: 

‘Not sure how much tech can reduce costs and provide economies of scale’.

Loop would be interested to look at cost benefit analysis and costs generally of Community Feedback Mechanisms and Sensitive Reporting, as well as data on the number of calls that can be managed by different approaches. 

We continue to monitor data on how many pieces of feedback moderators can manage at a maximum per day. This differs across variables including if it is voice and needs to be transcribed, if automations such as transcription and translations already exist and the average length or complexity of the feedback. However the number varies between 50 and 150 pieces of feedback per day per moderator. We hope to define this further in 2024.

Charitable Structure

Finally, Loop is learning a lot about our Charitable Franchise Model.  We did a Team Member Satisfaction Survey across staff, contractors, and host organisations, anonymously if they chose, to find out about how to improve the partnerships, sharing of work, funds, communications etc.  The feedback was extremely useful and positive:

Results from satisfaction survey. 

Everyone said that they would recommend Loop as a good place to work.  That is staff, contractors, host organisation staff etc. 

A lot of this was due to the strong purpose driven approach and impact that they see each day when working for Loop.  Following are some examples of the feedback received:

The fact that we are able to help the beneficiaries gets answers to their feedback and get assistance make my heart contented, when a GBV case is referred successfully and the survivor receives medication and counselling and we do follow-up for weeks and she shares her feeling and that she is better and things are okay, it motivates me to listen to every voice note each day and go out of my way to be great at what we do.”

“Being part of a team and a project that have a great potential for real accountability.”

“Personally I think the best part of my job is the everyday connection with other cultures and realities; the feeling that my work is aligned with my ethical values and political views on the world; and the realisation that whatever contribution I'm able to provide is helping Loop serve so many around the world.”

“Building a product with purpose. No major internal bureaucracy or politics to navigate. People with ambition, and drive to build something great. Modern, and progressive work culture.”

Other feedback was about the global nature and how host organisation staff got to work with other staff doing a similar role in a different country. They work remotely but as one large team learning from each other. This strongly reinforces the franchise and distributed models advantages: 

“Feeling the connection and passion to work between all these people around the world”

“Maybe we can be doing case studies for each country and see what worked there and what didn't and we compare notes and see if it brought positive impact we can use that in the other countries.”

“As Loop, we work in a very unique way, we have support from Global team and also have support from other countries, our structures and mode of communication is great.”

“I really appreciate our work structure. I feel very comfortable with it. Although there is a lot on the agenda, and for sure it can be overwhelming, I believe there is great power that comes with the feeling of being allowed to be vocal about your opinions, being valued, listened to and welcomed. Unfortunately this doesn't happen in every work space, and although it may bring its own set of challenges I believe we are on the right path.”

All global staff and some national staff have taken a pay cut when joining the Loop team, and we are not able to offer job security due to the nature of the funding to date. People expressed this challenge of being stretched in such circumstances, and we are no doubt not alone in the sector.

“Everything I think of in terms of improving Loop is linked to funding and human resource :)”

The Role of Loop going forward:

There are known barriers to people reporting.  We now have evidence of where Loop can or cannot contribute. Please see a breakdown below.

System level diagram: How it works?

Barriers that Loop can help to address

  • Access to reporting

Loop has evidence of improving accessibility of communities to report issues as a result of having additional languages, crossing the digital and the literacy divides and being open 24 hours a day 7 days a week remotely. 

  • Fear of retaliation 

Loop has evidence that people report to Loop because they can remain anonymous and because they are reporting to a non operational independent actor.

  • Duplication of mechanisms 

Loop acts as a safety net for communities who cannot access or do not know where to report. At the moment the burden of responsibility to find out where to report, what, from whom, is left to the community. Loop can help in this area. Choice gives people agency.

Some argue that Loop contributes to confusion amongst community members with multiple mechanisms being available and not knowing where to report what. In another way Loop can contribute to reducing the number of multiple mechanisms all being designed to address the known gaps in accountability. Loop can be used across different actors, different project time frames and even different responses. It can help smaller organisations without the funding to use Loop and this can be in a consistent way with their communities, regardless of their upstream donors.  While Loop is complementary to some it can be a complete solution for others. 

In addition Loop can help people or organisations who receive feedback which is not about them to pass it to Loop to help get it to the appropriate actor. We see ourselves as a safety net for feedback. 

  • Confidentiality and privacy

We have evidence that the independence of Loop and the anonymity offered is seen as offering a significant advantage to communities.  However, some organisations and networks may find it troubling that another actor has data about their organisation.  It is an important balance of building trust in our approaches and this takes time.

Barriers we can contribute to reducing

  • Not enough people reporting SEAH 

By providing the independence and anonymity to address some fears to reporting, Loop can contribute to receiving more reports. We have learnt that if an organisation does awareness raising and asks communities for this feedback then Loop can bring in additional reporting due to the accessibility, anonymity etc.

  • Lack of knowledge of how to report 

Loop and partners can help to raise awareness about people's rights and how to report and offer simple, safe and accessible options. 

  • Inconsistent follow up 

This is a significant barrier that we are seeing.  In our report for the last quarter on Somalia for example we report that:

Finally, in this quarter we see a low rate of replies from organisations back to communities, coupled with a large number of pending requests for organisations to sign up to Loop and worryingly, 48% of sensitive reports that are referred to organisations, have not being acknowledged by simply confirming receipt of the referral by the specialist focal point of that organisation. This lack of acknowledgement is predominantly for corruption and general protection referrals but also for GBV and Child Protection cases.

We are pleased to report that we see immediate confirmation of receipt for all urgent sensitive cases and SEA reports. We also continue to see successful assistance referrals, with all survivors reporting a positive supportive experience from these referrals. 

The lack of direct follow up and the delays in the process are a concern and is evidenced in other data sources as well. Loop is a tool designed to help organisations more easily reply to communities directly, across languages, input channels, time and projects.  

This low level of closing the feedback loop is a wider systemic issue. Time is needed to build trust, incentives are needed (which Loop can help with regarding data) to motivate engagement, and time and resources are needed to prioritise this as an essential aspect of a project.  The narrative around the prioritisation of accountability has been present and potentially growing for over five years.

  • Dissatisfaction of responses after reporting

Loop has not experienced dissatisfaction with the level of engagement for SEA or GBV reports from survivors. We have experienced dissatisfaction for some sensitive reporting but that links primarily to a lack of follow up. When there is follow up people tend to be satisfied. 

Similarly with open feedback. People are ringing back to say why is no one responding to me. This is a big risk to Loop as a mechanism because if communities continue to not get replies then there is no perceived value for them to continue providing feedback and adds to the survey / feedback fatigue that is prevalent in some contexts.

Barriers we cannot directly address

  • Face-to-face reporting 

Loop is complementary and can be introduced to people after face-to-face meetings as a way of continuing the conversation remotely.  But we are not and will never be providing face-to-face feedback mechanisms.  This is not cost efficient and is duplicative of many other actors' professionalisation.

  • Knowledge of SEAH amongst community members 

This links in to awareness raising and trust building, which organisations and authorities need to be doing and they can use Loop to help as a resource.

  • Systemic barriers/ Power/ Protectionism

This is a larger issue with a lot of discussions and changes in the system each year.  Loop is a tool which can be used to support change in an easy, cost efficient way.

Based on this learning, in 2024, we need to find answers, within the first 4 months of the year to the following key questions:

  1. Will some aspects of the humanitarian system fund and embrace a collective mechanism which is owned and run nationally, long term on behalf of local and international actors? This is playing out in Somalia, DRC and Sudan.
  2. Will philanthropic and donors supporting new locally owned systems and approaches fund the Loop host organisations in different countries, so as to integrate and scale Loop with relevant development, human rights and humanitarian actors over a 2 - 3 year period? 
  3. Will Loop need to close up as an initiative which provided evidence that a locally owned, country specific, collective, real time and transparent mechanism is possible and await to learn if the narrative is backed up by funding and action? Or will it be integrated into structures which are owned by the existing power holders in a more sustainable manner?

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Alex Ross
Loop Lead