Learning from communities in Nepal

Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities

By Soledad Muniz, InsightShare; Tamar Gabay, BRC UK; and Sushama Pandey, BRC Nepal

The context

Nepal’s urban growth rate of 5% is the highest of any south Asian country. This has resulted in heterogeneous and complex urban societies that require sophisticated strategies to foster social capital – an integral part of disaster resilience. The country faces numerous natural and (increasingly) man-made hazards, most notoriously a major seismic risk as showcased with the 2015 earthquakes. Seismologists predict a much larger 8+ magnitude quake is still due. Meanwhile, other risks persist including floods, landslides and epidemics, along with entrenched poverty, further threatening and undermining people’s resilience. Escalating urbanisation has amplified the exposure and impact of these threats, and has aggravated hazards such as chronic pollution and industrial and traffic accidents. Compounding the problem, awareness of the risks and mitigation strategies is weak, as are the links between municipal authorities and those who are most vulnerable to disasters.

 In response to the 2015 earthquake, British Red Cross (BRC) and Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) implemented a multi sector recovery programme in the three districts of Kathmandu Valley (Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, and Kathmandu). The programme, part of the one Movement Plan across 14 districts, covers livelihoods, shelter, WASH, health and National Society capacity building sectors. The BRC-supported programme in the Valley is funded by the UK’s DEC as well as appeal funding.

The Strengthening Urban Resilience and Engagement (SURE) programme is designed to improve the urban disaster resilience of municipal governments, the NRCS and citizens, including specific vulnerable groups, across the seven targeted municipalities in the Kathmandu valley, Kaski and Kailali. SURE uses multi-hazard and network based analysis to identify areas to be addressed in order to increase the overall disaster resilience of people in urban areas. Over five years it aims to achieve the following outcomes: Citizens and vulnerable groups in the target municipal areas have increased awareness of Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and are able to advocate to municipal government for actions to increase resilience; Citizens and targeted vulnerable groups in target municipal areas are more resilient to disasters; Targeted municipal governments are better engaged with citizens and have greater capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters; NRCS has increased capacity to respond and work with municipal government, citizens and vulnerable groups to build their resilience to disasters; NRCS and BRC systematically collect, analyse, disseminate and apply learning to adapt and strengthen programming on an on-going basis. 

Listening and learning from communities

BRC and NRCS wanted to integrate more participatory approaches into their planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting (PMER) systems as well as their community engagement and accountability (CEA) work in their programmes in Nepal. To this end, they partnered with InsightShare to build staff capacity to apply participatory methods to collect and analyse stories of change from communities over a period of five months (between October 2018 and February 2019) and after a careful process of co-design and planning during the early months of 2018.

The InsightShare team travelled twice to Kathmandu Valley to train 24 staff using a three-stage capacity building approach involving technical and experiential learning in Participatory Video and Most Significant Change (PV MSC). The staff trained was approximately 50 percent PMER officers and 50 percent CEA officers (20 from NRCS and 4 from BRC Nepal).

During those five months, the staff conducted fieldwork – involving community members in telling stories of change and filming the stories selected as most significant – edited the videos, organised screening events with community members and staff, as well as analysed all the stories collected (44 for Earthquake recover and 53 for SURE) using participatory analysis methods to unpack learning and verify interpretation of stories. They also created video reports to share the learning widely. You can watch them here:

Earthquake Recovery programme:

SURE programme:

Feedback from community members suggested that it was an interesting experience for them and watching the videos was exciting. They were calling each other ‘a star’ or ‘director’ and seemed to enjoy the process a lot. At times projects face challenges to engage community members and the team in Nepal found that participatory video is a helpful method in such situations.

What's next? 

The staff came up with key recommendations for NRCS and BRC on how to use the videos, the data and results, as well as the PV MSC method in the future. The senior teams of NRCS and BRC in Nepal fully support project staff to routinely embed PV MSC it in their work. 

The videos will be used in review and planning meetings, transition meetings, stakeholder meetings, as well as in presentations, information kiosks, murals, arts and school programmes, to raise awareness on the issues raised. They will also be used in trainings, orientation workshops, and district and sub-chapter level meetings. The videos are displayed on social media, NRCS website and Youtube, and audio from the videos is shared on NRCS’s radio programmes (when community members have given consent for public sharing).

The data captured in the stories will be used in quarterly reports, routine monitoring, mid-term and final evaluations, in triangulation of other tools, as well as for process documentation. For example, the SURE programme will repeat the process every six months for routine monitoring and will emphasise using videos to share learning across different target groups and programme stakeholders, including senior management and donors.

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