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Acceptance Research Brief FINAL

Acceptance Research Brief FINAL

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Published by: faithfreeman on Sep 08, 2011
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I. Collaborative Learning Approach toNGO Security Management:Fieldwork overview
Key challenges for relief and development NGOs are toaccess populations in need, ensure program delivery, andmaximize staff security in complex, dynamic, and ofteninsecure environments. This depends on effective security management. Many organizations adopt “acceptance” asone element of their security management strategy in acountry. Acceptance is “founded on effective relationshipsand cultivating and maintaining consent from beneficiaries,local authorities, belligerents and other stakeholders. This inturn is a means of reducing or removing potential threats inorder to access vulnerable populations and undertakeprogramme activities.”
  The Collaborative Learning Approach to NGO Security Management project aims to promote a betterunderstanding of acceptance as a security managementapproach, including what acceptance is and in whatcircumstances it can be effective. Part of this projectinvolved field research in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudanto document the perspectives of key stakeholders, including community members, NGO staff, and government officialson the following three questions:(1) How do organizations gain and maintain acceptance?(2) How do organizations assess and monitor the presenceand degree of acceptance?(3) How do organizations determine whether acceptance iseffective in a particular context?
Fast, Larissa, and Michael O'Neill. 2010. A closer look atacceptance.
Humanitarian Exchange
, June, 3-6.
Acceptance Research
InterAction Forum Brief,
 August 2011
 The field research, also referred to as collaborative learning activities (CLA), occurred in two phases involving staff members from 16 international NGOs and localorganizations active in Kenya, Uganda, or South Sudan.First, to prepare participants for the collaborative learning activities, project staff held a Regional Consultation and Training Workshop in Nairobi. After the workshop,participants returned to their countries for the secondphase, which included two weeks of field research in thecapital city and two field locations in each country. Researchteams conducted key informant interviews with NGO staff  working in a variety of positions, including country directors, logisticians, security focal points, programmanagers, and human resource staff. The teams also heldfocus group discussions and interviews with local security officials, local government officials, community members(both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries) and local CBOstaff. The findings focus on community acceptance ratherthan acceptance by belligerents and otherstakeholders, reflecting the composition of our informants. The purpose of this brief is to introduce readers to severalkey discussions that emerged from the field research andthe project as a whole. To learn more about the project andaccess other project documents, visit our on-line forum
 Acceptance Research 
II. Acceptance as a security managementapproach: Highlights from the field
 Acceptance as a program and security management approach
Many organizations see acceptance as a programming strategy rather than a security management approach. Atfirst glance, this is not surprising. Organizations already focus on program implementation in ways that enhance
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acceptance, for example by meeting community needs,building relationships, negotiating access, and respecting thecultural norms and traditions of the communities wherethey work. At an
level, however, NGOs do notformally link these practices to security management, eventhough the research suggests that many NGO field staff seea clear linkage between program choices and their security implications.
Security Programs
Security Programs
Figure 1: Security, programs and acceptance
Digging deeper into this observation reveals nuances thatsuggest practical steps towards stronger connectionsbetween programs, security, and acceptance. For example,limiting acceptance to program implementation practicesignores the security implications of other policies andpractices across the organization in areas such asadministration, human resources, and communication. Ininstances where organizations make these connections, thisis done in an ad hoc or piecemeal manner.
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  To achieve the promise of acceptance, organizationsshould:
Make a clear and unambiguous commitment toacceptance as a program and security managementapproach.
Revisit policies and procedures and apply an“acceptance for security” lens to on-going programmatic and administrative practices anddecisions.
Gaining Acceptance
 While the research identified multiple ways thatorganizations gain acceptance, we highlight only staffing inthis brief.
Regardless of location and program portfolio, NGOsrecognize the importance of adequate and appropriatestaffing. In relation to acceptance, research participantsdiscussed issues including staff composition, recruitmentand hiring processes, the preparation and welfare of staff infield locations, and staff behavior. While the effects of decisions about staffing are not always directly linked tosecurity, they do affect the degree to which communitiesmay identify with the NGO and its staff, and therefore theextent to which the NGO is accepted.
Organizational practices
Staff composition.
NGO staff and community members bothemphasized the importance of staff ethnicity, religion,gender and place of origin in influencing their ability todevelop relationships with the community and gainacceptance. For example, in Uganda, key informantsdiscussed the negative impact on community acceptance when organizations hire individuals from another part of the country for key staff positions. In South Sudan,government officials and community members expresseddiscontent with the drain in resources that non-Sudanesestaff represent (with higher pay and more costly benefits) atthe expense of additional services that they might otherwisereceive. In Kenya, community members suggested non-Kenyans were better able to maintain neutrality and avoidtribal affiliation.
Recruitment and hiring processes.
Community members in severallocations identified a desire formore transparency in recruitmentprocesses since community members do not alwaysunderstand why organizationshire certain individuals. Someorganizations who the researchteams spoke with in Kenya andSouth Sudan address this issuedirectly. They ask community elders to sit in on job interviews,and the elders later explain to thecommunity who the organizationhired and why.
Limiting acceptance to program implementation  practices ignores the security implications of other policies and  practices across the organization in areas such as administration,human resources,and communication.
Preparation and welfare of staff in field locations.
It is commonpractice for NGOs to provide a cultural orientation andsecurity briefing to expatriate staff before placement in fieldlocations. As well, NGOs usually support expatriate staff inlocating and negotiating secure housing and transportationor they provide it directly. These same services are notnecessarily provided to national staff relocating from onepart of the country to another region. Instead, research inUganda pointed out that organizations often assume thatnational staff will understand the local culture and security situation, even though this is not always the case.
 Monitoring and assessing acceptance
In general, the research showed that NGOs do not haveformal indicators for acceptance, nor do they systematically assess whether they have gained acceptance. However,multiple informants identified either mechanisms through which they monitor acceptance, or indicators that can beused to assess both the presence and effectiveness of acceptance. These include:
 Mechanisms to monitor acceptance 
Staff behavior
Use community feedback mechanisms such ascomplaints boxes or hotlines, or formal and informalconversations with community members;Staff behavior refers not only to staff members’ ability toabide by an organization’s code of conduct but also to theirlevel of understanding of the local cultural context andmost importantly, their ability to show and earn respect. The research emphasized the critical role that individualfield staff play in building relationships that lead toacceptance, and the fact that the actions of one staff personcan immediately damage (or improve) an organization’sacceptance. In South Sudan, research participants noted, forexample, that NGO staff who “tamper” with women in thecommunity and/or cattle belonging to the community immediately lose any protected status they might have builtthrough other acceptance-related efforts.
Include community engagement and participation inprogram monitoring reports (referred to by oneorganization as a “people count”);
Monitor the extent to which community members useservices;
 Track beneficiary contributions toward projectimplementation and success (e.g. donation of land, help with construction of project buildings);
Discuss the quality of community relations as part of staff meetings on programs and/or security.
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  To achieve the promise of acceptance, organizationsshould:
Deliberately consider what hiring policies already existand whether they reflect acceptance-related concerns. Astarting point is to ask: How, if at all, do humanresource policies reflect the need to gain acceptance forsecurity as well as program purposes? For example, doorganizations think about the identity of staff (e.g. age,gender, and place of origin) vis-à-vis the locations where they will work, and ensure appropriateorientation and support in their positions?
Photo by Michael O’Neill, Focus group discussion, Kenya
Include skills and characteristics such as relationship-building, respectfulness, ability to understand the localcontext, and behavior in job descriptions andperformance evaluations, as they are critical for gaining and maintaining acceptance.
Indicators to assess the presence and effectiveness of acceptance 
Lack of incidents;
 Ability to access populations;
Community-shared information.
Place more emphasis on acceptance-related skills andresponsibilities in orientation and training as well asperformance evaluations, including negotiation andrelationship-building skills, the ability to adapt to thecultural environment and to show respect.
Recom mendations 
  To achieve the promise of acceptance, organizationsshould: 

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