“It was something of a leap of faith, because I wasn’t sure how much traction there would be. Or if people would be concerned about what came to the surface.”

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Episode notes

Nick van Praag founded and runs an organisation called Ground Truth Solutions. They work with people affected by crises to get their feedback and perspectives on emergency response.

In practice this means door-to-door surveys, over time, of how people feel about the timeliness, quality and fairness of humanitarian service provision. This is shared with service providers and funding agencies to benchmark what they’re doing, and encourage greater responsiveness.

What is particularly intriguing is that Nick started Ground Truth in 2012 after a long career in the World Bank and other multilateral institutions. So this amounted to a pretty significant career pivot!

Show notes:

[02:10]  Working with communities to provide structured feedback to humanitarian organisations on how they’re doing. The topics that are covered, and the process for collecting and reporting findings.

[09:20]  Attitudes amongst humanitarian agencies. Building demand for, and genuine engagement with, this kind of feedback.

[18:20]  Experiences as an executive at UNHCR and the World Bank. Recognising that there were changes that needed to happen, and taking the leap to establish a start-up that would foreground “a perspective that couldn’t be argued with”.

[23:35]  Learning over six years of Ground Truth Solutions. Links with wider “moments” in humanitarian reform and changing wider norms and expectations about the role and voice of service recipients.

[32:10]  Ethical challenges around commissioned “participation”. Designing the work to ensure that is respectful of service recipients and adds value for them, as well as for commissioning organisations.

[36:25]  How to integrate community feedback into management and decision-making. Learning on what makes feedback “actionable”.

[41:55]  Grappling with the extreme fragmentation and decentralisation of the humanitarian sector. Organisation-level vs system-level perspectives.

[45:40]  Key takeaways from a long career. The relative merits of large organisations vs a purpose-driven start-up. Sources of inspiration and courage to make big decisions.