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Placing communities at the heart of what we do

Save the Children is committed to making itself accountable to the children and communities it works with and for.

A key element of this commitment is the need to establish Complaints Response Mechanisms (CRMs).

These are simple, safe and accessible ways for anyone affected by Save the Children’s work to provide feedback, raise concerns or lodge complaints — and ensure that they are investigated efficiently.

Our work in Rwanda

Before Save the Children starts work in a community, we consult with local authorities, parents, community members.

I visited a community in the district of Rubaya in Rwanda where Save the Children establishes centres for Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) aimed at children aged three to six.

In November 2011, a focus group discussion with 33 community members was held in Rubaya to introduce the concept of accountability.

The aim is that community members decide what mechanisms fit their project best.

Elisa and Charles provide examples of different methods of reporting from other countries’ experience.

Ideas buzzing

Elisa, Education Programme Manager, and Charles, Education Programme Officer, from the Save the Children team facilitate the process, but the decisions are all made by the community.

People are respectful and raise their hands before talking, but the room is buzzing with ideas.

Community members enter into a discussion about the pros and cons of the various methodologies.

Will local authorities be involved?

Will people be able to retain anonymity if they make a complaint?

Is the reporting method affordable for even the poorest members of the community?

Should there be more than one method for reporting?

Time to vote

A member of the local authority runs through the list of suggested methodologies and people raise their hand if they are in favour of using it.

Community members raise their hands to choose their preferred reporting mechanism.

The results show overwhelming support for two accountability methods:

1. Mobile phone (32 votes)

2. A quarterly meeting (33 votes)

It is agreed that two telephone numbers will be given to the community for them to phone if they ever have an urgent complaint.

The second method, of quarterly meetings, would allow for more extensive discussion, and would be used to resolve issues which are less pressing.

Save the Children believes passionately that accountability to the communities we work in is key.

It ensures that commitments are taken seriously and responsibly, it places communities at the heart of all decisions, and empowers them to use their voice.

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