The Importance of Listening

Within the international development and humanitarian sectors, there has been a growing call for better Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP), Communicating with Communities (CwC), and using feedback and “real-time” Monitoring and Evaluation to improve programming and outcomes for affected populations.

But in the field, what do these concepts mean? What do they actually look like in practice, and how do they work?

Through the use of Listening Groups in South Sudan, Internews’ Humanitarian Information Services (HIS) programs have found a platform for putting these principles into practice. Listening Groups meet regularly to listen to audio programming, review awareness campaigns, discuss issues and challenges facing their communities, and provide valuable feedback to the HIS and to humanitarian agencies. HIS teams analyze feedback from the Listening Groups to better understand evolving information needs, adapt HIS programs, and deliver feedback to relevant humanitarian agencies regarding their programs and services. The Groups have become a valuable tool for two-way conversations with communities, promoting accountability within the humanitarian sector, and continually adapting and improving programs.

These Listening Groups are more than just a series of focus groups sessions held over time. Through participation in the groups, members build a relationship and trust between each other, the HIS, and with humanitarian organizations in the area. The groups cultivate a sense of community ownership, engagement, and participation, which is not only critical to efficient and effective program delivery but promotes a sense of resilience in the midst of a crisis.

The Listening Groups Module contains the collective knowledge of the Internews South Sudan team gained over three years’ experience managing more than 700 Listening Groups across the country. Depending on your interests, each section is useful and can be read on its own. When combined together, the three parts of the Module give you a holistic understanding of Listening Group projects in South Sudan, and what the Internews Humanitarian Information Services team has learned over three years of implementation.

This document contains Parts I and II. “Part III. How To Guide” is packaged in a separate document, so that you can easily share it and take it with you.

Cover: Listening Module Part I & IIPart I. Context describes the information and media landscape in South Sudan, and the value of Listening Groups as a tool for communicating with communities, accountability, and adaptive programming.

Part II. Case Study discusses the implementation of Listening Groups to gather feedback on HIS programs in Juba and Malakal, as well as the Listening Groups organized in Abyei to support Internews’ news and information project in the area. The case studies also cover challenges and lessons learned in order to offer recommendations for future Listening Group activities.

Cover: Listening Module Part IIIPart III. How To Guide provides a step-by-step methodology for establishing, facilitating, and monitoring a Listening Group in any location. It also includes a description of the feedback collection process.

The Listening Groups Module was designed by the Internews South Sudan team. It is part of the Internews Humanitarian Information Services Learning Collection, which communicates key lessons, best practices, and programmatic methodologies used by Internews’ humanitarian teams around the world.

See the full South Sudan Humanitarian Learning Collection