Scaling digital community engagement in the COVID-19 response

Ukrainian Red Cross staff and volunteers are raising awareness about COVID-19 vaccination. PHOTO: IFRC
Ukrainian Red Cross staff and volunteers are raising awareness about COVID-19 vaccination.PHOTO: IFRC

The Red Cross and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) will scale a solution for digital community engagement that will improve timely, relevant and actionable lifesaving information for people affected by humanitarian crises.

What is the humanitarian challenge?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced humanitarian organisations to provide services remotely and with less in-person contact with people affected by humanitarian crises. Understanding needs and receiving feedback from affected people has been increasingly challenging due to travel restrictions and other COVID measures.

What is innovative about this project?

Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have been engaged in the collection and analysis of community feedback since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and has developed new forms to communicate with affected communities through digital channels. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has similarly developed new forms of community engagement by delivering surveys through digital channels such as SMS, USSD and voice. In the past year NRC has scaled up its' Digital Community Hubs to 27 countries, where they integrate local and global services from mobile network operators and cloud communication providers, to provide 2-way communication options and information broadcasting to refugees. NRC is linking beneficiary communication by bringing together humanitarian organizations and private sector to align on approaches, referrals, technology, mobile numbers and channels to communicate across organizations with people affected. NRC is now opening up the Digital Community Hubs to bring efficiency and quality to community engagement in the wider humanitarian ecosystem.

This project builds on global partnerships that the IFRC network and NRC have with technology providers such as Twilio and Telerivet, with mobile network operators such as MTN, and with GSMA, the association of mobile network operators.

What are the expected outcomes?

The goal of this project is to improve timely, relevant and actionable lifesaving information for people affected by humanitarian crises through digital community engagement. Through this scaling project, IFRC and NRC will work to increase the sectors’ understanding of digital community engagement and access to tooling and guidance ready to implement and scale.