Listen Learn Act Project

Enhanced response capacity 

From 2015-17 DanChurchAid, Save the Children and Ground Truth Solutions (Keystone Accountability) embarked on an exciting global quality and accountability project, piloted in four countries (Mali, Nepal, Ethiopia and the Syria response in Lebanon). With a serious commitment to quality and accountability for disaster-affected populations, and with ECHO’s support, the Listen Learn Act project also reinforced the roll-out of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS).

Listen Learn Act maintained a close partnership with Sphere and the CHS Alliance while reaching out to the broader humanitarian community through established coordination and policy mechanisms at field and global levels. We also communicated with organisations undertaking similar initiatives, sharing experiences throughout the action.

What’s the problem?

All too often, humanitarian actors don’t thoroughly consult with affected populations, nor do we give them much chance to offer their perspectives on the assistance they receive or the agencies that provide it. Initiatives for feedback with affected populations are often limited to complaints mechanisms, which are important, but do not in themselves fully mean accountable responses. We also conduct 'data extraction exercises' with beneficiaries but we often lack the necessary human resources to listen effectively to beneficiaries and manage our performance accordingly. Staff on the ground are overstretched, and there are gaps in organisations' capacities to handle and respond to feedback from affected populations. Finally, the humanitarian system itself lacks incentives for organisations to put in place effective feedback loops and manage performance based on evidence provided through beneficiary feedback. There is a need for convincing evidence about the effectiveness of feedback systems and a better understanding of the benefits they bring to humanitarian assistance.

What’s Listen Learn Act all about?

Listen Learn Act brought an innovative “ground-truthing” survey tool to ask 300-400 disaster-affected people 5-10 questions developed around the CHS standards. Survey results were analysed and discussed with communities and NGOs to “course corrected” based on the feedback. We re-surveyed at regular intervals, and discussed and monitored changes in feedback.

Our specific objective was: Enhanced response capacity through the development, use and integration of an innovative and practical methodology for monitoring accountability to beneficiaries; training and awareness raising of humanitarian actors; and global dissemination of findings.

To see a short video featuring the thoughts of people who participated in Listen Learn Act in Mali, please click here. For participants’ responses from Lebanon, please click here.

The project’s results were:
1) Participating humanitarian organisations integrate beneficiary feedback systems to test and inform the roll out of Core Humanitarian Standard across different contexts and address shortcomings in their performance;
2) Targeted humanitarian organisations improve accountability and beneficiary feedback systems through blended learning approaches and shared experiences through a community of practice; and
3) Increased access and awareness of the Core Humanitarian Standard and beneficiary feedback systems through dissemination of outputs and lessons learned from the action.
Some practical benefits for participating organisations included:
• Better quality data from affected people on performance and accountability, as well as an accompanied process to integrate that data and feedback into programming decisions.
• Improved skills, knowledge, awareness and practices of effective communications and survey tools, potentially improving the quality of needs assessments and responses in future crises.
• Less time spent monitoring and trying to understand feedback.
• Improved accountability and beneficiary feedback systems through blended learning approaches and share experiences through a community of practice.

We worked with four organisations in each country (16 in total). They designed and field-tested feedback surveys with Ground Truth Solutions and then trained local data enumerators surveyed the affected communities. Participating organisations received real-time feedback from beneficiaries and guidance on data analysis and course correction.

We took a blended learning approach to the capacity building activities, to ensure sustainability and a larger outreach. The project included a two-day training for 50 participants in each country (200 in total), so those not selected for the survey component still had a chance to take part in the training and learn about the process, build relationships and create possibilities for experience sharing.

A major focus for the project was wider dissemination and learning about quality and accountability, through an e-learning course in English, French and Arabic, with modules available freely and accessible on demand . To find out more about the project, or take part in the free online course (launched on November 14, 2016), go to, create a user account and search for “Listen Learn Act”.
Through this channel, the project also benefits those that did not attend live trainings for financial, logistical or other reasons.

We continue to do our best to ensure that organisations are supported as much as possible as they bring quality, accountability and the CHS fully into their work.
DanChurchAid, Save the Children and Ground Truth Solutions (Keystone Accountability) are grateful for ECHO’s support for this project.

Find out more about the Core Humanitarian Standard here.

You can download our first learning report, Checking the Heartbeat of Humanitarian Assistance, by Andy Featherstone here (1.45 MB), and in French Contrôle du rythme cardiaque de l'aide humanitaire here (1.47 MB)

Our final learning report, Placing Accountability at the Heart of Humanitarian Assistance, by Andy Featherstone is available here (2.20 MB), and in French Placer la redevabilité au cœur de lassistance humanitaire here (2.96 MB)

For further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Head of Quality Management, Karen Birgitte Rasmussen at