Linking security and staff skills
Acceptance is an approach to security which many of our members have used, do use or could use. Staff are clearly critical to successful acceptance approaches. A report and toolkit on acceptance has recently been launched. Here are extracts, uncritically focusing on what the HR function and managers need to think about.
What is Acceptance?
"Acceptance is founded on effective relationships and cultivating and maintaining consent from beneficiaries, local authorities, belligerents, and other stakeholders. This, in turn, is a means of reducing or removing potential threats in order to access vulnerable populations and undertake programme activities.
Given the dynamic nature of the contexts in which aid agencies operate, acceptance must be continually sought, constantly monitored, and systematically maintained over time."
"The years that NGOs could rely on safety just for being a “Do-gooder” are far behind us. Acceptance is not a given anymore but has to be actively sought. The Acceptance toolkit is a useful tool to acquire and preserve acceptance in the communities we serve.
The tool combines a strong theoretical framework with practical instruments. Implementing this tool is not something that will happen overnight. It has to be integrated into your programmes, HR and other operational activities. On the other hand, when properly done, it does not require a lot of work to maintain this framework. When you are operating as a professional NGO, it can be easily incorporated into day-to-day programming.
The tool is especially valuable when you are staying in unsafe areas long-term. When you do not have field offices and only make short travels to unsafe areas, stronger emphasis on protection may be preferable. That said, I think the toolkit has the potential to become a prerequisite for NGOs operating in (post) conflict areas."
Ebe Brons, Director of Centre for Safety and Development
The section of the toolkit on Staffing should stimulate managers to take a good look at their field teams:
"Organisational personnel play a central role in promoting or hindering acceptance. Staffing decisions can affect acceptance in many ways. The following areas of staffing in particular affect acceptance:
Staff skills and qualities
Staffing decisions determine in large part whether staff have the necessary qualities and skills to gain acceptance from stakeholders, including the ability to communicate effectively, negotiate, and build relationships. In addition to these skills, staff behavior and willingness to respect cultural norms can have a significant impact on an organisation’s ability to gain acceptance.
In some cases, staffing for acceptance might require balancing identity (e.g., nationality, region, religion, gender, age, social status, or ethnic background) with programmatic or professional competencies in order gain or maintain acceptance. The composition of an organization’s staff and whether there is a “defendable mix” of personnel from different social, ethnic, urban/rural, or religious groups may also affect perceptions of an organization, its values, and espoused principles.
Recruitment, firing, and compensation practices
Staffing decisions also affect perceptions of the organization through the ways in which local, national, regional, and international staff are hired, fired, and compensated. Discrepancies between international and national staff salaries and the resource availability to people in communities compared to that of the organisation can be sources of tension and may be further exacerbated by a lack of transparency of processes and decision-making.
In cases where acceptance is exclusively linked to an individual staff member, the organization may lose stakeholder consent for its presence and activities in the community when a staff member departs from an organisation. In addition, the organization loses local knowledge and the relationships developed by the staff member.”
Other parts of the toolkit are relevant to HR colleagues as well. Are staff trained in acceptance, with non-operational staff such as cleaners or drivers also sensitized to the issues? Does security provision differ for expats and local staff? Are risks different for different genders, ethnicities etc?
There’s a useful warning in the report: “Many NGO staff not only assume they are accepted but often believe acceptance is effective; meaning, they believe it is working to reduce risks to staff and programs.”
The assessment tool contained in the toolkit aims to establish whether this is true.
Tuesday 31 July 2012
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