Project Overview

The Collaborative Learning Approach to NGO Security Management project is an OFDA-funded year-long project on acceptance as an approach to NGO security management. This project aims to promote a better understanding of acceptance as a security management approach, including what acceptance is and in what circumstances it can be effective. It also seeks to incorporate the views and experiences of national staff and how security management practices affect national staff.

The following Project Overview provides a brief summary of each project event and document.


1. International Consultations in Washington, DC and Geneva

Directors of security and other headquarters staff discussed the key concepts of acceptance, activities to gain acceptance, strategies for promoting acceptance at the headquarters level and challenges and successes in promoting acceptance. These consultations spurred thinking on acceptance, promoted the sharing of practices and informed the Acceptance White Paper discussed below. At the consultation, organizations also had the opportunity to voice their interest in participating in the Regional Workshop and field research inEast Africa.

2. Acceptance White Paper (forthcoming in Disasters)

Presents a comprehensive look at how organizations conceptualize acceptance and some of the main challenges to implementing an acceptance approach to security management. The paper examines the key components of acceptance, which include: principles and mission, stakeholder and context analysis, programming, relationships and networks, negotiation and communications, staffing and image and perceptions. It also examines challenges related to how security management structures impact acceptance, the dilemmas posed by individual versus organizational acceptance and the challenges of contextualizing an acceptance approach. We hope that by putting forth a holistic conceptualization of acceptance this paper will serve as a platform for future efforts to develop organizational tools and policies for implementing an effective acceptance approach to security management.

3. ‘Acceptance Toolkit’

The toolkit provides a template and guidance for organizations to assess their own approach to acceptance. It aims to help organizations systematically assess and think through how acceptance fits into their security management approach, what actions they can take to gain acceptance, and how they can assess the presence and degree of acceptance over time and whether acceptance is effective in a context. The first part of the toolkit introduces users to qualitative research methods, including key informant interviews, focus group discussions and document analysis that can be used to gather information on how the organization approaches and applies an acceptance approach. The second part of the toolkit covers three sections: (1) Applying an acceptance approach, (2) Assessing and monitoring the presence and degree of acceptance and (3) Determining whether acceptance is effective in a context. The toolkit is currently being revised based on feedback from participants at the Regional Workshop.

4. Regional Consultation and Training Workshop and field research in East Africa

In April, the project team held key events in East Africa: a Regional Consultation and Training Workshop in Nairobi followed by field research on acceptance inKenya,Uganda andSouth Sudan. Field staff from sixteen different organizations participated, with some organizations sending staff from more than one country.

The aim of the Regional Consultation and Training Workshop was twofold – 1) to generate a better understanding of acceptance as a security management approach, specifically including the field-level perspective and 2) to train participants in qualitative field research methods.  The field research that followed the Workshop inUganda, South Sudan andKenyaaimed to gather information on how NGOs and other stakeholders understand and implement acceptance. The field research was structured around the following three main research questions:  

  1. What actions do organizations take to gain acceptance?
  2. How do organizations assess and monitor the presence and degree of acceptance?
  3. How do organizations determine whether acceptance is effective in a specific context?

Directly following the Workshop, participants returned to their country of origin to participate in ten days of field research as part of a collaborative learning team. Research teams conducted key informant interviews and held focus groups in the capital city and two field locations in each country with a wide range of NGO staff, not only staff with security responsibilities. Interviewees included country directors, logisticians, security focal points, program managers, and human resource staff.  Research teams also conducted interviews with local security officials and held focus groups with community members (both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries) and local CBO staff.

Preliminary findings

  • There is a lack of understanding of acceptance as a security management approach at the field level.  However, many staff apply acceptance principles as part of a programming approach.
  • In general, staff assume they are accepted because of their programs and values and rarely account for stakeholders outside of community members, local leaders and government officials.
  • In general, staff assume that acceptance is an effective approach to security.
  • Despite these assumptions, there is ample evidence of acceptance playing a key role in preventing and resolving security incidents on the ground.
  • Organizations have some tools related to gaining acceptance, such as stakeholder and context analyses, but these tools do not necessarily include acceptance-related observations. These tools could be adapted and revised to be more effective in promoting an acceptance approach.
  • Organizations lack tools or methods to assess whether they are accepted in an area and whether or not acceptance is effective.
  • There is a need for future collaborative efforts to develop practical guidelines and tools for organizations to better implement an acceptance approach, to assess their level of acceptance from different stakeholders and to document whether acceptance is effective.

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