TRAINING PACKAGE: USING SOCIAL SCIENCE for COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND/OR COMMUNICATION ACTIVITIES during an emergency response

The Collective Service (CS) seeks to reinforce capacity and local solutions to humanitarian emergencies through mentoring, technical support and resource sharing with local actors and national and subnational governments.

People working in community engagement and/or communications related fields face several limitations to the effective integration of social science in health emergency interventions and policymaking. There are gaps in terms of knowledge and capacity to produce and use operational social science research in humanitarian and health emergency contexts.

This training package was developed to address these gaps by providing a set of modules with practical and detailed guidance for facilitators to adapt and use at the local level.

Development of this training package was led by Anthrologica for the Collective Service. The content was co-produced with partners from the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform (SSHAP), the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Translators Without Borders (TWB), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Rapid Research Evaluation and Appraisal Lab (RREAL) at University College London (UCL), UNICEF’s Social Science Analytics Cell (CASS), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Oxfam and READY at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Objectives of the training

To equip with the knowledge to commission and/or design and implement operational social science research which can generate robust, rigorous and context-relevant socio-behavioural evidence.

To provide with the capacity to access, assess and make sense of, evaluate, and synthesize existing socio-behavioural evidence relevant to work.

To strengthen the ability to use socio-behavioural evidence to inform and adapt activities and other broader decision-making during humanitarian crises.

Data to action

Across the training package, the modules and sessions address one or more of these key questions in the social science research process.

What information is needed?
Who needs this information?
DOES THIS INFORMATION ALREADY EXIST? IS THERE A RELATED NEEDS ASSESSMENT OR STUDY?
Who can collect this information?
WHAT METHODOLOGY AND TOOLS SHOULD BE USED TO COLLECT AND ANALYSE THIS INFORMATION?
HOW TO ENSURE THAT THIS INFORMATION GOES BACK TO COMMUNITIES? TO INFORM COMMUNITY-LEVEL ACTIONS AND DECISION-MAKING OF THE BROADER RESPONSE?
HOW TO ENSURE THAT THE INFORMATION IS USED TO MAKE OPERATIONAL AND/OR STRATEGIC DECISIONS?
HOW TO TRACK THE INFORMATION USED TO ENSURE THAT IT EFFECTIVELY CONTRIBUTES TO OPERATIONAL AND STRATEGIC PRIORITIES?

Training modules and sessions

The training modules were developed to address key social science competency domains for those working in community engagement and/or communications related fields. Each module is made up of multiple sessions. Each individual session has a specific focus and learning outcome, which relates directly to the competency statement developed for each domain.

1. Social science in humanitarian action and health emergencies

Session 1.1: Introduction to social science: Definition, approaches and role in humanitarian action

This session discusses the value and the role of social science research in humanitarian action with a focus on community engagement and communications activities.

Session 1.2: Operational social science research in the humanitarian/emergency response cycle

This session defines operational social science and how it can be used in settings where research is time-sensitive. It also explains where it fits within the humanitarian emergency/response cycle.

Session 1.3: Advocating for the inclusion of social science in emergency response activities that engage communities
This session explores why and how to advocate for the inclusion of social science research in activities that engage communities and in a humanitarian/emergency response.

2. Context analysis and behavioural drivers and barriers

Session 2.1: Understanding context, vulnerability and inequality in public health and humanitarian emergencies
This session introduces the idea that it is important to understand broad social context in order to understand vulnerability and inequality. It also highlights the importance of recognizing the strengths and resiliencies of affected communities, to better design and implement emergency response.
Session 2.2: Understanding behaviour in humanitarian/emergency response: modules and theories
This session discusses how to understand and identify the drivers and barriers to the uptake of behaviours critical to the response to humanitarian action.
Session 2.3: Rapid strategies to understand the political, sociocultural and economic factors that increase vulnerability
This session discusses rapid strategies to establish and deepen participants’ understanding of social determinants, risk perceptions, historical, political, sociocultural and economic context to overcome vulnerabilities of specific population groups.
Session 2.4: Understanding the importance of language in social science research

This session discusses the significance of language in social science research in humanitarian action with a focus on community engagement and/or communications activities. 

3. Ethics in operational research

Session 3.1: Ethical principles and approvals for social science research in a humanitarian/emergency context
The session covers the main ethical principles that should guide social science research – an important responsibility of the researcher which must be upheld. This session discusses formal ethical requirements and approval processes and what happens when formal approvals are either not possible or not clear. It also explains the importance of gaining community approval and how this might be achieved.
Session 3.2: Promoting the meaningful translation and application of ethical principles

The session discusses how research teams and practitioners working in community engagement and/or communications during an emergency response, can translate and apply ethical principles to fit local communities and contexts.

4. Implementation of social science research approaches

Session 4.1: Localised research: Designing operational social science research that is responsive to communities

This session covers how to plan and roll-out social science research that brings in local knowledge and expertise and puts communities’ knowledge, capacities and needs at the centre.

Session 4.2: Quantitative and qualitative approaches to generate data in operational social science research
This session lays out the differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches to collecting and analysing socio-behavioural data and the strengths and weaknesses of both of these approaches. It guides participants on when to apply these types of methods, including to which sorts of research questions.
Session 4.3: Quantitative data collection methods: Rapid needs assessment (RNA) surveys, and knowledge, attitudes and practice/perceptions (KAP) surveys
This module gives an overview of how to apply quantitative approaches, specifically knowledge, attitudes, practice/perceptions (KAP) surveys to collect data for community engagement and/or communications activities and wider humanitarian response actions.
This session focuses on qualitative approaches to collecting data that is relevant to community engagement and/or communications activities. Specifically, it covers in-depth interviews, structured and informal observations and focus group discussions.
Session 4.5: Quantitative data analysis in operational social science research
This session gives an overview of how to apply quantitative approaches to analyse data in operational social science research.
Session 4.6: Qualitative data analysis in operational social science research
This session aims to improve knowledge around the tools and steps to analyse qualitative data in operational social science research.
Session 4.7: Mixing different methods to produce quality evidence to inform action
This session teaches the value and benefits of applying mixed methods approaches.
Session 4.8: Triangulation of data: Why is it important and how does it work?
This session teaches how to triangulate social science data with other types of data to generate evidence relevant to community engagement and/or communications activities.
Session 4.9: Community feedback mechanism: Design and data collection
This session focuses on the application of qualitative approaches to design and manage a community feedback mechanism. It introduces community feedback and explains its role in a response, and describes how to collect community feedback data using examples from the Red Cross. The session links the IFRC Comminity Feedback kit to the social science operational research context.
Session 4.10: Community feedback mechanism: Consolidation and analysis
This session focuses on the application of qualitative approaches to manage community feedback mechanism. It describes community feedback consolidation, prioritization and analysis using examples from the Red Cross. The session links to the IFRC Community Feedback Kit to the social science operational research context.

5. Evidence synthesis, interpretation and dissemination

Session 5.1: Evidence synthesis for social and behavioural data
This session presents ways to access relevant data and information required to undertake an evidence synthesis, and then approaches to synthesizing qualitative evidence from those different sources. It then covers a practical example of synthesizing qualitative and quantitative data in the context of a humanitarian emergency.
Session 5.2: How to transform social science data and evidence into actionable findings

This session covers how to effectively design research and transform social science data and evidence into findings that can be used to influence policy and practice.

Session 5.3: How to communicate and present research to different audiences
This session covers how to effectively design research and transform social science data and evidence into findings that can be used to influence policy and practice.
Session 5.4: Feeding back to communities and using findings to support community-level solutions and actions
This session describes the different approaches used to share research findings back with communities through a range of case examples. It explains what is needed to ensure this feedback supports the decision-making and action of communities affected by an emergency.

6. Translating knowledge to action

Session 6.1: Translating social science research into action
This session explores how social science evidence can translate to actual change in the planning and roll-out of community engagement and/or communications activities. It discusses key considerations, challenges and practical steps needed to translate social science evidence to action.
Session 6.2: Enabling environments for the uptake of social science evidence in emergency response
This session aims to explore what an enabling environment looks like so that social science can inform different phases of an emergency response and how it can best be promoted.

7. Tracking the uptake of socio-behavioural evidence

Session 7.1: Tracking the use or ‘application’ of integrated operational social science outputs: integrated outbreak analytics and monitoring
This session discusses tools and approaches for monitoring the use of integrated evidence by emergency response actors to better inform operational decision-making. It is based on examples from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Content delivered through real-time presentation, and pre-recorded videos to explain in detail the theory behind the concepts covered, and to stimulate discussion based on the examples provided.
Session 7.2: Using community feedback to take action and “close the loop”
This session focuses on using community feedback data by sharing findings and taking action, tracking actions taken, and “closing the loop” by returning to communities with updates.