The Philippines is considered as one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Annually, the country receives a total of 22 cyclones. There have been conflicts in the Mindanao as well which caused displacements of communities. Historically, the country is then considered as highly exposed to a range of disasters, be it tropical cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, and conflicts (UN OCHA, 2017).

Thus, the existence of the TUKLAS Innovation Labs. This project aims to identify innovative solutions that come from the affected communities towards disaster preparedness; and support these ideas to scale via an innovation lab approach. We are set up in four strategic locations across the Philippines and has been supporting 10 innovation teams each from April to November 2018, to work on their innovative ideas with, by, and for the affected communities. TUKLAS believes that homegrown solutions would more likely be appropriate and acceptable for the communities. The bottom-up approach on innovation will also promote ownership and accountability of the process and the solution. This is seen as an exciting opportunity to both impact the communities and to contribute to the ongoing discourse on humanitarian innovations.

The TUKLAS Innovation Labs is being managed by a consortium of non-government organizations- Plan International, Action Against Hunger, CARE International, and Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC). These organizations specialize in humanitarian programming following the key humanitarian principles- protecting and promoting people’s rights, Doing No Harm, and always holding institutions accountable and responsible; to name a few.

With this background, the TUKLAS Innovation Labs see to it that safeguarding is integral in the operations. The Duty of Care principle is also implemented to give protection to everyone who is involved in the project, be it the staff, innovation teams, and partners.

The TUKLAS Innovation Labs then implemented the Security Risk and Child and Youth Protection Risk Assessment (SRA/CYPRA). You may view the template here (https://tinyurl.com/TUKLASSRACYPRAsample) . This is standard practice during the organizations’ programming and there are technical experts able to implement them.

But being an innovation project, the vision was to improve the usual safeguarding measures of humanitarian organizations. What the lab did was to combine the Security Risk Assessment with the Child and Youth Protection Risk Assessment, making it more comprehensive. It covers different security concerns such as: Social and Political, Crimes, Conflict, Terrorism, Humanitarian Space, Hazards and Child and Youth Protection. Contextual and specific threats that are unique in the area is also included such as historical data of common diseases or presence of specific organism that is threatening the area of implementation.

Another feature of the SRA/CYPRA is that the actual assessment was done by the innovation teams and their partner communities- a shift in responsibilities and accountability. As part of lab support, TUKLAS strengthens the capacity of the innovation teams- i.e. five youth organizations, two indigenous peoples groups, 17 local non-government organizations, three academe, five startups, and eight groups that are just formed because of TUKLAS (unaffiliated) to implement SRA/CYPRA. There have been workshops on safeguarding and undertaking the assessments both for the innovation teams and the Community Engagement Officers of the four community labs. The expected takeaway was for both the team and the lab to be on the same page in implementing SRA/CYPRA, and to further support each other in the implementation, monitoring, and in analyzing and discussing the strategies in addressing the risks identified. The innovators then were the front liner in conducting SRA/CYPRA with support from the lab.

Below is a summary of the key overall findings on the SRA/CYPRA of the innovation teams, and their respective mitigation measures:

In addition to the SRA/CYPRA, the TUKLAS Innovation Labs implemented an enhanced Data Protection support. The TUKLAS recognizes that the process of testing and refining innovations with communities entails gathering of personal data. So as a protocol, the TUKLAS Innovation Labs always asks for consent (be it verbal or written) if we are to collect personal data. In this enhanced version (rolled out in September), the consent forms explain in general terms that TUKLAS respects everyone’s right to ownership, accessibility, portability, and deletion of data, photos, videos, and other forms of recording. This is also in compliance to the National Data Privacy Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10173) and EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We drafted different versions of our consent forms:

Implementing these safeguarding measures in an innovation program is a learning experience for the consortium partners, innovation teams, and the communities. Coming from conversations with the staff and the innovation teams, from the risk assessments of the innovation teams, and seeing how these assessments and their mitigation measures affect their outputs came these reflections.

 

Safeguarding as an essential element of humanitarian innovations

The experience for the past months confirmed our initial assumption that safeguarding is indeed essential in humanitarian innovations. Like any other development organizations, we want the innovations and the process in developing so will be beneficial for the communities and not to cause further harm.

During the conduct of SRA/CYPRA, we noted that there is no such thing as working in silos when it comes to mitigating risks, especially in the communities. In the innovation process that we have embarked, a multi-sectoral approach is essential, and safeguarding is no different. Innovation teams with engaged communities enabled safeguarding priorities to be better defined and actions planned, responding to real (mostly local) needs and concerns and bringing about long-term change. When local citizens and communities have a voice, they can get involved in those decisions that will later affect them. Community involvement is not only about tapping local risk knowledge and communities’ resourcefulness. It is also about understanding how they make choices according to their opportunities and constraints.

It is often community organizations themselves that can best manage collective responses suited to particular contexts and situations. It is also their networks and support systems that bring innovation to development processes. But it is important to acknowledge that there are limits to community-driven processes. Communities themselves do not have control over issues such as land tenure or the formulation of public policies. Hence, the need to involve other institutions as well.

It is also worth noting that communities are not homogenous. Within each community there are usually unequal distributions of exposure and vulnerability, and therefore risk, with internal power structures, divisions and tensions that are important to identify and address throughout the different stages of the project. It is equally important to remain up to date in terms of the analysis as context and conditions may change or previous risks that had not been identify emerge from new information. For this reason the lab made sure that the leader of each regional lab understood the SRA/CPRA and could conduct it. The lab will also look to improving on this during implementation and scaling so that new or changing risks can be continually assessed That is why there is no one blanket approach in safeguarding. But the SRA/CYPRA proved to be a good tool in scoping the potential risks that they might encounter and to plan accordingly with the communities.

 

Safeguarding beyond bureaucracy

Implementing safeguarding measures has been considered as one of the strengths of development organizations. But implementing and modifying these measures to suit the innovation programming was a learning experience for the consortium partners and will become increasingly important as organizations partner with different actors and trial new methods of working beyond the current business as usual.

The SRA/CYPRA received different reviews from the innovation teams. Some teams and their partner communities appreciated how risk assessments influenced their innovation activities. But some teams thought otherwise and just saw it as another paperwork.

The TUKLAS Innovation Labs noted that safeguarding is essential in humanitarian innovations. To make it more accessible and seem less of a burden on the innovation teams and the communities however, the lab noted the need for improvements if the lab is to do it again: (a) to improve how we conduct the capacity strengthening workshops; and (b) to consider embedding the SRA/CYPRA in the innovation scaling canvas.

In the workshops, the innovation teams should not be expected to be like NGO workers, but need to fully understand the basic principles of safeguarding and appreciate how it can influence the innovation process. They need to see it as essential and not just a tick box. The workshop should also instill value of co-sharing of accountability and noting that safeguarding is everyone’s concern.

As for the template, the SRA/CYPRA could feed in the innovation scaling canvas (it could fall under Box 1e: Core Innovation- Ethics and Legal; and/or Box 2b: Adoption-Barriers). The proposed action step is to improve the innovation scaling canvas to accommodate safeguarding measures as a key consideration throughout the entire process.

 

Safeguarding beyond implementation

The SRA/CYPRA served as good scoping exercise for the lab, the innovation teams, and the communities. They were able to identify the risks upon going to the community and throughout the innovation cycle of testing and refining activities with the community. But what it failed to include are the risks once it is deployed to the community, once it is replicated, once it is being scaled.

It is recommended then that for the next run, safeguarding should not be seen as an afterthought but as part of the innovation process in all stages- ideation, implementation, and sustainability and part of the monitoring and support processes provided by the lab.

 

Safeguarding as part of lab support

Considering that safeguarding is an integral element of humanitarian innovations, it should then be included as part of the lab support in all stages of the innovation process.

Risk assessments is as good as the reflections it sparks between the innovator and the lab. For instance, we noted above that involving a lot of stakeholders in safeguarding is necessary. But there are still risks in doing this, such as other institutions imposing their agenda to the team or to the innovation. The dialogue then between the innovator and the lab is important. This is where they get to analyze how they should move forward given the information, to discern which information is actionable, and to guide the innovator if they are veering away from the purpose of the lab and the innovation.

Since it will be included in the lab support, it is also suggested that the assessments of SRA/CYPRA and the mitigation measures should be monitored and assessed regularly all throughout the process. In our experience, the labs were able to monitor and use some information from the assessments as part of support. But then, not all innovators were able to finish SRA/CYPRA. If we are to do it again, we will be designing these safeguarding measures as really part of the support package so that the innovators will not see it as an add-on activity.

The TUKLAS Innovation Labs has been working hard on this. For the past eight months, the four community labs have been supporting the innovation teams in the conduct of the SRA/CYPRA and the roll out of Data Protection measures. In the last leg of testing and refining activities, TUKLAS has supported one of our innovation teams to work on their own data protection policy (this team is working on a GPS tracker in a watch for families to provide active location tacking during emergencies). We also connected some of our teams to different institutions to exchange lessons and approaches and to learn from them in terms of quality assurance and intellectual property rights. In 2019, the lab is planning to do a mapping of the safeguarding concerns of the 40 innovations we have supported and to provide an extensive support to them.

But there is much to learn in terms of effectively doing safeguarding in humanitarian innovations. The TUKLAS Innovations Labs has noted these eight months-worth of experience and we are looking forward in improving our way of doing things.