In June 2015 a group of non-governmental humanitarian organisations with a presence in Bangladesh, and the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) gathered at a workshop in Dhaka. They decided to form a multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) in order to change policy and practice to make Communicating with Communities (CwC) an integral part of disaster preparedness, response and post disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation in Bangladesh. The MSP adopted the brand 'Shongjog', meaning 'linking' in Bangla, and is now called the 'Shongjog Multi-Stakeholder Platform' (MSP). The workshop was convened by BBC Media Action (BBC MA) in its capacity as the host of the CDAC Network Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) project in Bangladesh.
The MSP is envisaged by the DEPP project as one of its major outputs. A hypothesis underpinning the project is that a structured collaboration is necessary to bring about the required changes in disaster management practices. Enshrining the MSP as a project output may well have influenced the inclination of participants to support its formation. There was also an existing ‘CwC in Emergencies Working Group’ in Bangladesh, chaired by a DDM representative and co-chaired by UNICEF and BBC MA, when the idea of the MSP was introduced under the DEPP. The concept of an MSP was not challenged either in the consultations that led up to the workshop, or during the workshop, though discussions were frank, and participants were outspoken on several occasions.
The Shongjog MSP now has a Terms of Reference, which has been endorsed by about fourteen organisations, including the DDM. A task force was created in the June 2015 workshop to design the group's structure. The task force was dissolved in November 2015 to form an Interim Committee to lead the entity until the formal structure was put in place. In terms of participation in the group, the Interim Committee essentially constitutes the MSP, with several other organisations loosely associated with it. It is guided by the vision and role envisaged in the workshop in June 2015 (pg.8). A further workshop in January 2016 defined the strategic focus areas of the MSP. It took roughly six months to agree on a structure, complete a gap analysis study on CwC in Bangladesh, and move from visioning and structural design to strategic priorities.
A year on it is a good time to reflect on the decisions taken in 2015. Were there more effective approaches to promote collaborative action and embed CwC in policies and practice? This and other reflections were discussed by the Shongjog MSP members at a ‘Knowledge and Leaning’ event held in Dhaka on 1 July 2016, a year after the initiation of the MSP. The purpose of the event was to reflect on the collaborative journey so far, to learn, celebrate, problem solve collaboratively and consider the strategies and actions required to make the MSP vision a reality.