Loop's learning about receiving sensitive stories

12 July 2021

Loop is an independent charity, with the sole purpose of providing a safe mechanism for people to raise their voices to improve services at scale. As part of our duty of care we have developed a way to safely receive and refer on, sensitive stories that would do harm if they were posted on the open platform. This could include reports of Sexual Exploitation Abuse and Harassment (SEAH), fraud, corruption, protection issues or other forms of misconduct.

Loop does not respond to sensitive stories, investigate cases or write reports on the findings.  We are a reciprocal for engaging with hard-to-reach populations and for showing the trends of data on how different types of organisations are responding and providing assistance.

Through this we hope to put the voices and experiences of local people on decision making tables.

Over the last five months we have been listening to survivors, target populations, and organisations providing assistance and protection to them. This is what we have learnt so far.

What did we learn about Sensitive stories: 5 key learnings and Loops resulting action

Loop's Learning #1:  Trust is critical.

We learnt that people have a lot of questions before they will share anything sensitive and for good reason:

‘Sharing on open platforms has caused discrimination and led to other cases like suicide’  (Organisation for transgender people)

‘I have been a victim of abuse because I shared my story’  (University educated survivor of abuse in Zambia)

Victims are also scared for their lives, jobs and relationships and this would hinder them from coming forth’  (Lawyer from a Legal Aid Clinic in Zambia)

Loop's Take away #1: Tell people about the process before they share a story: informed consent.

As a result, on Loop we have found ways to explain as much as possible about each step of the process about what community members can expect. We designed visual aids and light weight images to help reinforce the messages. Loop national representatives are available in each country, to inform service providers and community members about the Sensitive Story flow and ensure informed consent before engaging in the process.

Loop's continued enquiry: We will monitor who uses Loop (survivors, witnesses, family and friends, organisations etc), what data they choose to share, how they use Loop (SMS, web link etc) and improve the approach on an ongoing basis.


Loop's Learning #2:  Trust is local.

Our meetings, prototyping sessions and community discussions across seven countries taught us that:

  • Community members will trust local people more than internationals.
  • In some contexts, anything associated with authorities, or the Government, is not trusted.
  • In some contexts, anything associated with large international actors is not trusted.
Loop’s takeaway #2: Localise approaches as much as possible.

As a result, we have built safe internal communications between our national moderators who speak the local language and know the potential risks of abuse, with Loop’s regional and global SEAH specialist who partner closely to manage sensitive stories. We have also worked to ensure Safeguarding, and Safety is core to how we operate.

We maintain our status as an independent charity. We partner with networks of local actors who represent and champion Loop in each country. We need to ensure that in each new context our structure and partnerships are trusted and trustworthy.

Loop's continued enquiry: We will review moderation processes together, across countries to ensure consistency of service, to monitor evolving legal frameworks on data and to monitor who is using Loop.


Loop's learning #3:  People prefer to report anonymously.

People prefer to give feedback face to face. However, the risk involved in reporting means that people prefer to report sensitive stories anonymously:

‘We are heavily discriminated against, even by people who are supposedly there to offer help’  (Female survivor of abuse)

‘Telling someone may bring shame. People think you are fouled’  (Somali survivor)

People told us they wanted to report back through their phones anonymously, where there is no trace back to them, through the platform or their phone and that this alone would reduce stigma and risk.

Loop's take away #3: Technology, done well, can enable anonymity.

As a result, we have only partnered with Mobile Network Providers who do not keep the data transmitted through their network, thus providing greater safety for people reporting. We will learn if it is possible to maintain this high bar in all contexts or not.

Our upcoming integration of Facebook Messenger will divert all stories tagged as Sensitive off the Facebook messenger platform and directly to our secure platform (Even though many actors reported using Facebook or WhatsApp groups to build a safe community).

We have done an internal audit of our data protection measures and have had an external consultant review our contracts with digital providers to deliver the best safety we can.

Loop's continued enquiry: We will ensure Loop is trustworthy by partnering with hackers to intermittently check how robust our data protection measures are and identify weaknesses to fix. We will monitor who Trusts Loop and will work to grow this.


Loop's Learning #4:  People have high expectations.

We learnt that when people share their story, they can have high expectations of resulting action. Including wanting access to a counsellor if the experience is re-traumatising, provision of assistance and legal retribution. But this is often not possible to guarantee.

‘Even the places that are willing to offer help pro-bono are overwhelmed’  (Legal Aid clinic)

Loop's take away #4: Be clear on what we can or cannot deliver.

To try to address the expectations we have adjusted our communications on the platform and when talking about Loop to explain what people can expect from Loop.

Loop's continued enquiry: We will monitor quarterly, if people feel like their expectations of the site are managed and if there is any impact or outcomes resulting from people reporting sensitive issues through Loop.


Loop's Learning #5:  Speaking truth is powerful.

People told us that even without delivering on the expectations, raising their voices collectively, feeling like they are contributing to greater accountability and knowing they have shared their story to a safe anonymous organisation was positive and valued. 

‘I am a true Loop supporter’

‘This will very much help us. When can we start to use it?’

‘Even in the testing phase, people shared stories that they had not done before’

Loop's take away #5: It is a great responsibility to receive sensitive stories and potential for impact is high.

Loop has a trained Case Manager ready to refer on within 48 hours of any story being submitted. Loop has mapped out national referral pathways in the Philippines and in Zambia and we will continue to grow these. We have based our approach to referring on cases with global Standard Operating Procedures.

We have designed an interactive dashboard showing the aggregated data coming out of the Sensitive Stories for anyone to access, learn from and use to influence positive change.  We have built in strict safety around the data, ensuring anonymity of the author, survivor, victim and accused organisations. We have designed the dashboard with input from donors, organisations (UN, Red Cross, NGOs, INGOs, CSOs), providers of assistance and investigation teams.


After 5 months of learning, I am even more excited about the potential that Loop can enable by providing an independent, safe and anonymous reporting mechanism as part of an open feedback service. 
Thank you to everyone we learnt from. Your enthusiasm is contagious!


Author: Alex Carle, Managing Director of Loop

Cover picture: ©Loop 
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