The Start Network is almost unrecognisable from the consortium of 12 months ago. One year on, we’ve seen DFID and Irish Aid pledge up to £56 million in total over three years for Build and the Fund; we’ve overhauled our governance and scaled up the Team to help us deliver on these grants, and we’ve taken important first steps towards internationalisation. Here is a run down of our key milestones from 2014.
Our 20th Start Fund alert was our fastest to date
The Start Fund launched on April 1st, and last week we received our 20th alert, which resulted in an activation for Choco, Columbia. This most recent activation was also our quickest turnaround to date, with fund being transferred to the implementing agency just 48 hours after the alert came through. We’re most proud of our progress in decentralising decision making, with seven of the thirteen project selection meetings taking place in the crisis-affected region, enabling more informed decisions about how the money is spent.
We enter 2015 with a disbursement pot of £11 million, which will enable humanitarian agencies to reach even more crisis affected people in the immediate aftermath of an emergency. Next year we will continue to work together with implementing agency staff and project beneficiaries to strengthen the Fund, continuously reviewing our processes to balance speed and quality.
Seven of eight Start Build projects are now underway
The announcement of DFID’s Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) in April 2014 pledged up to £26 million over three years to the Start Network’s portfolio of capacity building programmes known as Start Build. This kicked off nine months of negotiations with DFID to review and adapt the project proposals and design the management systems needed to implement the programme.
Now seven of our eight projects are live as part of the DEPP: Age and Disability; Shifting the Power; Talent Development; Transforming Surge Capacity; Protection in Practice; Linking Preparedness, Response and Resilience and Financial Enablers.
Many of these programmes are now recruiting staff to manage the roll out in 2015, while the Talent Development project has already launched in two countries and is making strong progress. In addition, the Start Network will manage a monitoring, evaluation and learning project, representing one of the largest financial investments to learn about capacity building in the humanitarian sector. Next year will be focused on getting the right team in place to deliver these projects, and on designing and implementing an innovative learning system to ensure the lessons emerging from these collaborative programmes benefit the sector more widely.
A new governance structure and the first Annual Conference
Start Working Differently 2014 was a first for the Start Network: a week of events to cement a new governance structure, officially launch the Start Fund, and provide internal and external stakeholders with the opportunity to have their say in the Network’s future direction. The full report is still available online and we hope that next year’s ‘mega-week’ will enable even stronger participation and debate.
The reform of the Start Network’s governance was a key part of the transition toward a global enterprise. We needed a decision-making structure that would be agile while still representing the collective voice of the Network members. Next year we will be bringing independent Trustees onto the Board, whose external perspectives will help steer the Network toward a more inclusive and outward-looking enterprise.
Raising the stakes to deliver our Declaration of Intent
2014 was also the year that the Start Network became a recognised player in the sector. We’ve had to adapt rapidly to this increasing level of scrutiny, and have come to a number of realisations that our accepted ways of working may no longer be fit for purpose.
For example, it became clear this year that the Network’s ability to deliver on its rhetoric will be directly proportionate to its size and diversity of membership. We have opened up the membership to non-UK based NGOs in the hope of creating a global public good.
New member applicants will be reviewed in January and inducted in early 2015. The first joint fundraising trip with our Director and senior representatives from DFID and Irish Aid was also a sign of the growing importance of the Network within the political sphere. Similarly, discussions of other NGO pooled funds have gained traction, suggesting that the Start Fund is a positive catalyst for change within the sector.