The DRC Hub and Global Start Fund Protocol

The Start Fund is the Start Network’s flagship rapid-release, member-led, pooled humanitarian fund. However, it has been questioned whether the global Start Fund has the potential to be adapted to better connect it to the hubs; with the intention of achieving a greater level of more relevant, and local, engagement and decision making.

To promote the DRC Hub engagement in the Start Fund, a series of adaptations to its alert cycle were developed in collaboration with the hub members (referred to as “the protocol”). The protocol was designed to include the perspective and decision-making capacity of DRC Hub representatives concerning DRC alerts at each stage of the cycle. The protocol underwent a 7-month pilot, beginning in April 2023. This review has three key aims: to review the effectiveness, relevance, and feasibility of the piloted protocol, offering recommendations on how it could be improved. The study gathered perceptions and opinions, across a range of stakeholders. A set of principles, a “menu” of adaptation options and a set of prerequisites are offered as a result. These should serve as a starting point for other hub contexts to consider prior to the establishment of a protocol for a its interaction with the global Start Fund mechanism.

This review provided recommendations for each stage of the alert and project cycle for Start Fund alerts. Many of these are practical and tangible tweaks to the existing protocol, in hope of boosting engagement. However, the study also cast light on some of the more fundamental contradicting factors between the global Start Fund and the protocol, which led to the creation of overarching principles. A critical challenge encountered during the pilot was maintaining speed while also ensuring meaningful participation. The key principle identified is that the alert cycle must keep to 72 hours. Hub participation should be supported as much as possible but should not cause delays to the alert cycle.

The protocol has supported the advancement of the objective of locally led humanitarian action. However, further testing in the DRC Hub and other hub contexts is required. The long-term objective of the protocol should be to slowly increase hub representation in the Start Fund alert cycle, leading to local network representatives forming a majority in decision-making committees, for relevant alerts in their context.