Start Fund Annual Report 2015-2016

This report provides evidence of our assertion that the Start Fund, collectively owned and operated by NGOs/INGOs, can and will enable the international humanitarian system to rise to the challenges of 21st century humanitarian crises

The World Humanitarian Summit process has identified localisation, interdependence and diversity as necessary changes to the humanitarian financing system. The Start Fund has been achieving concrete results in these areas for two years.

This report provides evidence of our assertion that the Start Fund, collectively owned and operated by NGOs/INGOs, can and will enable the international humanitarian system to rise to the challenges of 21st century humanitarian crises. This report emphasises the structural and process elements of the Start Fund as they relate to providing appropriate solutions for communities in crisis.

An annex of crisis response summaries provides data on allocations and projects during the reporting period, 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 (‘Year 2’), demonstrating how the Start Fund operates and what it is able to achieve.


Over its second year of operation, the Start Fund has grown in the number of crises responded to, the amount of funding allocated and the number of agencies who received funding. This year, the Start Fund reached over 1.5 million crisis-affected people across 32 countries with a timely delivery of aid designed to meet their specific needs.

This year, the Start Fund was alerted for crises affecting a total of 11,935,670 people. We reached 13% of them, a rise from 7.7% in the previous year.*

The scale of crises ranged from small, localised emergencies (434 displaced people in Colombia) to large national (5 million facing food insecurity in Ethiopia) and regional (more than 2 million affected by monsoon flooding in India, Myanmar and Pakistan) emergencies.


During 2015/16, the Fund has been alerted 54 times and activated 41 times: an average of one alert every 6.8 days and one activation every 8.9 days. This is more than a doubling of alerts and nearly a tripling of activations from Year 1.

Despite the increase in activity, we are also responding more quickly, thanks to revised governance processes. During Year 2 we saw faster response times from alert to awarding funds. This now averages 66. 3 hours, 2.2 hours faster than Year 1. This is partly because processes are smoother, but the key ingredient is testing the assumption that an increase in speed will better meet needs of communities.

“The Start Fund is demonstrating that it is better and faster than other humanitarian funding sources by making a decision in 72 hours and starting activities within one week. No other donors at this moment are able to do that. At the same time that we were performing our Start Fund project, we applied for the country-based pooled fund of OCHA and did not receive approval for four months. My team, which has eight years of experience, said that this was the first time that we implemented an emergency project in the time frame that we should have done.”

Jose Luis Barreiro Country Director, Action Contre La Faim, Colombia


Crises typically evolve during the project period of 45 days, so the Start Fund is designed to be flexible. This meant that 31 out of 86 projects (36%) reported adapting their projects during the 45-day implementation period to reflect changes in need on the ground.

For example, in the Start Fund response in Myanmar, the International Rescue Committee adapted to changing needs by shifting its focus from shelter and non-food items to dewatering (removing water from flooded areas) and cleaning drinking ponds. (See Case study: filling a funding gap in Myanmar, page 37.)


The Start Fund is designed to enable agencies to leverage additional funding from other sources. The design is clearly appropriate: in Year 2, 75 projects attended learning and evaluation peer reviews and out of these, 27 (36%) across the 16 alerts (50%) confirmed that the Start Fund helped them to raise funding from other external donors.

We have learned that the key reasons for this success were that they had an existing presence in the affected location, evidence that they could implement a project successfully, and valuable first-hand knowledge of the situation. These were all a result of their Start Fund projects.


Over the past year, the Start Fund’s decision-making was spread over four continents, and 93% of decisions were made through senior-level staff in the affected country or region.

In August 2015, the Start Fund piloted in Nigeria its first standing decision-making group. By drawing in their local expertise, the Start Fund was alerted to a greater number of under-the-radar crises by agencies from Nigeria. The alerts came faster and in a more timely fashion than previously. Agencies also offered more critical technical feedback on projects. In Nigeria, the group recommended that the International Rescue Committee reconfigure their non-food item (NFI) kits to reach more people. The IRC acted on the recommendation, and reached 20,000 more people than originally planned. (See Case study: the Start Fund’s first standing decision-making group, page 22).

We are still exploring the implications of these decision-making groups but these early signs of success confirm the validity of the approach.


The Start Fund has had a rise of 42% in its membership, operating in 20 new countries this year. This growth has, importantly, increased our scope to respond to more crises that have limited funding. It is also important in growing our diversity.

Decentralisation is also a key principle: the Start Fund transfers nearly half of its total funding directly to local agencies through its members via sub-granting agreements. This allows us to test the effect of using different configurations of actors in response to crises. We will continue to explore this as we learn and evolve.


The Start Fund is embarking on a new and exciting area of work, supported by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). This will test our assumptions that by using the most advanced forecasting techniques available, in combination with local knowledge and expertise, we can encourage members to develop a more collaborative approach to risk management. (See A new approach to responding to crises, page 40.)

The Start Network advocates for learning after each and every action. The Start Fund is building an exemplary learning component throughout the alert cycle. We need to respond as diligently to the lessons learned as to the crises themselves.

Read more about the Start Fund.