In April 2021, Start Network and its members face a very different future than we expected when we launched our three-year strategy in 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that contextual, locally rooted and community-based responses were effective in getting ahead of a fast-moving disease. Covid-19 also exposed the enduring double standard in the international aid system, which has repeatedly called for a shift to local humanitarian action, but whose main actors retreated from their localisation commitments at the very time they should have been leaning into them.
The Black Lives Matter movement has surfaced latent racism, colonialism and power inequalities between the sector’s power holders and those that bear the brunt of humanitarian crises and assume the risk of humanitarian operations. International organisations are now looking critically at their own demographics, structures and behaviours, calling for changes within their own organisations.
Economic recession and declining ODA in most donor economies has prompted donor restructuring, importantly the merger of the UK’s development and foreign offices, and is compelling aid organisations to refocus and reprioritise their operations.
And while these events dominated 2020’s headlines, the climate crisis continued to test the resilience of our societies and the courage of our leaders, compelling them to make deep changes in policies and behaviours to anticipate and act on predictable climate risks.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in many countries is expected to intensify as both the consequences of COVID-19 on food security and livelihoods and the impacts of climate change create new and challenging crisis situations with increasing frequency.
The events of the past 18 months have thrown down an important gauntlet for Start Network to deepen our commitment to local humanitarian action and the power shifts that this requires, to demonstrate that acting collectively, early and ahead of a crisis can minimise death and suffering, and to galvanise our diverse, growing global network around a critical examination of our ethics and our mindsets and around accelerating systems change.
While the vision and mission of the Start Network remain unchanged from our 2019 strategy, this refresh responds to the events of the past 18 months by focusing our intention and investment on the following:
- accelerating our ‘locally led’ ambitions by embedding power shifts, decentralisation and collective action across all Start Network initiatives and programmes;
- providing internal clarity, through a revised theory of change, on what drives and shapes our reform efforts and change ambitions;
- focusing Start Network’s business plan and budget on those areas that will directly deliver on our vision; and
- beginning the process of aligning our values, ethics and programmatic ambitions.
What follows is a refreshed strategy for Start Network that takes us from 2021 to 2023 and through a journey of transformation and change.
During this time, we will expand our ‘network of networks’ to at least 10 functional hubs who will take on their own membership and begin raising their own funds. We will support this network with a robust financial services platform, the Start Financing Facility, combining the speed and reach of our member-led global Start Fund with the sophistication and sense of our risk-based financial instruments.
We will recruit from and locate key staff in the global South. And we will decentralise and distribute both our governance and our decision making with the Start Network team transitioning to a secretariat and service provider to our hubs. At the centre of all of this, our growing and diverse membership will continue to collectively inspire us and each other in the service of countries and communities in crisis.