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An end of year message from Christina Bennett, CEO and Suzanne Lyne, CFOO

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Dear Members, Partners, Stakeholders, Colleagues,

 

We were reading an article the other day that characterized 2021 as ‘the year in limbo’, a reference to the party game where you are challenged to pass under a bar that sinks lower and lower with every turn. I don’t know about all of you, but for Suzanne and me, 2021 felt that with every passing month, that bar moved lower – lockdowns and variants, too few vaccines distributed too unevenly, civil unrest in Ethiopia, in Afghanistan, in the United States, refugees as political pawns in Belarus, indiscriminately deadly wildfires, windstorms, volcanoes and floods. And with every turn, we passed under that bar – just about – sucking in our stomachs and holding our breath.

 

To be sure, Start Network had a rock-solid year where, thanks to our members, partners and supporters, we made substantial progress toward our vision of a network of networks supported by a family of funds – locally led, locally positioned and globally connected. 

  • We strengthened our network of networks, initiating disaster risk financing and innovation programmes in our hubs, some of which are preparing to bring on members. We engaged with aspiring hubs in South Sudan, Somalia, Bangladesh. The Philippines, Kenya and Afghanistan. Our hubs have inspired donors to support their work directly. 
  • We grew our financial offerings to members, raising close to £30 million from existing and new donors across our global funds and financing systems. We are adapting those tools to be more accessible to local members. 
  • Through our innovation work, we supported members in working with communities to design new solutions and prototypes for humanitarian problems. 
  • We stepped confidently into the climate debate, launching Start Ready at COP26 with £4 million in our pockets. Start Ready uses locally led risk modelling and contingency planning to protect millions of people from the physical and financial loss and damage from climate emergencies.
  • We were crisp and loud, advocating for systems change at every opportunity, including the G7 and C7 Summits, COP26, the Pacific Resilience Forum, UK Parliament.
  • We convened a virtual annual Assembly that was broad as it was deep – attracting more than 500 participants from 72 countries with 89% of our members represented. At our AGM, we voted in a new design and transition plan for our network. 

 

But we would also like to use the occasion of an end-of-year letter to look forward to the possibility of what next year might bring and what we can do together. And so here is our wish list for Start Network for 2022:

  • That locally-led humanitarian action receives the attention and investment it requires. A recent ODI report provides an insightful practitioners roadmap toward locally-led practice. A pivotal speech from Samantha Power, head of USAID, gives us hope that locally-led development is moving from fringe to zeitgeist. 
  • That governments continue to invest in anticipatory action and pre-positioned finance at scale to protect communities from climate and other shocks and invest in it politically and financially.  The slow and inadequate response to Typhoon Rai in the Philippines this week is just the latest example of where the current humanitarian financing system continues to fail.
  • That we continue to advocate for political solutions to conflicts in places such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Yemen and for the political courage to support those fleeing war, marginalisation and disaster.  In the absence of that courage, that our members, hubs and funds are able to continue to operate safely and effectively to support besieged communities living with fear and loss.
  • That, we as committed and passionate humanitarians, find new resilience and balance to ‘work to live’ as the saying goes, and not to live at work, which is what lockdowns have brought, so that we can continue to support at risk and affected communities with creativity and ingenuity. 

 

No risk model, no strategic insight or well-laid plan will predict with any certainty what 2022 will look like. But let us use the power of our membership, our common cause and collective action to flip that game of limbo on its head and raise that bar.

 

Thank you for all of your insight and support this year.  May 2022 bring peace and prosperity to your families, your communities and your societies.

 

Warmest wishes from all of us at Start Network,

Christina and Suzanne

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