Evaluation of the Start Fund’s Preparedness to Scale-up
by Glyn Taylor
The ‘Evaluation of the Start Fund’s Preparedness to Scale-up’, is Humanitarian Outcomes’ third learning project as a Start Fund partner and easily the most challenging one. The evaluation coincided with a period of quite fundamental and fast-moving change for the Start Fund, including a recent shift in the status of the organisation to a newly independent charity; changes at senior and other levels of management, in combination with a physical relocation. All of these added to the complexity of the task.
Perhaps above all, however, the evaluation deals with a more fundamental facet of change. This particular challenge runs through previous work and relates directly to the ambition of the Start Fund to advance significant change in the humanitarian system. An ultimate goal of the Start Fund is to move to a fully disbursed model: a network of regional and country-level hubs, self-sustaining in terms of fundraising and decision-making. In terms of its key allocation decisions, however, especially the activation of alerts, the Start Fund has had a relatively centralised system. The prospect of very significant growth for the Start Fund requires members and other partners (including key existing and potential donors) to contemplate a fundamentally different model. The Start Fund has always relied on the engagement of members and partners and continued engagement is critical to the prospect of growth.
This evaluation sought to answer a range of specific questions that centred around the ultimate question of influence. What external and internal factors would support or hinder the Start Fund’s aspirations for growth? How would current processes be affected? These are important questions posed by the Start Fund. To date, it has been deemed by existing members to serve as a global public good and providing critical funding in an important niche area. Donors have also very clearly invested in the fund because of its ability to perform well in its recognised niche.
When engaging with this task and its various complexities, a central theme became apparent. In order to achieve scale, the Start Fund needs to make changes necessary for growth and, in addition, address a number of existing and underlying foundational issues. This includes, but is not limited to, automation of processes, fundraising models, strategies for member retention and complaint mechanisms and regionalised decision-making. A full range of findings and recommendations are available in the main report, which we hope will be of value and contribute to the growth of the Start Fund initiative.
The Start Fund is collectively owned and managed by Start Network’s members, and supported by the governments of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Jersey and the IKEA Foundation.