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How the Start Fund enables faster, locally-led humanitarian responses

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All too often emerging crises are left to deteriorate because attention is elsewhere, political factors intrude or because adequate mechanisms to respond early do not exist. The Start Network is stimulating a way of working that enables the international and local to coexist in a dynamic and faster response mechanism.

This is made possible by the Start Fund, launched by the Start Network in April 2014. The Start Fund is the first multi-donor pooled fund managed exclusively by NGOs. It disperses money within 72 hours of a crisis alert, which makes it one of the fastest early response mechanisms in the world. Through the Start Fund, NGOs around the world are enabled to respond faster, more effectively and with greater agency. The Start Fund helps reduce suffering, save costs and enables local actors to respond based on their knowledge of the need and context.


In August 2015, the Start Fund piloted the first standing decision making group in Nigeria to enable information sharing and collaboration between members locally. Standing decision making groups have since been set up in Kenya and Myanmar and 10 more are planned.

When the Fund was alerted for flooding in northern Nigeria in September 2015, the standing decision making group in Nigeria reviewed and selected the International Rescue Committee’s proposal.  The group met after the meeting with the representative from the IRC to discuss how the IRC could further improve their project. With the standing group’s collective experience of similar responses in the region and trust between group members to provide honest feedback, they recommended that the IRC reconfigure their NFI (non-food item) kits to reach more beneficiaries. The IRC subsequently took the recommendation forward, and reached 20,000 more beneficiaries than originally planned.

Since launching in April 2014*, the Start Fund has been alerted 71 times and has funded 128 projects to respond to 52 emergencies globally. The average time from alert to project selection is 65 hours; 43% of the projects are implemented by local partners and 84% are selected in-country. 42% of projects reported that no other funds were received from any other donors, either before, during or after the Fund’s response** meaning response to these crises may not have been possible.

The World Humanitarian Summit offers a unique opportunity to bring much-needed change to a sector facing tremendous challenges. The Start Network aims to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a route for change, to explore the concrete actions that we must take to transform humanitarian response, and to ultimately ensure that we connect people in crisis to the best possible solutions.

The Start Fund is one solution which enables donors and INGOs to allow funding, capacity and power to shift to national and local organisations.

This is our Grand Bargain with the Future. Tell us what yours is by using the hashtag #grandbargainwiththefuture!


* To Feb 2016

** These figures only reflect external donors, not internal funds that member agencies may have accessed.

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