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Managing uncertainty… opportunities to do things differently

Blog Post

Last week I attended the 33rd Annual meeting of ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action). The Start Network is a member of this global network, alongside many UN agencies, NGOs (including many of our members), members of the Red Cross/Crescent Movement, donors, academics and consultants dedicated to learning how to improve response to humanitarian crises.

The subject of this years’ meeting was “Facing the Unknown: Managing Uncertainty in Humanitarian Action” and the virtual events were split across two days with options for two different time zones. With guest speakers and stories from a diverse group of stakeholders across the globe, sessions focused on issues from managing staff morale and mental health during remote working to the opportunities that Covid-19 has presented to work differently in delivering humanitarian action.  

Emma Proud, Head of Behavioural Innovation at BRINK, spoke about mindsets and mechanisms around remote working and introduced us to the SCARF model in understanding how we can better understand and manage stress. Other contributors noted the importance of “creating the space to breathe”, “acknowledging good work” and “being intentional about creating and building physiological safety”.  Wellbeing during uncertainty is challenging but is something the Start Network takes seriously as discussed recently in an interview with our Head of People and Culture, Cat Sneath.

Eilidh Kennedy, Director at IARAN spoke about the challenges and opportunities in this time of transformation in humanitarian action, and that “locally-led implementation is no longer optional”. With restrictions on the movement of goods and people “responses now have to be highly localised for them to work at all.” Eilidh spoke about benefits of opening up online spaces – “more inclusive, more efficient and more climate-friendly” but that remote management and remote team working takes time and effort and involves in investing in collaborative and innovative spaces. Other contributors noted that the time of international travel to attend workshops or support in humanitarian crisis is now over, that if “you cannot get there by ground travel in a few hours it should not be an option”.

Localisation is one of the core pillars of the Start Network and the impetus around “Start Evolves” and our network or networks vision. We have shown that direct funding of local NGOs through our Start Fund Bangladesh is both more effective and efficient, and a key lesson from our Covid-19 responses was the “faster and more appropriate responses through local partners”.  We have just launched the new call for Covid-19 alerts with a focus on community-based responses. To date, our Start Fund Covid-19 has dispersed more than $5 million including directly to our new local and national members where the benefits have been evident.

This time of change is an opportunity to do things differently and the Start Network will be taking on this challenge.

Keep reading:

  • by Helen Guyatt