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New digital platform a major step forward for transparency of the Start Fund

Launch of the Start Fund portal

  • 28 Mar 17

The Start Fund portal means that every project can be monitored by anyone who visits the website


News Article

Start Network has launched a new online platform that will allow its members, donors and the public to monitor humanitarian alerts as they happen, follow how money is spent and see how many people have been helped.

Start Network’s innovative portal, made public for the first time today, means that every aid agency project supported by the Start Fund in crises around the world can be viewed and its outcome evaluated by anyone who visits the website.

The Start Fund, a pooled rapid-response fund, is run collectively by Start Network’s 42 aid agency members around the world. The fund has enabled members to intervene in 99 emergencies, helping more than five million people since April 2014. Details of current projects will be made available as they unfold in real time, and information about projects already completed will be easily accessible.

Sean Lowrie, Start Network’s director, said:

“This is a radical exercise in transparency which will ensure that the Start Fund is open to real-time scrutiny, like no other fund of its kind in the world. It will help to ensure that we are accountable to donors – currently four governments, and ultimately their taxpayers – and, just as important, to the communities affected by crises whose needs we seek to serve.”

The new web platform is intended to deliver:

  • Transparency - ensuring impact and decision making are transparent and open to scrutiny
  • Accountability - enabling taxpayers and communities affected by crises to hold the Start Fund to account by having access to data on each alert, and the lessons learned
  • Engagement – allowing many more people to engage with decision making and see the impact
  • Automation – enabling the Start Fund to handle more frequent crises through the network’s growing membership, ultimately on a far larger scale, using technology to offer more to more people while keeping the central team small

 

The Start Fund uses a three-stage alert and decision-making process to decide when and whether to intervene in a crisis, with members involved at every stage. It was set up to tackle below-the-radar emergencies or sudden “spikes” in humanitarian need within longer running crises, plugging the gap in more traditional sources of funding. It seeks to be collective, impartial and objective, and it aims to have money on its way within 72 hours of an alert being raised.

It is supported by the governments of the UK (UK aid through the Department for International Development), Ireland (Irish Aid) and the Netherlands (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and by the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department. It has enabled emergency aid to reach people affected by crisis in 50 countries.

Recent interventions have enabled member aid agencies to help Zimbabweans caught up in flooding that killed 246 people and forced thousands from their homes; the most vulnerable households in farming districts of Sri Lanka badly affected by drought; Afghan families driven from their homes in winter by fighting between Taliban and government forces; and Mongolian herders and their families, whose livestock has been hit by the second successive year of exceptionally cold conditions known as “Dzud”.

The portal offers to all users:

  • A map that shows at a glance Start Fund alerts by location
  • A table of all alerts, which can be filtered by alert type, aid agency and location
  • Downloadable data enabling anyone to look further into the decisions made and the impact
  • Graphics for each alert showing key stages of the crisis, the decision process and the response
  • A learning page to ensure that the Start Fund’s new way of tackling humanitarian crisis continues to improve

 

Start Network members can also see additional features that will allow them to take part more easily in decision making.

Damien Mosley, Programme Funding Coordinator for Concern Worldwide, a Start Network member, said:

“The new Start Fund portal is miles ahead in providing easily accessible information to all member agencies and its partners. Concern Worldwide can find all its data from past projects and the decision making behind our responses in a heartbeat. In terms of transparency you can’t ask for much more than this.”

Helen James, head of digital at the Start Network, has been working on the project with external developers Mirum over the past year to build the platform on Drupal and Salesforce. Helen said the new platform was more complex than its ease of use suggested.

“At the front end it displays information in a simple way which makes it accessible to wider stakeholders – members, donors, partners, taxpayers – and to anyone who wants to see exactly how the Start Fund operates.

“It all rests upon a complex, data-heavy process at the back, which will enable the information to be automatically updated as new data comes in. It’s an integrated system that combines out-of-the-box features of a number of low-cost platforms. This makes it flexible and means it can be scaled up and adapted as the Start Fund grows and its ways of working evolve in the future.”

See the Start Fund portal.

Read more about the Start Fund.

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Start Fund Technology