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New Start Fund decision making group in Malawi

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Lauren Tarrier, seconded from CAFOD to facilitate the workshop, shares her impressions of setting up the most recent Start Fund decision making group in Malawi.

As the Humanitarian Funding Officer for Asia, Middle East and Latin America at CAFOD, and a Start Fund Donor Lead, I have been involved in many Start Fund alerts over the past 18 months – from Sri Lanka and Pakistan to India and Myanmar.  So when the opportunity came up to support the Start Network in setting up a local decision-making group, it was something I did not want to miss.

The latest Start Fund Local Decision Making Group workshop took place in Malawi. A group of 14 people representing different Start Network members attended the workshop in Lilongwe, all eager to learn more about the Start Fund and their role within it.

Malawi has only had two Start Fund alerts raised to date, so there was a real range of experience in the room. Some people who were new to their roles had only recently heard of the Start Fund and had not fully realised the great opportunities that being a member of this exciting network offered; whereas others had previously been involved in the development of proposals, or in project implementation. However, the intrigue and interest from everyone in the room led to some very fruitful discussions during the day.

After diving straight into project selection activities, the group quickly got to know one another - one of the most important objectives of the day. The need for them to work together, to act as independent humanitarian experts rather than representatives of their agencies, and to understand that they are all champions of the Start Network, was emphasised throughout.

Some activities included scoring project proposals, simulating a project selection committee discussion, identifying the stages of the alert timeline, drafting an alert note and discussing anticipatory activities. We also considered Start’s other areas of work, namely Start Labs, Start Engage and Start Response. All these activities and discussions helped to build trust within the group,  and to set the foundations for a new professional, local network. This group, which will be led by Jack Armstrong from ACF Malawi, will now be able to come together on a regular basis and make important decisions on behalf of the Start Fund, relying on their expertise and knowledge of the local context.

I was excited to see how quickly the group grasped the idea of local and decentralised decision making, and their willingness to support the Start Network in achieving it.  I am now looking forward to seeing how the group grows over the next six months and beyond.

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