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New Year Message from the Start Network Director

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Thank you to all the people who worked hard and contributed their time voluntarily to the Start Network last year.  In 2014 the Network moved decisively from concept to reality, thanks to your contributions: of time, political capital and funding.    More of our stakeholders now perceive the Start Network as a gift and an opportunity.  This has become possible because of the selfless vision of humanitarian directors 7 years ago, and the continuing drive shown by you and colleagues in the Member Agencies.  Congratulations for a fantastic year.

We achieved some great results in 2014.  The Start Fund launched in April and by the end of the year, it had disbursed £2.1m in funding and was used by Member Agencies to help over 1.3 Million people.  Start Build now consists of 8 multi-agency projects totalling £23m and our partnership with DFID will feature the most comprehensive investment ever to generate evidence and learn from humanitarian capacity building.  We reformed our governance and held our first international conference in June.  We made investments in a new R&D and innovation facility (Start Beta), a network information management system (Start Learn), crisis anticipation, partnership brokering, insurance products and a loan facility that should all bear fruit in 2015.   We established partnerships with, ACAPS, Development Initiatives, and DevResults. There is much to be proud of, and for which to be thankful.

At the start of 2015, the Start Network is well positioned to make an important contribution.  People in the modern world are faced with more opportunity, yet also more uncertainty and risk.  In 2014 the scale of humanitarian appeals continued to escalate well beyond the means of the established system.  NGOs face a ‘perfect storm’: increasing humanitarian need, increasingly complex systemic bureaucracy, decreasing humanitarian space, and an increasingly outdated business model.  In response, the Start Network has committed to catalysing structural changes to accelerate crisis response because we all need an effective humanitarian system.  There is a tantalising opportunity emerging in the Start Network to create a new global public good.

In spite of last year’s successes the future of Start Network is not remotely secure, and we must continue to pull together to deliver a very challenging agenda in 2015.  First, to help more people in crisis, we need to diversify the membership, governance and the donor base to make the Start Network international.  Second, to meet the challenges we face in a 5-fold increase in the Start Fund, launching complex Build projects in 11 countries, expanding the membership to non-UK NGOs, delivering on an exciting innovation agenda, and the possibility for new services to be available to the Members; we need to focus on delivery.  This delivery can only happen with the full engagement of our Members, combined with a reorganised Secretariat.  Third, after your significant investment in the Start Network it is ready for you to use it to improve your impact in accelerating crisis response.  Please seek opportunities to raise its profile.

As the Start Network's representative at various international meetings last year, I came to the conclusion that our calling is to have the imagination and courage to find new ways of working that are effective in a turbulent world.  People in crisis need us to help them in the uncertain times ahead.  We can demonstrate unity in a fragmenting world.  Pragmatically I recognise our limitations and challenges, yet I also agree with World Bank President Kim: optimism is a moral choice.  It is a great privilege to be working with you and I look very much forward to the year ahead.

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