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Practical approaches to innovation and innovative practices

The Start Network's FOREWARN Initiative

  • by Milli Cooper
  • 18 Jun 19

Blog Post

In this guest piece, as part of the Humanitarian Futures newsletter, Professor Randolph Kent shares the transformative work of FOREWARN members to meet present and future challenges in the humanitarian sector.

The FOREWARN initiative, brings Start members together approximately every six months, is consistent with Start’s overall focus on forecasts. As Start sees its value, it brokers forecasting information on behalf of its members, and supports them to access, interpret and develop programmes based on these forecasts. With this perspective at its core, you will see that most of the key innovations and innovative practices outlined in the summary below, are already being effectively utilised.

Transformative innovation is on its way in the humanitarian sector. A great example came out of the Start Network’s FOREWARN event on 22 May, where a variety of innovations and innovative practices were put on display during the course of the day. Amongst the observers were representatives from governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations – onsite and online.

For those who assume that innovation and innovative practices are solely dependent upon transformative technologies, FOREWARN demonstrated that they need to think again. While few can deny the potential impact that technology can and will have on preventing, preparing for and responding to ever more complex threats, very often innovation and innovative practices depend upon identifying different ways to use what we already have in hand more effectively.

Here, through its FOREWARN initiative, the Start Network introduced seven examples that are really worth adding to the operational tool kits of humanitarian organisations. As you will see, below, each gets a brief mention, but each also has a link to provide you with further details about the innovation’s use and methodology.

GECARR [Good Enough Context Analysis for Rapid Response] 3.0 Tool

Staff time and capacity are key challenges to conducting effective context analysis in fragile and conflict-prone settings. In the midst of a humanitarian response, where a context is likely to be rapidly changing or has dramatically changed, all too often the humanitarian responder doesn’t have the time or capacity to engage in context analysis- either through the use of context analysis tools or through more informal mechanisms.

With that in mind World Vision has created a methodology that provides context analyses, anywhere from country to community levels. It is based upon a system that stems from systematic targeted interviews, tested through multisector and multi-systems scenarios and which within a two-week period provides humanitarian workers with highly nuanced and contextual analyses. As demonstrated to date, Start Network members have successfully used GECARR, for example, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for preparedness activities, in Sierra Leone for dealing with the Ebola crisis and for a range of activities in Burundi, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

For more information:

The Global Chaos Map 

The rise of violent social unrest is often triggered by underlying natural resource insecurity issues. Food, fuel and water insecurity around the globe have historically often resulted in massive loss of life. Climate induced impacts, resource depletion and mass migration further compound the prospect for future conflicts because natural resources are less accessible and scarce for millions more people.

With these challenges in mind, the Global Chaos Map project supports early intervention by using a data extraction and mapping tool that matches natural resource security issues with violent social unrest events. Better understanding of these escalation pathways and possible interventions at critical moments along the way will assist decision-makers from governments, the private sector and intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations to provide more effective early intervention policies and programmes.

For more information:

SHEAR [Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience]

As the effects of climate change become increasingly tangible, vulnerable and hazard-prone communities face growing, complex, and worsening challenges.

The importance of data and science in disaster resilience, preparedness and humanitarian response was recognised by the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction: ‘Understanding Risk’ is one of its four priority areas. Large amounts of scientific data on risk and forecasting have been generated, however, these data are often not incorporated into pre-disaster preparedness or response planning, leading to missed opportunities to increase resilience or to design more effective humanitarian responses to natural hazard-related disasters.

SHEAR aims to close the gap between the generation and uptake of data, and support the goals of the Framework, by providing the scientific knowledge, tools and capacity to enhance understanding of risk. This will help to achieve the seven targets of this priority area, including, and most directly, the final target: ‘Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030’.

For more information:

ACAPS’s CrisisInsight

is an independent information provider, consisting of two NGOs — ACAPS is a non-profit project of a consortium of two NGOs: the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children. One of its products focusing on CrisisInsight is the new ACAPS analysis portfolio which captures developments for onset disasters, protracted crises and forgotten crises. It enables comparison of the severity of crises globally, while providing a forward-looking scan for risks. CrisisInsight combines the Global Crisis Severity Index (GCSI), which has been developed by the INFORM Working group, with ACAPS ongoing analysis work. This portfolio of work is intended to be a powerful tool to support evidence-based decision making.

For more information:

Start Network Risk Financing 

Even when a humanitarian crisis is unfolding, funds of sufficient quantity usually do not materialize until too late. The Start Network is addressing this problem by working on two new financing instruments that will enable responders to access rapid funds for early drought mitigation activities to protect communities at risk. Underpinning both facilities is a disaster risk financing approach, that involves scientific modelling of drought risks, focused scenario-based contingency planning and pre-positioned financing

For more information:

El Nino Standard Operating Procedures

El Ninos have considerable impact on communities across a wide swathe of the globe, including the Horn of Africa, Southern Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, South and South-East Asia. In 2016, the World Health Organisation reported that over 60 million people had suffered from El Nino related droughts in the recent past. Central to effective solutions involves community risk assessment processes through participatory vulnerability and capacity assessments (PVCA). These in turn result in resilience-building interventions, which are then based on risk management “action” plans developed from this process.

Over the past four years, Christian Aid has intensified its efforts to develop more effective and systematic approaches to resilience planning and improved use of climate services. This has enabled rural communities in particular to take a range of actions both before and during agricultural seasons to mitigate drought risk in particular as a result of improved access to climate services (weather and climate forecasts and associated information) and improved means for anticipating a variety of risks — particularly drought.

For more information:…

Indus River Impact Flood Model

The Indus River is one of the longest rivers in Asia. Indus floods frequently lead to significant humanitarian impacts. The Start Network is working with the University of Reading to build a flood model which can identify with a 1 to 2 weak lead time, a forecast of the number of people and homes likely to be inundated by a flood. The model data should be resolved to a district level, so that alert levels of severity can be set for each district along the river. A set of tests will look at the skill and uncertainty in the model, to support decision making. Automatic alerts are set up between GloFas/ECMWF and the Start Fund Anticipation team in London and Pakistan.

For more information:

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  • by Milli Cooper