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Let's change the way we think about risk management

Introducing the Start Fund Monthly Risk Briefing

  • by Sarah Klassen
  • 10 Jul 18

Blog Post

For alot of us, the idea of ‘risk management’ stirs up negative images- spreadsheets, risk registers, bureaucrats, dry software packages (shudder), or flustered efforts to address live risks spreading across media headlines. And that’s about it, right? Wrong.

The business world has long discovered that strong risk management can mean the difference between a company that sinks or swims. Businesses that are successful are the ones that are able to embrace and incorporate risk management into every day practice. Businesses invest in risk management because there’s too much at stake to not consider managing risks appropriately. Along the way, these businesses have learned that risks can also present opportunities- they offer challenges that need to be tackled, adapted to and learned from, in order to evolve and more forward. The humanitarian sector has something to learn here.

Of course for humanitarians, we have long been considering risks and security management to protect front-line humanitarian workers and the agencies that they’re working for, but what about the very real and escalating risks that face the communities that we’re working with? For them, embracing risk management can mean life or death.

Hazard risk management allows humanitarian agencies to move from the defensive, to the offensive. Being able to forecast a hazard, like a heatwave, flood, cyclone, or even conflict, and then action that risk appropriately, has the potential to save lives and money. We owe the communities that we are working alongside to move from a reactive to a proactive way of working.

This thinking inspired the Start Fund to launch the Crisis Anticipation Window in November 2016. It allows any of the 42 humanitarian charities that make up the Start Network to apply for funding- ahead of a potential crisis.

To support work through the Crisis Anticipation Window, the Start Fund produces monthly risk briefings which provide risk information on global weather, volcanic, human and health events where members may consider using the Start Fund Crisis Anticipation Window. It reports on new, emerging or deteriorating situations. This monthly risk bulletin is collated by the Start Network anticipation team using information from academia and research institutes, government departments, media, ACAPS, global risk indexes, and risk information provided by Start Members and their local partners. It also includes an upcoming ‘Key Dates’ section which highlights upcoming tangible events that members of the Start Network can use to inform specific, anticipatory, and preventive actions.

But we know that the most effective risk management isn’t captured in a risk briefing- it’s holistic, and its people-focused. Humanitarians can’t get a grasp of risks by just looking at models, forecasts and risk reports. This is why each month, FOREWARN- a group of humanitarian practitioners, scientists and academics who provide a technical advisory service to the Crisis Anticipation Window, collectively discusses and actions these risks on a regular basis. The idea is: let’s draw together a diverse group of specialists to develop and act on a shared understanding of risk- because doing so, can make all the difference.

Read this month's risk briefing here.

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  • by Sarah Klassen