Back to all news and blogs

Start Network launches new charity to transform the global humanitarian sector

It's time for a new era of humanitarian aid

  • by Helen James
  • 01 May 19

© John Wessels / ALIMA, Start Fund alert 160, DRC, outbreak of Ebola – May 2017

News Article

Start Network has today launched a new charity, which is aiming to catalyse a new era of humanitarian aid because its members believe that the global humanitarian system needs urgent reform to meet the challenges posed by today’s crises.

The new charity aims to transform humanitarian response through innovation, fast funding, early action, and localisation, tackling what it believes are the biggest systemic problems the sector faces. Problems including slow and reactive funding, centralised decision-making, and an aversion to change, means that people affected by crises around the world, do not receive the best help fast enough, and needless suffering results.

Until today Start Network has been a consortium hosted by Save the Children UK, since it first was established in 2010. In that time, it has developed impactful programmes with a sophisticated and proven approach, and a compelling vision for the future of humanitarian response. Its impact so far includes:

  • Enabling early action in the face of predictable crises, with the signing of a $1.9million drought insurance policy for Senegal, and 13 per cent of Start Fund activations in 2018 being in anticipation of impending crises.

  • Ensuring localisation to drive more appropriate responses and solutions, with half of Start Fund activations involving local partners, more than 280 equitable partnerships with local and national organisations in the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme and 100 locally developed innovations supported through Innovation Labs in four countries.

  • Transforming the nature of humanitarian decision-making through a collaborative and fast model, which ensures that millions of the most vulnerable people are helped, people who would otherwise have gone without assistance for weeks, months, or longer.


In becoming independent, Start Network will be better placed to drive the change it believes is needed. This will include:

  • A global risk-based financing facility, that is triggered by different levels of risk, enabling aid agencies to predict and act early, minimising the impact of crises.
  • A dispersed, international network of regional and national collectives of organisations, called “hubs”, that will have more power to define appropriate responses to crises.
  • A global tiered due diligence database, to enable more organisations to access funds directly and to reduce the duplication of existing multiple due diligence systems.


Start Network is made up of more than 40 humanitarian agencies, and it is funded by the governments of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Jersey, and Germany, in addition to the World Bank and the IKEA Foundation – which is supporting the Start Network to build the infrastructure needed as an independent charity. The move to an independent charity means the Start Network can bring in more members and donors, scaling its work further.

Christof Gabriel Maetze, Chair of the Start Network Board, said:

“Nine years of construction of the Start Network are now culminating in our independence. This is an important time, a necessary time and now we are getting ready for the next phase of the Start Network. The time to disrupt the humanitarian sector has now come. We will be “rotating to the new”, proving that disruption from within a sector is possible, that disruption can be an opportunity and work with relentless focus on shaping a different future of the humanitarian sector with renewed confidence.

“I would like to thank the highly engaged Start Team, the Start Trustees, our members, our donors and our host SCUK for a straining experience with a great outcome that will enable us to multiply our impact in years to come. Expect less talk and more action!”

Sean Lowrie, CEO of the Start Network said:

“This is a proud moment for everyone involved in the Start Network. It is also an opportunity for radical, bold and decisive action by NGOs. Start Network’s independence means that the time has come for a new era of humanitarian aid, with new business models and new alliances. The sector must adapt to this new world.

“Our gratitude goes to the team, members and supporters, in particular, Save the Children and IKEA Foundation, without whose support we would not have reached this point.”

Per Heggenes, CEO of IKEA Foundation, which has supported Start Network to become independent, said:

“We are excited Start Network is now an independent organization. We highly appreciate the guardianship of Save the Children as the Network grew and developed, and we see their independence as the next step to truly bring about the changes we all say we need to more effectively help families in need. We’re proud to have been able to support with the funding necessary to allow this spin-off, and continue to learn from the Network as it now matures into a change-making key player to improve how we think about, and act upon, crises coming our way.”

The new independent Start Network will take an innovative networked approach to its structure. The new charity will deliver the core functions such as membership, fundraising and communications, while donor grants supporting programmes will be managed by ‘Grant Custodians’. Save the Children will continue hosting the teams managing programmes, such as Start Fund, the Migration Emergency Response Fund, and the DEPP Innovation Labs, and Action Against Hunger will continue managing Start Fund Bangladesh.

Read more about Start Network's vision for a new era of humanitarian aid, and watch a video.

Keep reading:

Start Network

  • by Helen James