Shifting the Power

Less than 2% of all humanitarian funding goes directly to local aid organisations, despite their crucial role in crisis response. This project aims to strike a more acceptable balance between international and local responses to disasters; shifting this balance of power towards locally led humanitarian response.

About the project

When disasters happen, international agencies rush to provide much-needed aid to those affected. The work they do is essential and rightfully supported by the international community.

But many do not realise that before international agencies arrive on the scene, local organisations are there assessing the situation and providing aid. They are the first responders; they know the context, speak the language and will be there long after international actors leave. Yet their crucial role is often ignored by the current humanitarian system.

Meanwhile, disasters are becoming more frequent, unpredictable and complex and the international humanitarian system is under pressure to respond to increasing demand and new challenges. At this crucial time, ignoring the role of local agencies undermines the effectiveness of aid delivery everywhere.

Less than 2% of all humanitarian funding goes directly to local aid organisations despite local organisations often delivering aid more quickly, affordably and appropriately than international organisations. Local organisations also face greater risks (IFRC World Disaster Report, 2015), for example 90% of humanitarian workers who died in 2014 were local responders.

This project aims to strike a more acceptable balance between international and local responses to disasters; shifting this balance of power towards locally led humanitarian response. The Shifting the Power Project will strengthen national capacity for decision-making and leadership, helping national organisations to achieve better representation, voice and recognition. At the same time it will influence international organisations to support and promote the work of local and national organisations.


1. To strengthen national organisations in five countries and improve their emergency response and preparedness
2. Support local and national organisations to be better represented and to have a stronger voice in relevant humanitarian platforms and networks
3. For the consortium member INGOs to recognise and respond to L/NNGO capacity, leadership and voice
4. To provide evidence of good practice in strengthening L/NNGOs humanitarian preparedness and response work and their role/ influence in humanitarian action


The capacity strengthening component of the Shifting the Power project revolves around an in-depth 2 year programme of support for 55 selected local partners in 5 countries to strengthen their capacity to determine and deliver humanitarian preparedness and response. The humanitarian capacity self-assessment and capacity strengthening plans was completed by each partner organisation using the SHAPE framework. This framework is a tool developed by the project based on a model of humanitarian capacity that emphasises the importance of power in the humanitarian system and recognises organisational attributes to not only deliver humanitarian response but also to control and influence the shape of that response.

The second focus area of the project is supporting local actors in 5 countries so they are better represented and heard in their relevant platforms and networks. Each country is taking a different approach in achieving this and by doing so, will ensure maximum relevance to their specific contexts as well as that new approaches are identified and learning/good practices emerge.

The third areas of work is to recognises the crucial role INGOs themselves play within the current power imbalance, and therefore to work with the consortium member INGOs for them to recognise and respond to local/national organisations capacity, leadership & voice. Building on experience, Shifting the Power is commissioning a research piece that will identify concrete recommendations for the 6 Consortium INGOs to implement better the localisation of aid agenda. This research will be done over 2016 with the final piece to be available end of 2016. The research will then be used by the consortium agencies and in each of the project countries to seek commitment in applying a set of research’s recommendations.

Who is involved?

The project is being delivered by a consortium led by ActionAid and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and including Christian Aid, Tearfund, Oxfam and Concern.

Where is the project taking place?

The project takes place in Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya.


This three year project is funded with £4,876,636 from UK Aid, part of the Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP).

Find out more

Shifting the Power One Pager
Shifting the Power Brochure
ActionAid Kenya
Shifting the Power Inception Workshop Communique
Shifting the Power - Year 1 Overview

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