Transforming Surge Capacity

Transforming Surge Capacity aims to make surge capacity more effective and efficient across the whole humanitarian sector by promoting collaboration and coordination. It’s about getting everyone to work together to improve, and finding new ways to enhance the role of local agencies and external stakeholders.

About the project

When humanitarian disasters happen, aid needs to be rapidly brought to the centre of the crisis zone and concentrated there until the situation has stabilised. Surge capacity measures how quickly and effectively this surge of temporary aid can be brought to a disaster zone, and how smoothly it can be scaled down again afterwards.

Worldwide humanitarian disasters are becoming more frequent and more complex, creating a growing demand for rapid disaster relief. Aid organisations need to increase the scale of their response to meet this need more effectively and efficiently.

However, international aid agencies are already stretched to their limits and struggling to respond. At the same time, national and local agencies receive less support than international agencies, which holds them back from achieving their potential. In addition, aid organisations often compete with each other to be first on the scene and for access to resources when disaster strikes. This compromises the quality of aid and how it is coordinated.

To overcome this, approaches to surge capacity need to become more collaborative. International aid agencies must work together to share learning and resources, and connect with national and local agencies who often have better information on the ground.

What the project will deliver

The project will create ‘shared rosters’ that draw on skills and resources from across the sector. Sharing knowledge will maximise resources and target aid more effectively, helping national and local agencies play a greater role and reducing the strain on international agencies.

The project will also create platforms at regional and national level to build strong links across partners in the project. These platforms will pilot new ways to make surge capacity more collaborative. These platforms will share good practice, learning and resources, and organise training. Evidence will be gathered to show the international community why collaborative approaches work.

Aims of the project

The project aims to:
1. Strengthen national and regional surge systems to work better with international systems
2. Help organisations move from focusing on their individual surge capacity to working with others to build everyone’s capacity
3. Bring external stakeholders like the United Nations, private companies and universities on-board to explore how they can help

Who is involved?

The project is led by ActionAid and backed by 11 partners including: Action Contre le Faim, Christian Aid, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, CARE, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Muslim Aid, Plan International, Save the Children and Tearfund.

Several technical partners help with delivery, providing experience, advice and frameworks that guide action. These include Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) Network and the Core Humanitarian Standard Alliance.

Where is the project taking place?

The project takes place at national, regional and international levels with ActionAid Pakistan and Christian Aid Philippines being the national actors. The regional platform is led from Bangkok and Delhi by Plan International with the international platform being led by ActionAid.

Other partners include:


The three year project is funded with £2,482,824 from UK Aid, part of the Disaster and Emergencies and Preparedness Programme (DEPP).

Latest news

Blog Post

Launch of the On Call collaborative roster for improved disaster response in Philippines

An innovative emergency response roster has been launched in Manila. On Call will transform the way surge support is provided in the Philippines by pooling hundreds of skilled staff across civil society and professional associations, using a web-based platform to make recruitment and deployment in disasters faster and more efficient.


Blog Post

Christmas on Catanduanes island as Typhoon Nock-Ten hit

When Typhoon Nock-Ten made landfall on December 25, Joana Villaflor had just arrived home for Christmas on Catanduanes island. Joana, a member of On Call Surge Philippines, a shared roster set up by the Start Network’s Transforming Surge Capacity project, gives an account of the days following the typhoon.


News Article

Typhoon Haima - preparing for a more localised response

Typhoon Haima is expected to intensify into a super typhoon as strong as Typhoon Haiyan before hitting northern Philippines tomorrow morning.


News Article

New research into staff wellbeing and duty of care

As part of the Start Network’s Transforming Surge Capacity project, research into agencies' staff wellbeing and duty of care practices is being conducted.


Find out more

Transforming Surge Capacity One Pager
CHS Alliance – Transforming Surge Capacity Project
Transforming Surge Capacity Brochure
The State of Surge Capacity in the Humanitarian Sector
Nepal Earthquake 2015 - Review of surge practices
Transforming Surge Capacity online HR platform

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