Preparing for Shock: Day 2 -Enough talk, it’s time for action!

Project: Learning Project 16th March 2018
“If I could, what would I change in the sector’s approach to preparedness?”

The answers by four of our participants in the opening session of day 2 all focused on important, yet very varied, areas of improvement:
– Asim Jaleel from Tearfund Pakistan urged us to keep our focus on the satisfaction of the affected community, and not be side-tracked by the battle between INGOs and NNGOs.
– Talal Waheed of HelpAge International Kenya called for 0.5% of project costs to go to activities ensuring involvement of older persons and persons with disabilities and emphasised the need to involve technical entities in all partnerships. Only by actively working to make the change will we see change,  “If we cannot see the world we must do something which helps the world to see us”.
– Mindfulness and wellbeing expert Hiten Solanki of Action Against Hunger UK spoke up for the need to recognise the importance of mental health, stress management and wellbeing of staff, especially pre, during and post deployment “We are shock absorbers, are we prepared to cope with stress?”
– Shahana Hayat of Save the Children Bangladesh questioned our thoughts around shifting power when she stated “power cannot be shared, power is responsibility and we all need to be responsible with it to achieve sustainable change”

“Show me how you got to where you are”

In day two our focus was very much on looking to the future – how do we ensure our investments in preparedness are sustainable? A clear understanding of roles, two-way capacity sharing, and putting affected communities at the centre was highlighted by the panellists. So also was the subject of multi-year funding for preparedness and the need for continuity in programming, which brought up the discussion of the humanitarian-development nexus – where does preparedness sit, and how do we get better at working together? Estaban Bong Masagca of the PDRRN in the Philippines reminded us to change our perspective when he said “Let’s get back to basics, and put the community at the centre: At community level, there is no divide between humanitarian and development”. 

When we talk about sustainability of preparedness investments we always highlight the necessity of involving, strengthening the capacity of and shifting the power to national and local organisations, but what is the best approach to making this happen? “We don’t need millions of dollars, we need international organisations to sit down and dialogue with us” says Muhammad Amad from NHN in Pakistan. 

It all comes down to participation

We had a lot of areas to cover, so throughout the day participants could choose to join two out of six breakout sessions. 

In Localisation in Practice – what have we learned, Koenraad and Smruti from the Global Mentoring Initiative took us through the findings from their research based on their localisation framework. We also heard from representatives of two countries with very different experiences implementing the localisation agenda; In Ethiopia for example, Daniel Gebremedhin of CAFOD shared that; ‘Even though the localisation agenda is widely accepted and endorsed by local and national organisations, the implementation of this in the country context is facing a number of structural, legal and systemic challenges’. Nanette Antequisa of ECOWEB Philippines, a country with a strong civil society, gave us the magic 3C formula:  “Cooperation, complementation and collaboration” – the three C’s we need to get right when bringing together CSOs, governments and NGOs to succeed in effective response. 

The theme of participation of all actors came out strongly in the session covering working with national government and civil society, emphasizing that when involved there is a lot government can do  – collaborate with communities, involve CSOs in decision-making and planning, and implement policies to reduce risks and vulnerabilities.

Collaborating with a number of actors to strengthen preparedness capacities was also central in the session on Strategies for sustainable investment in preparedness capacity, and again focused on the role of Civil Society Organisations. “What we have learned is to focus on the most relevant technical competencies related to disaster according to the context and encouraged collaboration with CSOs on disaster risk reduction.” said Dr Milton Amazon of CHIC Consortium in the Philippines.

A key component of humanitarian response is that of surge capacity, and the Transforming Surge Capacity project has piloted two national and one regional roster in an effort to localise surge over the last year. In their sessions we heard about the successes and challenges in the rosters set up in the Philippines, Pakistan and regionally for Asia. Their message was not only that surge needs to be localised, but that in order to have truly sustainable models we need to move towards collaborative rosters that draw on the resources and expertise of a number of local, national, regional and international organisations. What are the benefits? Connecting people, building better relationships across organisations, shared services and increased willingness to work together – what more can you want?

The Preparing For Shock conference was not only about looking at the learning and evidence coming out of the DEPP programme, but to have a focus on the importance and future of preparedness interventions in general. In the Enabling Early Action with Forecast-based Financing session we heard from the IFRC. Again, collaboration was central to the success of this approach and we learned that without community involvement to identify risk scenarios and hazards the method is, in fact, ineffective. It is good to see that outside of the collaborative DEPP bubble other key sector actors are agreeing with our conclusions.

“But how effective is a multi-year portfolio approach such as the DEPP in improving preparedness programming? In The Future of Humanitarian Programme Design: Evidence and Recommendations from the DEPP, our external evaluators at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) shared some of their insight. We have heard great examples of project successes throughout the programme’s three-year lifetime, but we also know that the best way forward is continuous improvement, which means that an external view on what to try again and what to change for the future is crucial.  Then how do you distinguish between what actually is, and what people might perceive? On this, Alice Obrecht from ALNAP highlighted the HHI’s use of two sets of indicators to measure performance: “perceived preparedness and actual preparedness; nice to see the latter being included”.

Now let’s “Just do it”

For a sector where action is crucial to success, we sure do a lot of talking, and a lot of committing. In our closing panel we were looking to the future: Finding the right approaches to 2030 for both programming and funding models. Through summits, charters and commitments we know as a sector that more direct funding to national and local organisations is the way forward, and this was strongly re-emphasized by Anjum Nahed Chowdury Lucky of Ganna Unnya Kendra in Bangladesh, and Almaz Woldetsadik from the National DRM Commission in Ethiopia. Then how come we, as a sector, are still dragging our feet?

One of the arguments we hear time and again is that local and national organisations don’t have the capacity or organisational structure in place to meet donors requirements on compliance and accountability. But do we really have the evidence to back this up? As Meg Sattler from UN OCHA pointed out, the argument that there is some possibility that funds might be lost to fraud is not good enough, we need to allow national and local organisations the chance to disprove these assumptions. And if we needed any more reasons to ‘take the leap’, Juliet Chandia working for a community empowerment organisation in Uganda could not have made a better case: When in the process of developing a proposal for an intervention they were asked to cut their budget, yet were still expected to keep their target reach. They argued back to the donor, saying they would not reduce their budget if they could not also reduce their targets. Ultimately they were accountable to the affected community, and they would not agree to embarking on an intervention they knew would not deliver results just to please a donor. Now whose integrity were we doubting again?

Jean-Michel Grand, CEO of Action Against Hunger UK, brought the two days of Preparing for Shock to an end by asking us to be bolder: We need to build on what it successful, go beyond rhetoric and demonstrate that communities are at the centre. And finally, by echoing Meg Sattler’s word from the closing panel and addressing Gang Karhume’s (Rebuilding Hope in Africa) frustration over our obsessions with studies and papers, he called for less commitments and more action – Let’s just do it!


You can read our summary blog from Day 1 here. Our #PreparingForShock was kicking up a storm, you can see all the tweets from the conference here.

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