Start Network/ Deloitte Workshop…

February 28, 2014

Start Network/ Deloitte Workshop: Developing Effective Surge Capacity for a 21st Century Humanitarian Sector

Session 1: Deloitte UK / Save the Children International – ‘Creating an Operating Strategy for Humanitarian Response’

The workshop began with an introduction from the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) Corporate Responsibility team on the Deloitte Humanitarian Innovation Program. The Deloitte UK Consulting team presented an overview of their recent work delivered as part of the Program with Save the Children International, to help develop an operating strategy for humanitarian crises response. The outcomes can be summarised thus:

In the research stage, Deloitte UK drew from ‘As-is’ analysis, interviewing and surveying of SCI stakeholders, and case studies from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the National Health Service incident planning organisation, and other NGOs. The research showed that a clear strategic objective was often lacking during crisis response, and that insufficient focus was given to scale-down afterwards.

The Deloitte UK Target Operating Model methodology was used to develop an operating framework to lay out an end to end view of all areas involved in the scaling up and scaling down in a humanitarian crisis. This framework mapped considerations of decreasing priority against the ‘crisis lifecycle’ to codify the different operational components of humanitarian response.

This operating framework formed part of a wider operating strategy, in which all activity was informed by a strategic objective for scale up/ scale down. The framework fed into five strategic action areas that needed to be addressed to achieve the strategic objective: pre-crisis, categorization, funding, people, and governance. This strategy was set out in Deloitte UK’s report along with recommendations for embedding these learnings and addressing the action areas.

The Deloitte UK team invited discussion and feedback from the workshop participants throughout the presentation. Some key points were raised:

Although the presentation suggested that greater consideration needs to be given to scale down after a response, it is important to acknowledge that there isn’t a return to ‘normal’ after a crisis, there is a ‘new normal’. The most important consideration then needs to be around managing this change in a crisis.
The idea of a crisis ‘lifecycle’ wasn’t felt to capture the idea of trying to reduce the need for future interventions at such a scale. The scale down transition should take into consideration development priorities for the disaster affected area, so that future responses needn’t be as big.

The Operating Framework was perceived to be too top-down, with the involvement of beneficiaries in decision making processes not apparent. While in this model ‘Affected Parties’ comprised an overall aspect of the scale up, delivery and scale down of a response, it was suggested that more explicitly participatory models (involving beneficiaries throughout all stages of response) should be used.
Context and conflict analysis was also felt to be an ongoing consideration that was not evident in the Operating Framework.

Although the Operating Framework was described as a ‘snapshot in time’ during SCI’s engagement with Deloitte UK, resources would be needed to keep this updated and to implement the recommendations.
Any operational frameworks would need to be well communicated and highly flexible, because of the complexity of governance and the fact that civil society organisations do not have control of their operating environment.

While governance was recognized as a huge issue for the humanitarian sector, the key consideration is around ensuring that decision making is taking place in the right place, moving away from a top-down, traditional system in which governance takes place at HQ level.

Session 2: Presentation of Start Network Surge Capacity Project
ActionAid and Save the Children UK presented a proposal for the Start Network Surge Capacity project, which forms part of the Start Build portfolio. The project was developed in response to a growing need to decentralize surge capacity in order to serve the rising number of people that will be affected by disasters in the future. The project aims to move towards a more collaborative interagency model for Surge, drawing on different skills within participating organisations.

Session 3: Presentation of People in Aid/ ECB Project report ‘Surge Capacity in the Humanitarian Relief and Development Sector’
People in Aid presented a headline summary of its 2007 report, widely regarded as the only comprehensive, publically available review of Surge capacity within the sector. Some suggestions were made for how the report could be updated:

  • An exploration of “roster abuse” – to what extent do organisations harm their Surge rosters by misuse / poor deployment of the roster members (i.e. using them to cover planned-for events such as leave or holiday rather than actual emergency deployments)
  • Comparisons / lessons from other sectors
  • An increased focus on scale down
  • More research into whether collaborative models of surge really work
  • An exploration of the role of step aside and operational leadership during surge deployments
    A “human” angle covering issues such as burn out, pay and conditions, and relational considerations of surge.

Session 4: World Café discussions around four topics.
The afternoon session was designed to give participants the opportunity to discuss their own ideas for developing surge capacity to meet the demands of the future. Participants were divided into four mixed groups and who each spent some time brainstorming ideas around the following topics.

Topic 1: What have we learned from the discussions this morning on how NGOs could benefit from working with the Private Sector on surge? What do we see as the pros and cons of NGOs and the private sector working together on surge? What are the key areas we would propose for the START surge proposal to pilot in regard to NGOs and the private sector working together on surge?

The groups discussed how the private sector can bring experience in leadership, technology and architecture to help capacity building between emergency responses. However, some obvious tensions could arise from different values and ethics around neutrality and impartiality. It was suggested that the Start Network could engage with the World Economic Forum, who have an emergency logistics forum that might provide assistance with surge capacity. The groups also pointed out that collaboration between the private and humanitarian sectors should be framed as a two way transaction: the private sector can gain as much from the engagement as the humanitarian sector. For example, Deloitte UK shared that they have learned a lot from their engagement with SCI.

Topic 2: If the NGO sector is to look at greater collaboration and potential interagency mechanisms to support surge, what key areas of research and/or implementation mechanisms would you propose for consideration?

Firstly the groups challenged the assumption that interagency collaboration was the right model for surge. Before mechanisms were developed, it would be important to define the benefit of collaborative surge over the current status quo. Some ideas for interagency surge were proposed, including:

  • An interagency group on roster management to include RedR, Mango and People in Aid, and drawing on the expertise of private companies.
  • A partnership with Universities in key regional locations to research national surge.
  • Linking social media and other IT developments with technical knowledge to take advantage of potential opportunities.
  • Further research into the ECB Project interagency standing team, to understand how that collaborative surge initiative worked in practice.
  • A representative for the Start agencies could be positioned in clusters in order to represent Start members.
  • To avoid competition between INGOs for ‘reputable’ national partners when an emergency occurs, research could be carried out to help INGOs engage more effectively with national partners before a crisis.

Development graduates could be seconded to back fill vacancies when staff are deployed abroad. The possibility of a ‘Start Network Intern Academy’ could be explored, where work placement schemes mean that interns will be funded by their universities.

Topic 3: If we are to move to increasing national/regional surge what are the considerations that we need to take into account?

The primary consideration was felt to be for a systemic argument defining why decentralising surge capacity is a good idea. It is important that different agencies motivations to bring about this shift are discussed, and that the needs of beneficiaries are kept front and centre. Some ideas for national and regional surge were discussed, including:

  • Intra-country engagement, where regional countries have standing arrangements to share surge capacity in the event of a crisis in another nearby country.
  • A cadre of context-specific roles where, instead of flying in programme managers from HQ, for example, local translators could be recruited who can translate donor obligation into action for local communities.
  • Creating a ‘shell’ NGO legal structure so that local civil society groups and individuals who want to collaborate will have the necessary legal frameworks in place to spring into action in the event of a crisis.
  • Given that good local NGOs are hard to find, creating a platform that enables national NGOS to collaborate both during disaster and otherwise. This would require an injection of longer term sustainable resources.

Topic 4: What are some of the best ways to share learning on surge across, and out of, the sector?
Within the sector, participants felt that videos and case studies are effective learning tools. The learning should incorporate experiences not just from the international level, but also from country teams who have received surge staff. The idea of this learning would be to learn how to mitigate some of the relational tensions caused by surge in the future. The content of this learning would not be the only important consideration: the timing of its delivery would also play a part in how it is received. Using this learning before strategy meetings, and taking into account budget cycles, could ensure it is widely disseminated and embedded. Online learning platforms and annual events were also suggested as devices to further entrench this knowledge sharing.

It was recognized that these tools would be more difficult to translate outside of the sector, with NGO-specific jargon presenting a potential barrier to engagement. However, cross-sector collaborations were a crucial avenue for maximizing learning. For example, private sector expertise on contracting, for example, could be utilized to push for an attitudinal shift within donor agencies, whereby emergency response is not perceived as a ‘pay as you go’ mechanism, but something more collaborative.
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms.

This communication contains general information only, and none of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, its member firms, or their related entities (collectively, the “Deloitte Network”) is, by means of this communication, rendering professional advice or services. No entity in the Deloitte Network shall be responsible for any loss whatsoever sustained by any person who relies on this communication.
© 2014. For information, contact Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.