Start Engage

The Start Network seeks to enable the emergence of a re-balanced system where local, national and international actors operate in a coherent, mutually supportive, decentralised and self-organised way.

The first line of response is the local level. Other national and international responders act to support the first line.

The Start Network has developed a portfolio of capacity strengthening projects to ensure that when a disaster strikes, the humanitarian actors that are best placed to respond will have the capacity to do so. This means local capacity is prioritised, and decision making takes place as close to the front line as possible. International capacity will remain important for support in extreme cases. The projects are collaboratively developed and implemented, in line with the Start vision of promoting a ‘network of networks’.

This area of work has been developed with the following objectives:

Local, national and regional capacity

Will be prioritised over international actor capacity. The implication is that capacity strengthening initiatives should not result in further consolidation of capacity in international actors.

Specialised mitigation, preparedness and response capacity

Will be prioritised over capacity that has a short term and unsustainable outcome. Efforts will be made to ensure skilled and timely assistance is available if national capacity is overwhelmed.

Humanitarian leadership

Will be prioritised at all levels, to build partnerships between actors & shift decision making and leadership to the global south.

Creating a new international capacity for enabling others to deliver humanitarian action

Evolving the contribution of international NGOs from the delivery of material assistance to affected populations toward a role that is about brokering, facilitating and supporting local organisations. This will help move away from a centralised, top-down system towards a more decentralised, diverse and flexible model.

Seeking and promoting innovation

New ways of operating are needed to improve performance at all levels, particularly through improved sharing of knowledge and adapting ideas from beyond the sector.

Fostering collaboration

Should be prioritised over single agency efforts, creating ways for traditional and non-humanitarian actors to collaborate and increase the overall scale of the humanitarian system. This will also involve breaking down barriers between donors and implementers.

The current Start Engage portfolio consists of nine collaboratively designed and managed projects. These projects are part of the UK Department for International Development’s Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP). 

ALERT: Preparing to Respond Now
Age and Disability

Shifting the Power
Talent Development
Transforming Surge Capacity
Protection in Practice
Linking Preparedness, Response and Resilience
Financial Enablers
Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework

Our partners

The DEPP is a groundbreaking three year programme that will invest £40m in disaster and emergency preparedness. It is intended to significantly improve the quality and speed of humanitarian response in countries at risk of natural disaster or conflict related humanitarian emergencies. It will do this by increasing and strengthening the capacity of the humanitarian system at all levels, although support will be weighted towards training and development for local humanitarian workers at national level. National preparedness systems, particularly around communication, will also be strengthened.

As well as the £26m in funding allocated to Start Network projects under the DEPP, £3m will also be going to the CDAC Network for a project around communicating with disaster affected communities. A further £10m will later be released through a competitive window around innovations in disaster preparedness.

The CDAC Network is a cross-sector collaboration amongst a range of diverse actors including humanitarian and media development organisations and technology providers that aims to ensure that communities affected by crisis are better able to withstand and recover from humanitarian emergencies, and are actively engaged in decisions about the relief and recovery efforts in their country. For the DEPP, the Network will primarily be focussing on two countries, namely Bangladesh and South Sudan. Click here to visit the CDAC Network website.

The Start Network and CDAC Network will be working together with DFID and other actors to deliver this programme over the next three years.


Through Start Engage we aim to foster three types of initiative:

Step-change projects designed to catalyse fundamental transformation, that a single group or organisation could not undertake alone. These projects will require investment, risk tolerance, significant multi-agency collaboration, and engaging expertise beyond the sector.
Initiatives that take proven approaches to scale. These initiatives must have the ability to adapt quickly to changing environments.
Initiatives that are focussed on the institutional culture of international NGOs , other civil society organisations, and humanitarian actors of all kinds, to enhance self-awareness and the capacity for adaptation. For example this might include enabling INGOs to take on new approaches other than service delivery.