Welcome to Rescue Aid — a conversation blog about reforming humanitarian aid delivery

Peter Biro/IRC

The humanitarian sector is at a crossroads, and 2016 is a critical year to address and improve some of the fundamental ways of how the aid community operates. The one positive consequence of the increased scale of displacement and crises is that the public eye has assured sufficient pressure on donors, aid delivery organizations and governments to reform the funding and delivery of aid.

And with the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) less than a month away, the momentum for change is ripe. I’ve been lucky enough to participate in and hear some of the related conversations, and I am hopeful that we are finally seeing the right people sitting around the right tables, discussing the right issues.

Peter Biro/IRC

But it’s way too early to congratulate ourselves. The real test will be moving from all the talk of the next six months, to implementing the commitments we all make to effect a real difference in people’s lives. This is going to be hard work.

The International Rescue Committee saw the need to reform its own policy and practice more than two years ago with an organizational strategy conceived to strengthen the effectiveness of its programmatic work. The aspirations of what we call Strategy2020 have proven unique in their ability to unite staff and reorient our focus to the necessary support headquarters delivers to our frontline teams responsible for delivering impactful interventions in some of the world’s most volatile contexts.

At the same time, the parameters of the sector in which we operate constrain our ability to reform from within and alone. Others have articulated the most pressing issues already this year.

A few examples of this include the WHS High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing report: “Too important to fail — addressing the humanitarian financing gap”; Deloitte’s “The Humanitarian R&D Imperative: How other sectors overcame impediments to innovation; and our own summary of some of the key changes needed to allow for a focus on outcomes, evidence and measuring cost efficiency, “So, What’s Stopping Us: Obstacles to and Solutions for Humanitarian Effectiveness

The types of issues raised suggest we have a huge opportunity to now get practical and adopt harmonized ways of doing business. The IRC is eager to share the tools and approaches we have developed to:

  • strengthen results based programming and measurement;
  • use and generate rigorous evidence;
  • harmonize methods for tracking cost efficiency;
  • collect and use meaningful client feedback; and
  • analyze context to guide decisions.

But the gloss of annual and donor reports does not provide the space to share the aspirations and lessons of staff similarly committed to improving the impact of a large NGO working in some of the most precarious contexts and with some of the most resilient populations in the world.

We have created Rescue Aid to have a platform to share and compare aspirations on how to improve a sector that is in dire need to transform itself. I hope this will showcase the IRC’s boldness but also our willingness to fail and take risks so others can learn from our mistakes.

This publication will feature the voices of IRC staff, working across our programmatic and technical areas to reshape humanitarian aid delivery and ultimately achieve the best possible outcomes for those we serve.

Welcome and read on!

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities.

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