Photo: Michiel Pols
Last month was the annual meeting of ALNAP, the humanitarian learning network. The overall theme of the meeting was "relevance," so I wanted to use this month's updates to reflect on the relevance of aid as well as highlight some of the topics discussed at the conference.
To be relevant, we need to work in several different dimensions, and across all parts of the humanitarian program cycle. We need to listen to people about their needs, but then we need to provide it in a meaningful way, which requires our understanding to be inclusive, holistic, and dynamic. This should lead to a tailored, co-designed, and adaptive response. This was well-argued in the conference paper, which I recommend as essential reading – also because it introduces us to a new perspective on humanitarian aid, that of the "polyphony" of narratives that we need to capture to be relevant.
I am certainly not a Luddite, but I am also realistic about what technology can do and what it can't. There are numerous uses of smartphones and tablets for surveys, and one of the challenges, especially in rapid-onset natural disasters such as the recent cyclones, is connectivity for remote areas. But there is an encouraging example of adding relevance to the response to Cyclone Idai in Mozambique this year, which used SMS surveys to reach affected people and better understand their needs.
With displacement dominating the world's humanitarian sphere, we all need to understand better how to achieve more than just providing for the immediate needs of the displaced. Achieving self-reliance, albeit away from home, is a significant achievement for people who lost everything, and we need to have ways to understand it better. The Refugee Self-Reliance Index is an initiative to provide a common system to measure self-reliance, to make us understand better which programs are the most relevant for the displaced.
The conference paper on relevance can be found here:
This blog post summarizes the use of SMS surveys in the Cyclone Idai response:
The full information on the Refugee Self-Reliance Index can be found here: