Examples & Open Discussion

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Examples & Open Discussion

This is a space for conversation leaders and guests to pose questions propose ideas, share successes, tactics, tools and resources with one another that have not been addressed in other threads.

The Grand Bargain - Localisation in Crisis

Hello to all that are joining this discussion over the next week. I'm happy to be here to discuss and learn from you all. 

The World Humanitarian Summit in 2015 launched a set of aid commitments under the name ‘The Grand Bargain.’ One positive of this was renewed focus on empowering the role of local NGOs. Degan Ali, Executive Director of Adeso, stated she hoped 25 percent of aid would flow to local NGOs by 2020. Since then, I have heard comments from the sector that realising this will be hard, that the commitment to localise (even a small amount of) aid will be diluted by accounting/processes that suggest more localisation without fundamentally changing how it works.

In what ways are you seeing shifts or examples of localisation in aid? Are we seeing examples of more empowered communities? Can you share examples?

One example that is think is worth exploring is embedded focus on community philanthrophy (e.g. Tewa - following the earthquakes in Nepal in 2015, their network of volunteers supported affected communities to collect funds and provide cash to communities. Read more here). 


Fight Inequality Alliance

Rachel - Indeed, empowered local communities and civil societies are well placed to ensure impactful and sustainable actions for positive change.

A friend of mine based in Nairobi is the launch director for a newly formed group Fight Inequality Alliance, https://www.fightinequality.org/en/about/ ," a new and growing group of leading international and national non-profit organisations, human rights campaigners, women’s rights groups, environmental groups, faith-based organisations, trade unions, social movements and other civil society organisations that have come together to fight the growing crisis of inequality." Perhaps there are some relevance in the advocacy work that the alliance is promoting to ensuring the promise of the Grand Bargain.

Some of the founding members include ActionAid; ACT Alliance; Asia People’s Movement on Debt & Development, CIVICUS; FEMNET; Focus on the Global South, Greenpeace International; International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Global Alliance for Tax Justice, and Oxfam. There are many examples of effective localizations and collective actions, beyond aid and cash, that can found through the work of the above groups and others.

The paradox of aid: lessons from Afghanistan


Description “How can it be that, after the US appropriated more than $100 billion in aid to Afghanistan, its government remains fragile and the country insecure?”1 Supporting so called ‘fragile states’ to build capacity and exit fragility is one of the most pressing challenges for the world today. Soon most of the world’s poorest people will be left behind in countries affected by conflict. In response, the share of aid to fragile states is growing. But is more aid the right answer? This event explores the case of Afghanistan. While western economies built states and the social contract around tax, modern Afghanistan has been built around aid. Although intended to support effective state-building, the way aid has been delivered has arguably distorted the state and stunted the longer-term development of a social contract: a ‘paradoxical outcome’.2 This event, which forms part of a series of discussions on ‘new directions in public finance’, explores how external actors can effectively support state-building in fragile states. Drawing on Dr Nematullah Bizhan’s personal experience and extensive research, it discusses how future progress in conflict or post-conflict states requires a fundamental re-think of the way aid can support rather than hinder state building, and considers the crucial role of revenue and taxation.

The paradox of aid: lessons from Afghanistan (ODI)


The event is free.  Register online.



Cash Assistance

Related to discussions of localization in crisis response, I would be interested to hear what thoughts people have about - or experiences people have with - cash assistance. Cash assistance, as I understand it, has emerged both from research on what people in crisis situations want and also from the need for humanitarian organizations to find ways of connecting with increasingly urban and/or mobile populations. Is this an effective means of 'localization'? What are the (possible) benefits of and challenges with cash assistance?


Give Cash, Not Stuff

This is an interesting question, Wendy. Nonprofit Quarterly (disclosure: I write for them regularly too) has had several NewsWire pieces related to this topic. Here's one I share that discusses your very question: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/10/27/thing-bad-disaster-donation/

Thanks, Jeannie, for this

Thanks, Jeannie, for this link. 

cash for food, cash for NFIs, cash for work


Wendy raises an important issue around "Localization" of hurmanitarian response through cash assistance.  Cash transfer programming can work effectively when it is carefully planned and implemented, is fit for purpose and ensures value for money.   See https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/cash-transfer-programming-in-emergencies-115356; and,

Some important considerations.  A rapid household needs assessment should be done, to determine loss of essential assets, food and non-food items, livelihoods, etc.  A market analysis is a must, and also a risk/fraud plan should be put in place.  Based on these assessed data, we can more confidently design an appropriate cash transfer program, and the methods may include direct cash grants, cash for work, and/or vouchers. 

In the aftermath of a major typhoon that hit coastal Vietnam in 2009, my team implemented a cash program that was responsive to the needs of the affected families, providing them with purchasing choices while helping to restore local markets and local producers. It worked relatively well, because the community preferred it over the delivery of external aid commodities, and more importantly, most were local producers that used the cash to rebuild their livelihood and other productive assets.   https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/save-children-cash-transfer-programming-operations-manual


Thanks, Huy, for these links.

Thanks, Huy, for these links.

"When fit for the purpose"

We've worked with a multinational's employee donor Corporate Social Responsibility arm for the past 2 years in the aftermath of Hurriances Maria (Puerto Rico), Irma (Florida) and Harvey (Texas) and severe flooding in Louisiana in which we helped them provide direct cash assistance to individuals who suffered home damage. And just as Huy described, we conducted a household level needs assessment to determine the extant of damage as well as "eligibility criteria" per the funder (current employees of the corporation; homeowners; funds used to supplement insurance or FEMA assistance). Through a site visits and simple questionnaires (all of the data was self-reported and didn't require any paperwork), we'd gather the necessary info to make a calculation on the amount to be granted. However, even this "rapid" approach took on average 8-10 weeks from initiation to distribution of funds directly to the households. And, especially in Puerto Rico, the demand for reconstuction/rebuilding material and experienced contractors far outstrips the supply.

Direct cash assistance - though far from a new concept - seemingly has received some attention of late in the development arena with new charities like GiveDirectly supporting unconditional and ongoing cash transfers (backed largely by tech companies) and outcomes research out of MIT's J-PAL research center and the Overseas Development Institute in London. There is, of course, caution in this approach, as expressed in a Stanford Social Innovation Review article from 3 years ago that is still a valid critique:

"The excitement about unconditional cash transfers is perhaps more a reflection of the sorry state of development aid overall than of the real impact of the cash itself. And while the transfers are posed as a replacement of other subsidies, it is still the case that for people to make the most of the cash, they must be able to purchase high-quality, affordable products and services—such as water purification, education, health care, fortified foods, and farm extension services—that are typically not available in rural areas unless someone else subsidizes them. Choice is a good thing; the notion that poor people must simply take whatever we feel like giving them is odious and wrong. However, a blind belief that “people always know best” ignores the reality that when you don’t have access to high-quality education, information, and products, it can be hard to make optimal decisions and take effective action. The poor don’t spend the cash on stupid things; they just may not have access to great things."
I think Huy hit the nail on the head when he wrote "cash transfer programmaing can work effectively...when it is fit for the purpose and ensures value for money." 
New Approaches / Growing Interests

2 areas of innovation in the social good sector and humanitarian world that have received a tremendous amount of interest and attention the past few years are Impact Investing and blockchain technology. I am curious if anyone has any opinions or experience.

"Impact Investing" now seems to include any approach that favors outcomes ("products over process") or emphasises scalability and sustainability or simply promotes divesting, in addition to expectations of both social and financial return. The pool of available money is quite large and growin - even the large, foundations like Ford and Kresge have moved into the space in a large way. While the increase in excitement and funding for social good projects and agencies is great, there is some concern that the emphasis on innovation and scalability will leave many existing organizations doing good, community-level work behind. Anyone share those concerns?

And blockchain technology - which is of course at a fever pitch these days - does seem promising for not only supply chain management or fintech but also protecting refugee and IDP identity and information. I believe the UN organized a blockchain summit recently. Again, curious to see if these applications are pragmatic yet.