did you read this yet? how multi-year humanitarian funding worked in practice...

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Multi-year humanitarian funding: A thematic evaluation

11 Nov 2019, 4:42 p.m.

Paul Harvey

Also good on this is Dan Maxwell and Nisar Majid’s book, ‘Famine in Somalia’ which has a chapter on the importance of social connections - https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190499389.001.0001/acprof-9780190499389-chapter-006

‘an analysis of the way in which social connectedness and remittances explain the outcomes of the famine—both at the level of individual households and for larger groups—up to and including the level of sub-clans.’

11 Nov 2019, 3:29 p.m.

Alison Hemberger

I'll double down on that point about the importance of social capital and
economic connections. Wages of War
<https: www.mercycorps.org="" research="" wages-war=""> also showed that in Syria
relationships, economic or others, outside one's community and access to
more functional markets were associated with better well-being outcomes
(such as food security, quality of housing, psychosocial), while wealth
prior to the conflict did not have the same correlations (all of this data
was based on people who stayed in Syria).

So there's good evidence that market systems matter, though our
interventions often fall short of working effectively at this level!

Team Lead | Markets
Technical Support Unit

skype alison.hemberger
1111 19th Street NW, Suite 650 | Washington, DC 20036

08 Nov 2019, 2:20 p.m.

Simon Levine

Hi John, hi all,

It’s not accurate to say that the study assumed, rather than found, that “factors outside of and beyond people’s communities were most important for livelihoods and social connections”. The final report is a short summary of four years’ work in 4 countries, and if we presented all our evidence, no-one would read the report because it would be too long!

It’s true that we didn’t set up a huge quantitative survey exercise to come up with some quasi-measurements of social relations and of resilience in order to ‘prove’ a link. (My views on the toys that have been created for measuring people's resilience are known! (www.bit.ly/measuring_resilience_BS) ) But, for those who accept the usefulness of using judgement to learn from hundreds of life stories, there was a clear lesson coming through. Perhaps a couple of examples, just to illustrate.

On ‘social capital’, we found that connections inside one’s own community play a role, at least in keeping people alive. The levels of intra-community assistance are often very low in the contexts that we studied – i.e. places where people suffer from chronic and acute poverty (i.e. the kind of places where MYHF is used) – largely because so many people are in the same boat. ON the other hand, people with connections outside of their community had a huge advantage. The comparison between 2 places in Ethiopia was striking – rural people from 1 ethnic group often had relatives in towns, even outside the country. This gave them access to secondary education for their children, and to seasonal migration opportunities in droughts. The other ethnic group just didn’t have those connections, few of them had migration opportunities – and it showed! (There was a quantitative element to this research too, www.bit.ly/early_response_Et)

On household assets/skills. Of course these play some role in shaping people's lives, but our point is that there is much bigger picture especially when crisis hits. When drought struck, huge stocks of wealth in livestock were lost. Those who had more actually lost more (as a % of their wealth). The problem wasn't the size of the herd, but the lack of any economic infrastructure to support those assets (a resilient market that would allow livestock owners to sell animals in a drought). But the aid response is to focus on restocking those who have lost animals, and much more rarely to try and work on the market system. The same with skills. Lots of money goes into giving individuals technical skills, and we found very few who then earned an income from it – the demand wasn’t there, especially in bad years, and those who used to make a good living from skilled work no longer can because the market is flooded with cheap labour! These kinds of stories were repeated again and again across the four countries.

So, the finding is of course not that community level factors are irrelevant or inconsequential. The finding is that factors outside the community were more important for resilience in times of trouble (and, it could be argued, we should have known that all along, because when unemployment hits parts of our own countries, it is usually because of economic factors beyond the community!). The problem is that the community level focus takes up all the attention, so much so that many agencies even define resilience as a community characteristic or set objectives to build ‘community resilience’. Our finding, not our assumption, is that we need to look at things more widely than that.

Hope this clarifies what we meant.

Best regards to all!


Simon Levine
Senior Research Fellow

Humanitarian Policy Group
Overseas Development Institute
203 Blackfriars Road
London SE1 8NJ
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7922 8224
E-mail: [Hidden email] <mailto:[Hidden email]> Web: www.odi.org.uk <http: www.odi.org.uk=""/>

If only donors would stop funding emergencies in such short-term cycles, we said, humanitarian aid would be so much better. We could get away from sticking plasters and treat the underlying causes instead, we said. And then the donors did. So, is humanitarian assistance now sorted? Is resilience now being built in difficult places and is VFM going through the roof? You’ll never see resilience in the same way again after reading how multi-year humanitarian funding worked in practice <https: www.odi.org="" sites="" odi.org.uk="" files="" resource-documents="" 12809.pdf="">.

08 Nov 2019, 2:20 p.m.

Russell Harpring

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for sharing the article and bringing up important discussion points. My thoughts were similar to Dr. Taylor's in that it relates back to the humanitarian response / development context, which gets blurred in protracted crises. The quote that you addressed, Sarah, was one that struck me as well,
"However, this critique must be put into context: the primary goal of emergency relief is to meet immediate and acute needs. It is unfair to demand that humanitarian agencies build resilience. This should not be the standard by which they are judged, or the objective for which they are funded." (pg. 2)
Indeed, MYHF has the potential to address both aspects of humanitarian interventions, but once again we're reminded of the foreign aid debate in the 2000's which questions the extent to which aid should be provided. Should we be paternalistic with aid and aim to develop social support systems or rather focus on development of emerging markets / stabilization of shocked markets and leave social practices to communities? The question can apply to resiliency also - as Levine suggests - is it our job as humanitarians to try to develop (or at least explore) resiliency on the individual level or is it more beneficial to explore market / economic resiliency, knowing that livelihoods are strongly tied to economy (meso or otherwise)?

But if individual resiliency is more strongly linked to their agency, gender and traits - then I think important questions are can resiliency be developed as a skill? and, perhaps, should humanitarian organizations be the ones evaluating and developing programs for that? To me the gender question is intriguing because it represents a variable that is not shaped by life experiences but is still strongly related to a trait.

A very interesting discussion and I look forward to reading what others have to say.

Russell Harpring | Researcher

HUMLOG Institute

P.O.Box 479, 00101 Helsinki, Finland

+358 40 321 4460

[Hidden email]


07 Nov 2019, 12:58 p.m.

John Hoven

Sarah, this statement is an assumption of the study, not a finding:

- Factors outside of and beyond people’s communities were most important
for livelihoods and social connections,

The study did not investigate local contexts, or observe agencies that had
done so:

MYHF has not yet brought about changes in how agencies undertake contextual
analysis. Giving them more time to engage in this could help them to base
their programming on a better understanding of the local context – but only
if MYHF is managed to achieve this as an explicit objective. Changes to the
way in which aid resources are used will not happen merely by changing the
funding timeframe.

It seems unlikely, even implausible, that local social and market
relationships are inconsequential factors for resilience. This study did
not determine that they are.

John Hoven

07 Nov 2019, 12:58 p.m.

Ben Taylor

Hi Sarah,

Interesting post, and very interesting report.

For those of us who are invested in a systemic approach to *development* which
is grounded in institutional transformation, these findings are not
particularly surprising. *But* as Simon et al point out, these are not
explicitly development programmes and can't be held to that standard or
expected to use the same criteria for designing and implementing

So, for me, this part of the question comes down to
humanitarian/development continuum - when humanitarian money is diverted to
development purposes (and its implementers accept it on this basis) then,
yes, it should be held to these standards. And as funders ask for what are
logically more desirable outcomes (sustainability, resilience etc),
implementers are following the money but are unable to deliver on what are
often unrealistic expectations.

But better is possible, and there are elements of the report that point to
that. And, unsurprisingly, for me this also revolves around transforming
those parts of markets and institutions which it is possible to transform.
And, to your second question, *entrepreneurship/adaptiveness and other
inherent character traits *aren't amongst those! It doesn't stop people
trying but these personal assets are rarely successfully 'trained'. What
you *can* do is to change the institutional conditions which allow these
traits to realise their potential, particularly for those who are currently
systematically excluded, touching on your points about gender and health.

Thanks again for the interesting post.

Dr. Ben Taylor

W: www.agoraglobal.org
Skype: ben.taylor.cambridge

Agora Global is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Co. No.

06 Nov 2019, 7:48 p.m.

Sarah J Ward

Hi Mic'ers,

So, when I was in the field full time, I never ever had time to read any
reports or evaluations (I know, I know, it's not great)..

And now that I consult, I spend more time helping agencies and practitioners
asses and learn about what they are doing - and provide insight as best I
can. So I try to do better and read everything.then I can share the stuff
that might be the most useful. But honestly, I usually respond to the stuff
that make me question all my assumptions.

This really one of those.
Multi-year humanitarian funding: A thematic evaluation. The title does not
sound like much, but trust me.

So - as I reslieince/markets person in the humanitarian space I have been
saying for years "donors need to stop with the 9 month funding! This will
change everything and we will support resilience.."

So, they did. and DIFID did Multi-Year Humanitarian Funding (MYHF) and guess
what, no silver bullet. Not to say it's not better.but here is a statement
in right in the beginning that I had not seen written donw before.

"Several factors constrained the ability of humanitarian agencies to address
resilience more meaningfully. Other than the scale of resources available
and short operational timeframes, they were also governed by traditions of
thought and working cultures within the humanitarian sector. The dominant
paradigm remains a transfer to individuals and households of either material
assets or of skills. Since resilience is shaped at much wider geographical
levels and mainly by the performance of institutions, humanitarians struggle
to engage effectively. However, this critique must be put into context: the
primary goal of emergency relief is to meet immediate and acute needs. It is
unfair to demand that humanitarian agencies build resilience. This should
not be the standard by which they are judged, or the objective for which
they are funded"

Okay, fair enough, perhaps we knew that - BUT the report goes on to
challenge a few of my long held beliefs.
* Factors outside of and beyond people's communities were most
important for livelihoods and social connections,
* that business assets we keep replacing and telling folks to invest
in are not really key to their resilience
* that your health and your gender seem to be a the heart of if you
are or are not resilient,
* and most perplexingly - the amorphous quality of some folks to
just be better at making and keeping personal connections and adapting to
new situations is a huge factor in how well they respond to crisis (my
husband, an entrepreneur, is very good at this one.me, not as much)

so, as a professional - where does this leave me/us?
What should be working on and investing in?

And that last one - really, how do we teach/support what seems to be a
personality trait?

I really recommend reading this report - it might just lead us toward some
new modes of practice and give us a few better answers to questions we
assumed we knew the answer to.

Simon Levine and the team at ODI/HPG do keep me on my toes.

What you do think? Looking forward to your thoughts everyone.

Sarah J Ward

Livelihoods and Economic Recovery in Crisis

<mailto:[Hidden email]> [Hidden email]

skype: sarahjward

+1 518 929 6975

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-ward-5280196