1. Network Effects
The more people use a service, the more valuable the service. Example: the more people who own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner.
Built around the networks constituting the Consultative Group for Emergency Preparedness and Response, the second Humanitarian Networks and Partnership Week (HNPW) began on 1 February with the objectives of exchanging expertise, and working deeply on the specifics of a range of issues.
Government attendance this year illustrated a gap of representation of some of the world’s most vulnerable regions, while the majority of NGOs present were international. Building on the diversity of mandates, one of the goals for the next HNPW (6 to 10 February 2017) will be to increase the geographic diversity of its participants: we must extend the telephone network.
We will invest in interpretation services and sponsorship of participants representing operational partners from disaster-prone countries. We will also extend the invitation to local businesses.
2. The Strength of Weak Ties
The “weak tie hypothesis” argues that to get more information and different insight, you need to move to more distant parts of your social world.
Potentially the most valuable outcome of HNPW was something that cannot be quantified: enabling informal networking, especially with non-traditional actors. The number of networks increased from 5 to 12, thereby expanding and deepening the conversations to include topics such as cash programming, emergency medical teams, and the role of the private sector. These new networks and actors brought a more diverse set of participants.
A total of 825 people participated in the 35 events throughout the week – twice as many as anticipated. Attendees included 67 governments, 22 UN agencies and international organizations, including the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and 10 regional organizations. The remainder represented a crucial set of partners: 53 national and international NGOs, alliances and partnerships; 35 private companies; as well as 25 research and academic institutions. Enabling the informal exchange of ideas and the development of “weak ties” – especially among non-traditional actors – enriches the exchange of knowledge and expertise.
3. Working Horizontally
The structure of the programme enabled a meaningful exchange across the networks.
The response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in late 2013, and to the Nepal Earthquake in April last year, showed that many of the issues the networks face, such as the immediate bottlenecks at the airport, cannot be tackled individually, but require working horizontally.
Five Consultative Group Focus Task Forces brought together actors across these networks to identify collective solutions to some of those shared challenges: information analysis in the first 72 hours of a major sudden-onset emergency, effective field coordination, streamlining simulation exercises and training, as well as addressing customs and environmental issues in response.
Many of the objectives were achieved: the existing task forces acquired buy-in and are now on a more concrete path; three new areas for collaboration were identified: urban search and rescue capacity-development, establishment of a Community of Practice for national and regional crisis centres, and strengthening the preparedness and capacity of airports in disaster-prone countries.
4. Working Vertically
The structure of the programme enabled the networks to dig deep into the details of their specific area of work.
The established networks, experts in a range of areas such as earthquake response to civil-military coordination, held their annual meetings, digging deep into the details of their specialised area of work. Moreover, these networks also benefitted from the engagement with the wider group of attendees – such as learning more about how the private sector can enhance response effectiveness, or how we can increase the reach of humanitarian cash programming – and brought those fresh ideas into the forum of their specific network.
See you next year, when we will continue to foster ideas, collaboration and common understanding across countries, mandates and organizations.
Photos: Brigitte Selva, Haiko Magtrayo