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The Humanitarian Staff Development Project: Piloting Collaborative Learning
Published on 6 October 2011
The Humanitarian Staff Development Project (HSDP) is a pilot staff development program focused on developing national capacity to respond more effectively to humanitarian disasters. The Program is designed as a learning journey, moving away from the typical one-off workshop approach and placing a greater responsibility on the participant to take advantage of self-development opportunities and to apply their learning in the workplace.
The program is a leading example of collaborative staff capacity development, drawing on the expertise of key humanitarian agency staff from the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA) and the Emergency Capacity Building Project (ECB) with the expert guidance of sector lead in staff capacity development, People in Aid.
Building Skills and Capacity
The CBHA was set up in 2010 to improve the speed and effectiveness of response by 15 British based Humanitarian Agencies. A key objective was to build the skills and capacity of humanitarian aid workers around the world. A program was developed with three components:
- Development of a set of Core Humanitarian Competencies.
- Development of a Core Humanitarian Skills Program and a Management and Leadership Program.
- Humanitarian Leadership Trainee Scheme
The programs developed under components 2 and 3 have been based on the Core Humanitarian Competency Framework. The Framework was complied and agreed by all CBHA and ECB agencies globally and is seen as an excellent collaborative piece of work and a clear alignment in thinking between NGOs globally.
Oxfam GB is partnering with the ECB Project to implement the second component, the HSDP, through two ‘on-the-job’ staff development programs:
- The Core Humanitarian Skills Development Program introduces the core concepts of humanitarian programming to staff likely to work in a humanitarian response over a six month training period.
- The Humanitarian Leadership and Management Skills Development Program is for mid -level managers and team leaders with humanitarian experience and lasts for nine months.
Developing the HSDP Curriculum
Both programs have been designed based on the Core Humanitarian Competencies essential for humanitarian programming, regardless of agency, role, specialism or location. The programs use context-specific scenarios for example, an earthquake in Indonesia and flooding in Bangladesh. An assessment of staff capacity was undertaken in each location in 2010 by People in Aid to ensure the curriculum reflected the context and to provide a baseline from which to build. Inter-agency simulations using the ECB inter-agency simulation tool also contributed.
Each program is comprised of:
- pre-workshop activities
- experiential face-to-face workshops
- self-directed learning.
Participants are also encouraged to contact each other during the program period to share and discuss work related dilemmas. Importantly, manager support is required throughout.
The Program includes a coaching element, which is the first time humanitarian donors have explicitly funded coaching. M&L participants receive coaching from a professional coach and also have the opportunity to test their skills on the Core Skill Program participants.
Tapan Chakraborty, ACF Bangladesh participant comments
During our second workshop a flash flood hit Cox’s bazaar district and more than half a million people were affected severely. ACF is conducting an in-depth assessment there and I am leading the team. It is a great opportunity for me to apply my learning from the workshop.
Challenges and Opportunities
The pilot programs have consistently received positive feedback regarding how the design provides exposure to issues of program quality and best practice both in context, and as part of a complex program. Facilitators and participants alike are encouraged to use and refer to ‘real’ experience throughout the process.
The programs are longer-term, on-job and demand the investment of time, thought and application. Evaluations have shown that there is a clear correlation between lack of manager support and lower participant engagement. Also where participants were able to make time to meet with program 'buddies' or access their coach, the application of learning has been much more rewarding, however this proved more of a challenge to achieve.
From early 2012 the final materials will be freely available for the humanitarian sector in electronic form. Toward the end of the project a series of one-day learning events (right) will provide an opportunity for the humanitarian community to review, learn from the events and make future recommendations. There will also be a Facilitator ‘handover’ in early 2012, for those who may facilitate during future training programs.
The ECB Project has now secured funding to replicate the programs in the same four locations plus Niger. These programs will be called the ENHAnce project (Expanding National Humanitarian Ability Project) and will begin in January 2012, once again under the leadership of Oxfam in partnership with ECB Project members. In addition to the learning journey described above, sector specific face-to-face training modules will be developed as will e-Learning modules on public health engineering and hygiene promotion that participants can use to further deepen their learning.
For details of the program or one day learning events please contact: Caroline Hotham firstname.lastname@example.org. For details on ENHAnce please contact Nigel Vaz email@example.com.
17 May 2013: ECB Project publish new Case Study on Simulations
The new case study addresses the questions ‘What is a simulation and why use them?’, before focusing on six different simulation types to compare, contrast and draw lessons from. Read more
9 May 2013: Shelter Accountability Resources
1 May 2013: Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation – A short course from IDS and ICCCAD
“What needs to be done differently so as to make sure that disaster risk reduction (DRR) is aligned with the needs of adaptation to climate change?”
This question is at the forefront of a new short course from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) in Bangladesh, about Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. Read more