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Written by Niall Boot, GOAL Global WASH Advisor

In recent months I have found myself having conversations with a range of stakeholders on the importance of the transition between humanitarian response and development work; and there seems to be overwhelming acceptance that this is a significant challenge. In this regard I seem to be repeatedly referring people to the work being done by GOAL and Sanergy on our Humanitarian Innovation Fund project.

This project commenced in September and in that same month we held our first stakeholder meeting that brought together actors from Humanitarian, Development and Social Enterprises.

Prior to the meeting I had feared that the different groups would have little interest in this critical crossover area and see little point in engaging throughout this 18 month project. However, those fears were not realised, everyone present agreed to continue to be involved in the project and even had many suggestions on potential other stakeholders to bring on board. In addition to GOAL and Sanergy, stakeholders involved included Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, UNHCR, International Committee of the Red Cross, Sanitation and Pivot Works.

First Stakeholder Group meeting of HIF Project held in Nairobi. Credit: GOAL.

The key to the success of this project is that both groups understand the mutually beneficial nature of these relationships. As humanitarian agencies respond in increasingly complex environments, particularly urban areas, the ability to exit from humanitarian response in a sustainable way can be extremely challenging. This is particularly  true where the services that existed prior to the emergency have been partially or completely destroyed. Working with social enterprises to find a market based option early on during an emergency response can  help humanitarian agencies to exit responsibly. It can also create an opportunity for the social enterprises to expand into a new operational area where they previously may not have had the financial support to carry out important exploratory work.

We still have a lot to discuss.

There are important questions around how humanitarian incentives work during the early stages of an emergency response, and the potential adverse effect they might have on future market based solutions. We also need to think about which urban areas are already suitable locations for linking humanitarian responders and social enterprises for emergency preparedness activities. Most importantly, we need to discuss how a transition might happen and how long it might take.

With ever increasing discussion around development and humanitarian silos, and how we connect the two, I certainly think our discussions will contribute greatly to the dialogue. As humanitarian crises get more complex in a changing world, so must our response!

As the project continues we will be able to better understand how we can link humanitarian actors to social enterprises. To enable the Sanergy product development team to have an improved understanding of the humanitarian context a trip has already been arranged, with the assistance of UNHCR and Norwegian Refugee Council, to visit a refugee camp context in Kenya.

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