04/08/2017

Developing professional certifications for humanitarian practitioners


By Markus Forsberg
Markus Forsberg manages the Collaboration Center for the Recognition of Skills, Experience, and Learning. He has worked with PHAP since 2012, focusing on member services and platforms. He has professional experience in IT management and development from the private sector and NGOs, as well as with government, EU, and UN actors.

In April this year, the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) launched an exciting new program with the support of CHS Alliance and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Offering the first-ever independent certifications in specific core humanitarian competencies, the development of the PHAP Credentialing Program has been fundamentally driven by the need for a robust, meaningful, and inexpensive means for humanitarian practitioners to demonstrate professional competencies critical to their work and for humanitarian agencies to promote and develop such competencies among their staff and volunteers.

This need was identified and unpacked through extensive environmental scanning and targeted surveying of humanitarian practitioners and employers, drawing on inputs from more than 5,000 people over the course of 2016.

The expressed needs and concerns of humanitarian sector stakeholders aligned with the typical characteristics and requirements of professional certification programs in other sectors, the established best practices for which are codified in the ISO 17024 standard for personnel certification. However, while traditional “role-based” professional certification normally takes a holistic approach to defining and assessing the full set of competencies for an entire professional role, the humanitarian sector demands flexibility and modularity to accommodate the vast diversity of roles and responsibilities among those working and volunteering in humanitarian action – but without sacrificing the seriousness and robustness of the program.

Thus it was determined that the PHAP Credentialing Program should develop certifications according to the requirements of ISO 17024 standard, while defining the scope of each certification to cover a clearly defined sub-set of competencies rather than a full set of competencies for any given role in the sector.

The vision of the Credentialing Program is to accumulate over time a portfolio of certifications at the same level of quality of relevance, but covering different areas of professional competence relevant to humanitarian work, developed by PHAP and other relevant credentialing bodies, as appropriate. Practitioners may then choose which set of certifications is most appropriate and useful for them to pursue, depending on their particular role and situation.

The underlying philosophy of the ISO 17024 standard is that the certification programs must be developed and maintained by representatives of the target group for certification, in this case humanitarian practitioners from all parts of the humanitarian sector. This is to help ensure that the certification requirements are based in practice and take into account the full range of relevant perspectives.

The PHAP Board of Directors, interim Certification Commission, and management team are all tremendously grateful to the hundreds of humanitarian practitioners and other subject matter experts from all over the world who have contributed to the development of the first set of certifications under the PHAP Credentialing Program.

The PHAP Credentialing Program currently offers certifications for humanitarian practitioners in three competency areas:

Click here to learn more about the program, as well as ways to prepare for certification assessments.


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