ACT Alliance’s innovative mentorship for greater CHS impact

27 November 2023

ACT Alliance, a dedicated CHS Alliance member, has embarked on an innovative approach to support programme quality and accountability within its membership. ACT Alliance has been CHS Certified since 2017. Committed to the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) and its transformative potential, ACT Alliance initiated a pilot programme to mentor and guide selected national organisations through the CHS self-assessment process.

As a result of this new approach, ACT Alliance and CHS Alliance are witnessing increased interest from local NGOs operating in similar contexts. Rizwan Iqbal, Global Accountability & Safeguarding Coordinator at ACT Alliance, emphasises the importance of supporting local and national NGOs: “As meeting the CHS is so fundamental for providing the type of accountable aid crisis-affected people have the right to, donors and large partners must support them to achieve this.”

This pioneering initiative by ACT Alliance, supported by its funding member Kerk in Actie, is not just about meeting standards; it’s a journey of empowerment, collaboration, and positive transformation that is rippling through the sector. As these organisations continue to champion accountability and quality improvement, their impact resonates far beyond this pilot.

Global engagement

ACT Alliance established clear criteria for engagement with the pilot initiative and hosted a global webinar to explain how it works to potential participants. The response was very strong, with over 20 applications received. Ultimately, four organisations—Anglican Development Services (ADS) Kenya, Cuban Council of Churches, Service Chretien d’Haiti (SCH), and YAKKUM Emergency Unit (YEU) Indonesia—were chosen to participate based on their applications which showed a good understanding of the pilot and how they would constructively utilise the support available.

ACT Alliance and CHS Alliance member YAKKUM Emergency Unit holding a 2023 learning workshop on the CHS self-assessment journey for ACT Alliance Forum members in Indonesia and local partners. Credit: YAKKUM Emergency Unit.

Flexible support

ACT Alliance provided these organisations with technical support and a flexible grant of USD 7,500 to conduct a comprehensive CHS self-assessment and improvement plan. The funds were not restricted to specific uses, allowing organisations to leverage existing efforts, use innovative approaches and address their unique needs.

“For the Council of Churches of Cuba, conducting a CHS self-assessment represented a great opportunity for staff self-reflection on how to improve the quality of our response to affected communities and renew our commitment to more transparent accountability. Without the support to carry it out, we would not be able to evaluate ourselves in the same way.” Maria L. Navas Zorrilla, Humanitarian & Development Specialist Adviser, Cuban Council of Churches.

Hands-on help

While these organisations were already incorporating the CHS into their operations, they sought verification against the Standard to better understand and act on the CHS Commitments. ACT Alliance collaborated closely with each organisation, offering support in initiating the self-assessment process, identifying resources in relevant languages, and fostering senior management commitment.

Throughout the process, ACT Alliance played a strong mentoring role, offering guidance, specialised training where needed, and assistance in navigating tools. Ernst Abraham, Executive Director of local ACT Alliance member SCH Haiti, highlighted the impact of this support: “SCH received continuous support from ACT and CHS Alliance. This assistance made a dramatic difference, and without it, SCH would not be able to make the assessment correctly and completely.

Transformative changes

The self-assessment process has become a catalyst for internal and external collaboration, as organisations examine precisely where they need strengthening and what resources—internal or external—are required.

The simultaneous engagement of pilot organisations in the self-assessment process has fostered peer learning, creating a supportive community working towards a common goal. Anastasia Maylinda, Executive Member Manager of YEU Indonesia, noted, “This self-assessment process has had a positive impact, especially in areas of organisational governance, operational and partnership building.”

Ernst Abraham of SCH, Haiti highlighted a significant change in staff sensitivity to abuse and sexual exploitation, leading to the hiring of more women as field staff to better support vulnerable women.

ADS Kenya sharing their lessons from applying the CHS at a national Event. Credit: Rizwan Iqbal.

Charles Macharia, Programs Manager of ADS Kenya, shared, “We now feel more confident engaging at many different levels with quality and accountability mechanisms nationally, regionally and globally. The self-assessment process also gives us the chance for different departments to work together internally on our shared quality and accountability goals.

Championing the cause

These pilot organisations have become champions of CHS in their respective countries, actively promoting the Standard and sharing their experiences. YEU in Indonesia recently conducted a learning workshop on the CHS self-assessment journey for ACT Alliance Forum members in Indonesia and local partners, setting an example for other organisations. ADS Kenya is actively encouraging and supporting other entities to initiate their CHS self-assessments.

ACT Alliance and CHS Alliance member YAKKUM Emergency Unit holding a 2023 learning workshop on the CHS self-assessment journey for ACT Alliance Forum members in Indonesia and local partners. Credit: YAKKUM Emergency Unit.

Leadership in action

ACT Alliance have shown what is possible when national organisations are proactively supported to make the most of the CHS. CHS Alliance calls on all INGOs to actively champion the CHS: now is the time for the CHS movement to step up and ensure all organisations can fulfil our shared CHS Commitments to the people we serve.