Transforming Surge Capacity project

The Transforming Surge Capacity Project brings together 11 Start Network agencies with ActionAid leading. The project launched at the end of 2014 and project platforms have been set up in Pakistan (local) by ActionAid, the Philippines (local) by Christian Aid, and by Plan International in Thailand (regional) and the UK (international).

Transforming Surge Capacity aims to make surge capacity more effective and efficient across the whole humanitarian sector by promoting collaboration and coordination. It’s about getting everyone to work together to improve and finding new ways to enhance the role of local agencies and external stakeholders.

Traditionally surge capacity efforts have been focused on individual agency support rather than collective working, have largely overlooked local staff and ignored the role of other actors, such as the private sector, and academic organisations can play in supporting civil society surge.

The project has created ‘shared rosters’ that draw on skills and resources from across the sector. Sharing knowledge will maximise resources and target aid more effectively, helping national and local agencies play a greater role and reducing the strain on international agencies.

The project has also created platforms at regional and national level to build strong links across partners in the project. These platforms have piloted new ways to make surge capacity more collaborative, sharing good practice, learning and resources, and organising training. Evidence is also gathered to show the international community why collaborative approaches work.
CHS Alliance is a technical partner in the project and delivers experience, advice and frameworks that guide action. In particular, we have led and will continue to focus on:

A 2007 review of surge capacity, commissioned by the Emergency Capacity-Building Project, recommended a more collaborative approach to surge capacity.

Surge Capacity Research

The Surge Capacity Research is one element of the three-year Transforming Surge Capacity Project (the Project). This research element is an active learning piece and throughout the project has documented and fed into current and future best practices for surge capacity, drawing on experiences of agencies and their staff and providing them with information, tools and stepping stones for the future. So far we have produced:

Baseline Report 2015 - Transforming Surge Capacity Project: This baseline report underlines the fact that working with local partners at times of crisis provides quicker access, local knowledge and can support stronger community and institutional capacity building. We must redouble our efforts to ensure this good practice is translated more consistently into our way of operating. Local people must be at the heart of any response with strong and active support given to their leadership and agency. As the report concludes, we need to find sustainable, adaptable and flexible models to surge, ensuring we can fulfil our humanitarian mandate in an uncertain future.

The State of Surge Capacity in the Humanitarian Sector: The project published the report in 2015, which draws on views from across Start Network agencies as well as a wide range of stakeholders involved in humanitarian response. It features recent developments and lessons learned across the sector on surge response. This report highlighted that, while there has been recent improvement with regard to internal coordination within a number of humanitarian organisations, collaboration and collective work remains fragmented. 

2015 Nepal Earthquake Tracking report: The report is the first in a series of snapshots of surge responses, which will be collated by CHS Alliance over the lifetime of the project. This report highlights the critical role of national and regional staff, an analysis of collaboration for surge, as well as some of the challenges, best practice, innovations and lessons from the surge response.

Slow Onset Research Piece: The report found that all seven agencies that participated in the research had responded to slow-onset crises in past two and half years. However, given that their resource management, staff training and finance mechanisms had been mainly set up to respond to sudden-onset crises, agencies faced challenges in using these tools and mechanisms to respond to slow-onset crises. The report provides examples of how agencies are overcoming these challenges in their responses to slow-onset crises.

Listen to the webinar covering the report here.

2016 Bangladesh floods report: The report presents the results of the third tracking mechanism on the surge response to the devastation caused by floods in Bangladesh in July – August 2016. Thre report shows that a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) coordinated by CARE Bangladesh formed the basis of the response plan for the affected districts, and agencies reportedly relied 100% on their national staff for the surge response.

Listen to the webinar covering the report here.

Haiti Hurricane Matthew 2016: Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, made landfall on Haiti on 4 October 20164, causing the worst humanitarian crisis in the country since the 2010 earthquake. The départements (counties) of Sud and Grand’Anse were worst affected and housing, plantations and livestock were destroyed with some 61,000 people displaced.6 An estimated 2.1 million people were affected. This report presents the results of the fourth tracking mechanism on the surge response to Hurricane Matthew that struck Haiti in October 2016.

Typhoon Nock Ten: The focus of the report is on surge response to the Nock Ten typhoon (locally called “Nina”) that struck the Philippines in December 2016. Typhoon Nock Ten entered the Philippines on 23 December 2016 and made its first landfall in Catanduanes province on 25 December 2016 with maximum sustained winds of 255 km/h. It moved on a westerly track and affected seven other areas, leaving a trail of destruction with two million people affected, nearly 400,000 houses damaged and at least 13 people killed.

The Rohingya Crisis: This report presents the results of the sixth tracking mechanism of the humanitarian surge response to the Rohingya crisis (2017). The surge response was shaped by the unprecedented speed and scale of the refugee crisis that saw some 620,000 Rohingya arrive in Bangladesh between August 25th and December 1st 2017 fleeing the brutal violence in Myanmar. The response was led by the Bangladeshi government and was locally owned.

The Future of Humanitarian Surge: This report from the Transforming Surge Capacity (TSC) project highlights that significant improvements have been made in recent years to surge practices across international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) to respond to these increasing needs – and that change was necessary. However, it also recognises that more must be done to ensure that we have adequate surge capacity in place at all levels of a response so that we are able to scale up (and down) resources smoothly and quickly to support crisis-affected communities.

Additional resources

Time to move on: national perspectives on transforming surge capacity: Commissioned as part of the Transforming Surge Capacity project and led by Cafod, this report analyses national NGO experiences of recruitment practices for surge by international NGOs in the Philippines.

CAFOD organised a webinar about the negative impact of INGO recruitment on the capacities of local and national organisations. The session focused on lessons learned from the Time to Move On research. Listen to the webinar here.

HR Good Practice 

The HR component has lead on activities to develop and share good practice in HR and people management which will help to transform surge capacity in the platforms and wider. These HR Guidelines include:

HR Guidelines

Webinar introducing the guidlines

1) Guidelines for Establishing a HR Co-ordination Network during Surge Responses - HR co-ordination can be invaluable during a response to provide support and learning between international and national agencies as well as provide benchmarks that allow employment terms, conditions and practices to be realistic to the specific situation.

2) Ethical Recruitment Guidelines - The document is intended to provide staff involved in recruitment during a surge response with a brief guidline on how to ensure that all recruitment practices are undertaken in the most ethical way possible.

3) Guidelines for the Role of HR in Supporting Staff Care - This guideline uses the ‘Essentials of Staff Care’ principles on the role of HR in staff care, with input from a wide range of HR professionals in many organisations.

4) Monitoring and Measuring the Impact of HR Support in Surge Responses - This guideline provides information and suggestions on developing key performance indicators so that HR teams can monitor their impact on programme delivery. 

5) Safer Recruitment Guidelines - During a rapid humanitarian surge response, particularly large scale, there is often significant pressure to recruit large numbers of staff as quickly as possible. The guidline outlines the key steps and issues to consider in recruitment in order to safeguard organisations and individuals.

6) Supporting the Development of HR Capacity in Partner/National Organisations - This paper puts forward some suggestions on how organisations who have established HR functions and resources, can support the building of HR capacity in either smaller, national or partner organisations who have not had the opportunity to develop their HR support and function.

HR platform

Surge Capacity Online Human Resource platform: as part of this project, CHS Alliance has led on the creation of a new online interactive human resources (HR) platform, which is intended to help HR and other humanitarian staff share good practices and learn from each other when undertaking surge responses.The platform is open to staff from any organisation involved in humanitarian surge responses in any region. However, there is a special focus on responses in the Asia region at the moment. If you are interested in joining the platform as a user, simply register on the site here.

HR conferences

HR working group

The CHS Alliance hosts a HR working group that includes representatives from Christian Aid, Action Aid, Save the Children, Plan International, Care, World Vision, Action Against Hunger, International Medical Corps, and Tearfund, based in Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, India, Singapore, Thailand, Sri Lanka and UK.