Page 16 - DHCI Magazine
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                No longer from “disaster to disaster”
The impulse to convert all resources and energy into direct aid is very much ingrained in the organisational culture of emergency organisations, as the board members representing the sector understand it. Marieke van Schaik, board member and CEO of the Netherlands Red Cross: ‘You should not forget that the funding of emergency organisations also leaves little room for doing things differently. In most organisations, almost all the money that comes in has already been earmarked for programmes. Donors naturally expect you to spend all donations on direct aid on the spot. Reintje van Haeringen adds: ‘And yet it nevertheless remains what is necessary: we must make room for sustainable solutions, instead of going “from disaster to disaster”.
In the emergency aid sector’s transition to innovation and smarter and better aid, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs not only offers
a helping hand, but also calls for concrete change. Mariëlle van Miltenburg: ‘Central
to our humanitarian policy are the people
in need. They must receive effective and efficient aid. That is our benchmark, also in innovation. What does it achieve in practice? Financial support is therefore conditional
on progress in themes such as localisation, risk sharing, and innovation. In other words, we really want innovation; this is part of
the preconditions for funding.’ In support
of this, in recent years DCHI has provided a professional and at the same time familiar environment for a growing coalition to investigate and experiment with what is needed and how results can be achieved.
Don’t start with the answer, but with the question
When resources are scarce and the emergency is pressing, it is important to search as efficiently as possible for the solutions that
need to emerge from innovation. Marieke
van Schaik: ‘What we now understand much better is that the demand must come as much as possible from the location where the
issue arises. That sounds logical, but is not always evident. People who are active in the humanitarian sector are often very passionate, but that can also be a pitfall, because it easily gives rise to ‘nice’ ideas that overlook the reality of assistance. This is where things often go wrong: which question is your innovation answering? We must increase our engagement with our people in the countries concerned. It is up to us to unshackle these smart people so that they can do a better job. It starts, therefore, by asking this question
as clearly as possible, and in the innovation process it is essential to look at local solutions that may already exist and that we may be
able to scale up.’ DCHI has demonstrated how this can lead to a smarter approach by means of an innovation challenge together with the Dutch Relief Alliance, a partnership of Dutch emergency aid organisations. The challenge centred on the articulation of questions. Reintje van Haeringen: ‘It was clearly demonstrated how you can quickly find out what you can do for the countries in which you are active with short lines of communication. That triggers a different way of thinking.’
Data-driven innovation
First of all, working together in a coalition results in knowledge sharing. ‘Partly because of our size, the Red Cross has more innovation experience than what is average in the sector,’ says Marieke van Schaik. ‘We employ people for this purpose and have, for example,
been able to set up 510, a specialised data department. It is used all over the world: before, during, and after disasters. Learning from data helps enormously in asking the right question and knowing what you are talking about. The expertise we gain should be of benefit to others as well.’
Humanitarian Impact Re-imagined
‘Without a platform like DCHI that
brings the parties together, you will
not make any progress - an insight that should spur action’

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