Responding for Impact: Lessons and Learning from the Australian Humanitarian Sector

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This workshop report is relevant for humanitarian practitioners engaged in impact evaluations or who are interested in learning from impact evaluations in diverse contexts.

The Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) and ACFID’s Humanitarian Reference Group (HRG) jointly hosted the seminar at the Australian National University (ANU) on 25 July 2019, which began with the launch of three AHP Evaluations (Yemen, Bangladesh and South Sudan). The seminar focused on three cross-cutting themes: localisation; social inclusion; and accountability to beneficiaries. Sessions included an interactive Q&A panel, parallel deep dive sessions, a plenary report back and reflections. Key messages arising from the day relating to the cross-cutting themes are presented below.


Localisation: Genuine partnerships with local organisations help to support localisation efforts Localisation requires long-term investments in relationships, capacity strengthening and financial support beyond project cycles. A strong understanding of local contexts is critical to support localisation efforts.
Social inclusion: Participants agreed that social inclusion needs to be embedded across humanitarian response, as well as ongoing programs and practice instead of being considered an ‘add-on’. Improved efforts are needed to engage with hard to reach, marginalised groups which often incur additional costs. Participants noted the relatively common practice of ‘outsourcing’ inclusion rather than incorporating inclusion principles into everyday practice
Accountability to beneficiaries: Progress towards accountability to beneficiaries is evident through widely implemented codes of conduct and competency frameworks. Feedback mechanisms have also supported beneficiaries to provide inputs, and systems that respond to such feedback are helping to ‘close the feedback loop’. Competing priorities (e.g. urgency to assist those in need versus time needed to build trusting relationships) was a challenge reported by participants.
Seminar outcomes highlight how the Australian humanitarian sector is increasingly reflecting on its own organisational practices, and is embracing efforts to learn and improve, particularly around the three cross-cutting seminar themes. The seminar contributed to ongoing dialogue around the cross- cutting themes. Seminar participants noted that disasters were a function of development, have better predictability and can therefore be planned for. The need for long-term commitments and investments from humanitarian and development actors—rather than immediate-response, short-term and finite funding—relates to all three themes. The role of specialist organisations—such as those working with people with diverse genders and sexual orientations—was highlighted as a critical aspect of partnership.

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“Shifting power is fundamental to enhance collaborative process on the ground to improve accountability.”

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The Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) and ACFID’s Humanitarian Reference Group (HRG) jointly hosted the seminar at the Australian National University (ANU) on 25 July 2019, which began with the launch of three AHP Evaluations (Yemen, Bangladesh and South Sudan). The seminar focused on three cross-cutting themes: localisation; social inclusion; and accountability to beneficiaries. Sessions included an interactive Q&A panel, parallel deep dive sessions, a plenary report back and reflections. Key messages arising from the day relating to the cross-cutting themes are presented below.


Localisation: Genuine partnerships with local organisations help to support localisation efforts Localisation requires long-term investments in relationships, capacity strengthening and financial support beyond project cycles. A strong understanding of local contexts is critical to support localisation efforts.
Social inclusion: Participants agreed that social inclusion needs to be embedded across humanitarian response, as well as ongoing programs and practice instead of being considered an ‘add-on’. Improved efforts are needed to engage with hard to reach, marginalised groups which often incur additional costs. Participants noted the relatively common practice of ‘outsourcing’ inclusion rather than incorporating inclusion principles into everyday practice
Accountability to beneficiaries: Progress towards accountability to beneficiaries is evident through widely implemented codes of conduct and competency frameworks. Feedback mechanisms have also supported beneficiaries to provide inputs, and systems that respond to such feedback are helping to ‘close the feedback loop’. Competing priorities (e.g. urgency to assist those in need versus time needed to build trusting relationships) was a challenge reported by participants.
Seminar outcomes highlight how the Australian humanitarian sector is increasingly reflecting on its own organisational practices, and is embracing efforts to learn and improve, particularly around the three cross-cutting seminar themes. The seminar contributed to ongoing dialogue around the cross- cutting themes. Seminar participants noted that disasters were a function of development, have better predictability and can therefore be planned for. The need for long-term commitments and investments from humanitarian and development actors—rather than immediate-response, short-term and finite funding—relates to all three themes. The role of specialist organisations—such as those working with people with diverse genders and sexual orientations—was highlighted as a critical aspect of partnership.