getting over humps

Back in 2016, the humanitarian industry came together for what was dubbed ‘The Grand Bargain’. In simplistic terms, two of the committments agreed were for ‘more cash programming’ and ‘greater localisation’. 6 years on, the first one has been more successful than the second.

Some types of policy committments, like ‘more cash’ or ‘cash first’ help get us over a hump of change. The collective committment helps de-risk the change for some. While for others the fear of being left behind the collective helps. And likely game theory has much to say about it all.

But now what? Cash programming is more acceptable now, which is great. But again, now what? Now the hard part begins. Most organisations have embraced cash programming in a way that allows them to keep their organisational and operating models. These models, similar to logistics companies, are no longer fit for purpose. And since cash is acceptable now, we’re forced to reconsider them. And this will be painful. The original policy committment was acceptable because it wasn’t threatening to the status quo. But now that we have moved beyond the acceptability hump, we see the next, larger challenge about operating models.

Additonally, as cash grew in acceptability so did digital transformation and the realisation of the value of data and data management. But again, while many embraced the idea of digital transformation (everyone loves a shiny toy!), few connected digital to cash and the implications for the need to change operating and organisational models.

Ukraine highlights this for us. Cash progamming is the biggest part of this response. But our model for coordination is based on silos, in kind, logistics. And it has taken over 4 months and we still haven’t resolved deduplication and data sharing because our operating models focus on control. Oh and the first 4 months of the response has larger been done by local actors doing amazing work against all odds.

And this circles us back to the second committment: localisation. Well there has been very little progress on this committment because at the heart of it is all about changing our operating models. But perhaps now, perhaps these next 6 years will see the operating model challenge addressed. It will be extremely difficult and painful, but perhaps the best is yet to come.

Photo by rolf neumann

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