A New Approach to Capacity Building

Refugee volunteers unload a truckload of food rations destined for northern Syria. The IRC began direct distributions of food into Syria January 2014. (location withheld for security reasons)

While it’s impossible to predict when or where the next disaster or humanitarian crisis will take place, preparedness is essential to ensure the safety of humanitarian staff and to maximize support to affected communities. The DisasterReady.org team is continuously adding new training resources and enhancing our underlying technology to meet these needs.

Syria food distribution
Refugee volunteers unload a truckload of food rations destined for northern Syria. The IRC began direct distributions of food into Syria January 2014. Credit: NedColt/IRC.

DisasterReady has a number of different ways in which NGOs, supporters, and affiliated organizations can leverage DisasterReady to build capacity of staff and volunteers.

Leveraging Just-In-Time Humanitarian Training Resources

In late 2010, floods in Pakistan left millions of people stranded with little or no access to food and susceptible to water-borne diseases. This would become one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our lifetime. Numerous relief organizations—including NGOs we support through the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation—struggled to mobilize and address the ongoing crisis. The magnitude of this tragedy made it strikingly clear how important it had become for NGOs of all sizes to place well-trained staff and volunteers on the ground as soon as possible after a disaster strikes.
Soon after, we assembled an advisory board of leading international aid organizations to examine the state of professional development across the sector. We discovered that the vast majority of aid organizations lacked the bandwidth, expertise, and funding to provide just-in-time training to staff and volunteers.
With the support of our NGO partners, and by utilizing an online Learning Management System, we assembled a handful of courses in a free, open learning portal for the entire aid sector to use. Any humanitarian aid or development worker with an internet connection could sign up and take unlimited online training developed by NGOs, subject matter experts, and leading eLearning providers.
DisasterReady has grown to include more than 600 free online learning resources to help prepare humanitarian aid and development workers for the challenges and demands they face in the field. A few examples include:

Investing in Syrian Humanitarian Action

In addition to the general training library, DisasterReady has partnered with Mercy Corps and International Rescue Committee to launch an innovative program aimed at strengthening the capacity of aid workers located in Syria to respond to emergency needs throughout their country. The program is called Investing in Syrian Humanitarian Action (ISHA) and one of the key elements is a program through DisasterReady.org that provides free online learning in Arabic and English. Since its launch, more than 12,000 humanitarians in and around Syria have registered for more than 70,000 courses on topics ranging from technical areas such as how to design and deploy effective voucher programs, to more personal topics such as leading teams effectively during a crisis response.

Through this program, we have discovered that remote learning is essential for humanitarians in Syria, especially for many who are new to the sector. While many Syrians plan on returning to their regular jobs after the crisis, it may not be possible for everyone. Therefore, capacity development opportunities are not only needed to support humanitarians today but also to strengthen the workforce as relief and development work could be a long-term career option for many in the future.
Today, DisasterReady.org has increased the preparedness and effectiveness of more than 125,000 humanitarian aid and development workers from 195 countries. Learning resources are available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic and accessible on computers, tablets, and smartphones. If you would like to learn how your organization can get involved in our efforts in Syria and throughout the world, please contact us at info@DisasterReady.org.

Tina Bolding

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