The Start Network – collaborating for change

2015-06-22 17.34.06.jpg

The Start Network is a collaboration involving more than 40 national and international aid agencies from five continents, ranging from high-profile organisations to smaller agencies. A really important part of their collaboration story was how it all began…

            It began with a few like-minds sharing a drink together and talking…

So like many collaborations, the Start Network was born out of informal conversations.  Back in 2010, humanitarian leaders from aid agencies in and around London found themselves frustrated by the challenges they faced. Governments were struggling to adapt quickly enough to tackle global problems such as climate change. Conflicts were becoming more frequent - and more violent - driving ever larger numbers of people to flee from one country to another. 

…realising they had a common agenda and a shared vision…

Once it became clear that there was a common agenda and a shared vision, these leaders brought together 15 agencies to form the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA), with the goal of re-thinking the humanitarian aid system – and of showing that by working together they could innovate, do things differently and deliver aid more effectively. 

Together they won £8 million from the UK’s Department for International Development for an emergency response fund and an initial “capacity building” project to help countries prepare for future disasters. It was the first step to what in 2012 became the Start Network. The Start Network continues to challenge the system of humanitarian aid and to help to bring about change – in other words to bring about a ‘new humanitarian economy’ which will reduce the power of centralised institutions and bureaucrats and gives more control to communities and individuals on the front line of every crisis.

The name – the Start Network - reflects members’ ambition to step in at the very beginning of each crisis - and their determination to launch an international conversation about reinventing the humanitarian system. Drawing on the shared knowledge and expertise of its members, the network has since embarked on a range of ground-breaking and collaborative programmes and is expanding.

Key learning from the Start Network:

-   Invest time in those small conversations and make space for informal meetings, as this is how collaboration often starts. Being intentional about this will result in all sorts of serendipitous happenings.

-   Being open about your agenda and sharing your vision clearly often encourages others to do the same, and in that process common ground can be found. It’s hard work, and requires good listening skills, but it’s worth it.

You can find out more about the Start Network and what it does in the Conscious Collaboration book or by visiting their website