When a disaster strikes, it is too late to stop and work out how to best co-ordinate in the heat of the response. Because of that, eight Integral Members who are ‘early responders’ met in Dublin to explore how they may better work together immediately following a disaster. Jan Eyre, Integral’s Disaster Management and Programme Coordinator, facilitated this three-day meeting (22-24 March 2016) which gathered those who carry out early emergency assessments for their organisations when disaster strikes …
Jan explains the main purpose of the meeting: “Each Member brings with them their own areas of expertise, strategic focus and internal procedures that drive how they respond to emergencies. When disaster strikes these can be barriers to Members being able to identify how to work effectively together and for us to realise the more efficient use of resources. Part of our time together was spent identifying how to do joint needs assessments. Recommendations from the meeting will be reviewed by the Integral Programme Group and added to our Integral Disaster Response Process.”
Maggie Konstanski, Disaster Response Manager for World Relief (USA), and Dr. Trina Helderman, Senior Health and Nutrition Advisor, Emergency Response for Medair (Switzerland), both participated in the meeting. Here they share their reflections about the most inspiring and challenging thing about their time together, as well as their hopes for the future:
Maggie: “I was encouraged by the commitment to partnership and the collaborative spirit of the time together. It is really refreshing to be around like-minded professionals who share a common purpose and a desire to put their faith into action. I feel the challenge in going forward is how to discern the best way to partner together in order to maximise our strengths, complement efforts and encourage collaboration, not competition. My hope is that we can more effectively and efficiently collaborate in the next disaster, providing more comprehensive and quality interventions to affected families. I also hope that the collaboration encourages the staff, partners, and communities we respectively serve.”
Trina: “It is always encouraging to be in a shared space with people who are like-minded — shared faith, shared dedication to humanitarian work, and shared commitment to figure out how to do it better and how to better serve the communities affected by tragedies to bring hope. The most challenging thing for me is trying to determine how best to merge different mandates, styles of working, competing internal organisational needs, and areas of service. We are all very different organisations in the ways we work and the type of work we do, yet with different strengths and skills there is much to gain working together. My hope is for a faster and improved contribution to the recovery of affected communities — a quicker return to a hopeful outlook in the midst of a disaster.”
Jan reflects: “This meeting has allowed us to stand back and talk through how different Members work through their organisational procedures in an emergency. Tensions can be caused where these organisational priorities are not understood. This meeting has given us a much greater understanding of those procedures, as well as the ability to identify potential areas of collaboration within them. We have come away from our time together with solid recommendations on how to work quickly and effectively together in the first three weeks following a large-scale, sudden-onset emergency. I am very much looking forward to continuing this work with the Programme Group and wider Integral family.”
Integral has a total of 23 Members — some respond to emergencies operationally, with others responding through partners, or by fundraising in their own countries for other Members. Each Member plays a crucial role in an Integral joint disaster response, because each has strengths and specialisms that, when united together, make for a more effective and efficient collaboration, with greater reach and impact.