When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015 twenty Integral Members came together to respond, making it our largest Integral Disaster Response to date. A further two agencies opted in when they joined Integral, making a total of 22 Members combining their efforts for earthquake affected communities. As part of our one year evaluation of this response, Integral held a learning review workshop in Nepal to reflect and learn from how Members worked together. Phil Lindsay, TEAR Australia’s Development Effectiveness Officer, took part, and here he shares his experience of the 5 day workshop …
How was your agency involved in the Nepal response?
TEAR Australia had six local partners directly affected by the earthquake, or directly involved in the response. We had a very generous response to our appeal and so were able to provide funding to each partner to support their work. The magnitude of the disaster and the impact on several of our partners meant that we also decided to have people on the ground to provide additional support to our partners and to contribute to the overall Integral response.
In what ways was your agency involved in collaboration with other Integral Members?
The primary means of collaboration was through taking on a Lead Agency role with our two longstanding local partners – Share and Care Nepal and INF Nepal. In the initial phase of the response Matthew Maury, TEAR’s National Director, who had travelled to Nepal for other meetings, worked with Leena Samuel as she commenced the role of Integral Coordinator. TEAR Australia also collaborated with other Integral Members through sharing joint funding of local partner responses.
Why was it important to have a review a year after the Nepal earthquake?
It is always important to reflect on our experience and learn from it. In this case it was vital as so many Integral Members were involved in the response, and the collaboration between Members was ongoing as the response unfolded. It was a prime opportunity for us to reflect together on what we have learned, and what can be applied to future joint responses. We also looked at how we can improve the way we respond to disasters individually and collectively. This will enable us to bring about better outcomes for people in communities seeking to recover their lives, livelihoods and assets.
From your point of view, what was the best thing about the review workshop?
The best thing about the review workshop was getting to work, reflect and talk with people who I had only met previously in teleconferences and on Skype. The workshop itself was very well prepared, and the report that the independent consultant, Rob Schofield, had written for us provided ample discussion material. As with many such workshops there was real value in being able to talk with colleagues from other Integral agencies about common work interests and possible areas of cooperation. We were also about to build up new layers of institutional relationships that help make an Alliance strong and meaningful.
And what was most challenging?
The most challenging aspect was making the time available! It was a real risk that the workshop would just be a week of talk and ultimately fruitless. I strongly believe that was not the case; that real value came out of the discussions. The report recommendations are important, valuable and helpful to Integral as together we look to improve how we can respond to disasters as an Alliance.
What was the highlight of the week for you?
The highlight of the week was meeting together with local partner organisations. They were open and honest in their reflections of Integral’s dealings with them in the disaster response. There was a genuine desire on their part to contribute and to share from their experience. This was hugely important for us as we considered, and consider for the future, how we can more effectively work with, through and alongside local partner organisations in disaster response.
Can you give one example of how working together as Integral added value to your response in Nepal?
Working together enabled our partners to be more effective as it enabled them to diversify and increase funding for their work. Working with Integral Members also provided opportunities for our partners to learn skills in disaster response, and to be connected with new resourcing in terms of training, advice, and people. For TEAR Australia, this collaboration also provided a valuable opportunity for us to learn about our own ability to respond in a large-scale disaster, and also what we need to consider for our own capacity development to be more effective in the future.
Any other reflections?
Being face to face with other Integral Members, sharing with them, and seeing how together we can be more effective was truly encouraging. In fact, it opens up further possibilities for positive collaboration both for disaster response and win longer-term development partnerships.