In Jan 2015 a group of 31 people from around the world gathered in a small conference centre in Tacloban in The Philippines, to participate in a learning review for the Integral response to Typhoon Haiyan. This typhoon, one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall, saw the largest Integral response since the launch of the Integral Disaster Response Process in May 2012, with 18 out of 19 Members participating. It was also the first time that Integral had set up a Hub office in country and resourced a Pooled Fund for local projects …
This international gathering and field visit marked the last stage of the final evaluation of Integral’s work in The Philippines following the devastation of Haiyan. Previous work, now incorporated into the final report, include a desk review of Members’ own evaluations, focus group interviews with marketing and communication staff, one to one calls with those outside The Philippines, meetings with the Hub team, Members and Partners in The Philippines, and an initial review of the Pooled Fund. The week that the group spent together sought to draw on all of that learning, prioritise it and to draw out the key recommendations to take into future Integral responses.
Jan Eyre, the Integral DM and Programme Coordinator says, “There were quite a number of highlights for me on this trip – seeing the lifesaving work of our Members first-hand after hearing about it over so many conference calls was a huge privilege. Meeting church leaders who have received funds through our Pooled Fund for work within their communities was also very humbling and inspiring – their survival stories were so filled with resolve, faith and optimism. But one comment in particular stuck with me – a pastor described to us how they had received a grant through the Integral Pooled Fund to set up a project raising hogs to support livelihoods in their communities. She said ‘The thing we appreciate most about Integral is that they came down to our level – they really wanted to help’. I feel this comment is a reflection of the excellent work of the Hub team– working systematically with groups of churches to help them think through and shape their projects, and really accompanying them along the way.”
She continues, “However, I was challenged by the ongoing vulnerability of communities and the years of work ahead to ensure that everyone has a safe place to evacuate to – it is a harsh reality that The Philippines is struck by more than 20 storms annually. I walked around a Barangay in Tacloban with one of the councillors who described to me the gripping fear they had all felt a few weeks earlier as Typhoon Ruby struck. Many are still in temporary shelters built by NGOs, awaiting relocation. One of our Integral Members has been involved in this Barangay since the immediate aftermath of Haiyan and now they are helping to build back livelihoods, especially with fisher-folk. The local councillor said to me, ‘Other NGOs have been here to help us, but they stay a month or two and then they are gone again – but the Integral Member has been here from the beginning and we know they will still be here with us next year.’ That was very heartening to hearThe evaluation process also drew out how the Integral Hub Office has been useful for Members in the different phases of the response. In the early days of the response the value was in introducing Members to one another, helping to cover the vast number of coordination meetings, and keeping them up to date with what one another was doing. As the response continued, the Hub served to bring some continuity as second phase staff joined the response. Through meeting together via the Hub coordination between Members developed into really solid supportive relationships. Sara Sywulka, the Hub leader, brought Integral country representatives together for four 2 day meetings where they looked at common issues, discussed possible joint approaches to donors, and also had spiritual retreat time together.
The Hub was also an essential element in running the Integral Pooled Fund – a highly innovative initiative to provide funding for the projects of local organisations and churches seeking to be part of the rebuilding, but without access to international funds. Integral Members who responded to Haiyan requested that this fund be set up and all contributed to it. Even though the Hub office has now closed the country representatives are committed to continue to meet together and all of the 26 projects funded through the Pooled Fund will receive technical support and assistance throughout the rest of 2015. Some of them will continue to be supported by the consultants who worked with Integral to help the Ministerial Associates shape their projects, whilst others have been taken on by local organisations.
Jan says, “This Integral Response and the learning review have really helped to show how our Members can combine their strengths to do more together. Through good sharing of photos and stories in the early days of the response, we saw some very effective campaigns for Haiyan and more sharing of funding between Members than ever before in a disaster. There continues to be some very deliberate and useful collaboration at field level, for example Medair’s shelter team training Food for the Hungry community carpenters. We have also confirmed how important good Integral orientation is for country leaders joining an Integral response and we have a clearer sense of the ‘strategic moments’ in a response where our Members must be coordinating with one another in order to identify opportunities to collaborate more closely. I am very much looking forward to reflecting on these learnings and recommendations and working with our Members over the next year to build an even more solid foundation for our future disaster responses.”