Learning Support Office
The concept of a ‘learning office’ (LO) was born out of ALNAP discussions during the Kosovo crisis. Despite OCHA’s mandate for system-wide memory capture, the general view was that this was neither well supported, nor delivering. ALNAP’s members agreed that its cross-sector nature might allow it to play a useful role in operational settings.
The LO’s mandate and activities should complement existing field-learning mechanisms, rather than overlap with them. Its independence should not be compromised, despite the need to maintain critical UN links. Most importantly, it also had to establish its worth to over-stretched operational personnel at the height of a humanitarian response.
In January 2000, ALNAP commissioned the Disaster Mitigation Institute (DMI) and Moira Reddick, an independent consultant, to undertake a retrospective field study of how an LO might have worked during the Orissa crisis. A complementary desk study was also commissioned from Moira Reddick to look at existing ‘Information Office’ models, thereby placing the Orissa findings in a wider context.
All those interviewed stressed the need to put learning-related issues on the agenda as an operational concept. The LO concept received a universally positive response from the policy-makers consulted. However, the cautious and occasionally sceptical response from those directly involved in implementing humanitarian programmes emphasised the need to prove the LO’s operational worth in situations where resources and time spent on learning-related issues were at the perceived expense of direct humanitarian action.
Further Development of the Learning Office Concept With Reference to Sierra Leone and East Timor and a Developed Proposal to Run a Test Office during 2001
by Moira Reddick and John Telford
Retrospective Model for Orissa Learning Office: Issues Raised and Lessons Learnt (Part A)
Desk Study Report to ALNAP on Learning Office: Kosovo, Albania and East Timor (Part B)
by Mihir Bhatt and Moira Reddick
The LSO concept was then trialled in Malawi in 2002 during the Southern Africa Food Crisis. The real-time evaluation usefully identified a number of lessons and issues to address. Since then, the LSO concept has been taken forward by RedR and Groupe URD.