With learning comes change

18 July 2023
ALNAP director Juliet Parker addresses humanitarian decision-makers at the inaugural EXplain event in London in June.

ALNAP occupies a unique space in the humanitarian sector. At our origins, we were carefully designed to bring together the diversity of the sector whilst having no agenda of our own beyond the mandate to enable those organisations to learn together and improve together on the issues they cannot solve on their own. 

I continue to find it a special privilege to work for a network at the centre of so many topical conversations, while being charged with creating reflective spaces that protect time and opportunity for busy humanitarians to take a step back and exchange insights, experience and practical ideas in how best to address these collective learning challenges. 

ALNAP’s new Work Plan and film 

ALNAP last week launched its comprehensive Work Plan for 2023-25. We will focus our efforts on issues that resonate across all constituencies of the humanitarian sector and are critical to its improved performance. 

We will use our sector-wide mandate to make sense of existing evidence, fill gaps where necessary, and make connections between decision-makers and those innovating to overcome ‘sticking points’ on localisation, Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) and the Nexus.  

ALNAP will also consult monitoring and evaluation staff globally, hosting critical and sensitive discussions on how the humanitarian sector decides to measure its performance before developing updated, relevant and practical guidance on how to apply the OECD/DAC criteria in humanitarian contexts. 

Our Work Plan has been shaped in response to our interactions with members, as well as the work we have conducted over the last year on the 5th edition of the State of the Humanitarian System report and ALNAP’s 25th Anniversary Spotlight on Learning series. 

We are also delighted to share our brand new film #WeAreALNAP, which introduces the key pillars of our work: hosting the largest library of humanitarian knowledge and evidence, producing research and guidance where there are gaps in humanitarian knowledge, regularly undertaking a health check of the system, shining a light on how the sector is performing and where it needs to improve. 

Fundamental shift for the sector 

When ALNAP was first set up, the biggest challenge for the humanitarian sector was a lack of evidence, not enough evaluations or research being conducted.  

But this has fundamentally shifted.  

In 2023, busy humanitarians simply don’t have the time to make sense of all the learning, knowledge and evidence that’s out there. They are often struggling to make use of that learning to bring about change within their organisations and the wider sector. 

Last month in London, we hosted the first ever EXplain event, providing essential briefings for more than 20 senior humanitarian decision-makers on AAP, climate change, localisation and the humanitarian-development-peace nexus

ALNAP is piloting new approaches to communicating knowledge tailored to the needs of busy humanitarians. Events like EXplain drive forward learning and change by increasing the level of interaction and awareness between ‘niche’ learning and frontline innovation in the sector and key decision-makers.   

We want humanitarians to take away fresh thinking on complex topics, feel more up-to-date on the key conversations around them, and pick up new approaches different organisations are using to tackle them. 

There has been a fantastic response to EXplain: we hope it will be the first of many events in the series.  

Potential for learning and change 

The reality is the nature of change in the humanitarian sector is slow, incremental and often driven by external factors.   

We can see a humanitarian sector committed to improving, investing precious time and effort, but showing frustratingly little progress.   

ALNAP seeks to diagnose why things aren’t moving, what’s starting to work, and what more can be done. And critically, what the patterns of the past tell us about the potential for learning and change in the future. 

Learning doesn’t always lead to change, but change never happens without learning.   

- Visit our website to find out more about ALNAP or sign up to our monthly bulletin to stay up to date with new learning and evidence emerging from across the sector.