Launching a pilot phase project on remote expert support

Can we strengthen the humanitarian response if we connect aid workers with each other on a remote bases, to share experiences and knowledge, and complete tasks online? That was the question we asked ourselves when we started our pilot.


The project is still ongoing and enables aid workers to create tasks in which they seek support. This could be technical advice they lack-in house, or outsourcing tasks to free-up time and focus on other pressing issues. Keep reading to see how it goes:


The Case of Violet:
A Syrian NGO building its institutional capacity


Katharina Ahrens is working for Violet for Relief and Development as a Business Development Adviser. Violet is a Syrian NGO and one of the few NGOs that grew from inside Syria. They started as a community-based initiative, and over the last five years it has grown into an NGO with around 700 employees and over a thousand volunteers. They work across different sectors, including livelihoods, WASH programs, Health, and Education but their main focus has been emergency response, shelter and NFIs (see also

As a large and reputable NGO, they were eager to comply with all (emerging) standards and best practices. At this time, they sought an expert that could provide technical experience on developing and renewing Violet’s policy on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA) to help mainstreaming PSEA across all projects and activities in a locally appropriate and feasible manner. This was a task that can be completed remotely, and for which they developed a clear Terms of Reference (ToR).


HumanSurge found them a perfect match: Shana.



On providing remote support


Shana O’Brien works as a freelance consultant providing Human Resources consultancy services to humanitarian organizations (see her LinkedIn).

For Shana, the concept was “very clear, and the task I received was also pretty clear. The website was basically structured as a ToR, so as a consultant that looked very familiar to me. It made a lot of sense.” She appreciated the ability to provide remote support and noted that otherwise it wouldnt have been possible.

Contemplating on scaling this initiative, she points to some challenges for HumanSurge to consider.

For instance, for tasks to be completed succesfully “having good communication skills is jey because you never meet the person”. Furthermore, “the trust aspect can also be a challenge, because whoever provides the support will be the ‘technical expert’, and may not have the local contextual experince.”


Shana worked on this on this task pro bono, yet at the same time she saw it as a great professional development experince: “I got the opportunity to work with a local organization, for whcih I usually dont’t have the opportunity, and to work with a organization in the Middle East which I haven’t worked for before. In general, I learned about the challenges of local NGOs.”










On receiving remote support


Katharina Ahrens saw remote tasking as an intersting opportunity and very needed in the humanitarian sector.

She knew it could work, since initially, she had started herself working remotely for Violet as a consultant. Furthermore, she noted that Violet’s staff “engage in a lot of work remotely also” to connect with partners and due to access limitations. In general, we were very satisfied with the match“. She highlighted that the most positive aspect of this experince was “having someone that brings a new insight to help us figure out our problems”.


Kathatina goes on to say that the HumanSurge platform on remote support made it very easy to find qualified candidates for the task. “The HumanSurge platform helped us in accessing a larger number of potential consultants, usually finding a consultant is limited to networks or those seeing and applying for the opened position. With HumanSurge, we could find more qualified people and were very able to select from a pool of candidates, who are already in the humanitarian field.”












Written by Sofia Abelenda

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  • It is an excellent idea! People working in the field need support, counseling, advice, professional development. They experience quite often burned out syndrome and experience either SGBV or toxic workplaces with abusive team leaders and competitive and ego-centric colleagues.
    Supporting them remotely is something it will help them stay healthier and happier.

    13/11/2019 at 1:50 am

    The pro of remote support is an opportunity to seek an unbiased external view of the situation and the con is the lack of connectedness to the round reality.

    13/11/2019 at 4:46 pm
  • I think remote support is a good methodology, not only for strengthening aid workers, but for managing aid interventions for people in need in hard-to-reach areas around the world such as Yemen. Based on my experience during the last four or five years in the Middle East, the remote support, as a “Plan B”, proved to be efficient in building the capacity of aid workers, in-country partners and community mediators. For example, I remotely managed end-to-end MEPI-funded dialogue project delivery in Bahrain during 2017 -2018; ensured youth inclusion by 70%, including 40% female. As a result, more than 20 senior dialogue practitioners have been playing the role of peace builders at their communities, and are continue their dialogue initiatives to resolve several conflicts peacefully. Another tangible example for efficient remote support is related to my current consultancy role with an international NGO which has no country office in Yemen. However, this INGO represented by me in Yemen, is contributing actively in addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen in partnership with in-country CSOs. Actually, our communication is going well via online platforms such as skype, zoom, google meet, etc.
    I believe that creating an interactive online platform will greatly facilitate tasks of aid workers and will connect them to the global humanitarian community for experience and knowledge exchange.

    14/11/2019 at 5:07 pm
  • alfonso vittorio anania

    I am sorry that I cannot help because the area of intervention does not involve my skills

    14/11/2019 at 6:31 pm
  • David Abel Ntamlyango

    True. the need to support humanitarian en-devour remotely should be encouraged as there are folks with lots of experience in different perspectives of humanitarian management who may have lot to offer probably free or at negligible costs

    15/11/2019 at 1:25 pm

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