NOHA Alumni interview with HumanSurge on enhancing surge capacity

NOHA Network on Humanitarian Action is an international association of universities that aims to enhance professionalism in the humanitarian sector. The following interview with HumanSurge talks about the challenges around surge capacity in emergencies, current solutions and how HumanSurge aims to address a persisting need in qualified professionals through a humanitarian innovation which can mobilize human resources more efficiently. This interview was first published on the NOHA Alumni website [note: access restricted].


How big is the team working on it?
HumanSurge has started-off with a core team of 3-4 persons and is expecting to add a few more in the coming months. That said, several friends and former-colleague’s have volunteered and supported the initiative in different stages of the process. Moreover, we engaged key experts from outside of the humanitarian sector, such as: graphic designers, web designers, front-end PHP programmers, back-end database /Laravell programmers, communication experts, etc.
As you can imagine, the IT component is an important factor in ensuring that the platform functions properly and is of use to both humanitarian professionals and INGO recruiters.

HumanSurge is still in start-up phase and as traffic and demand increases, we will be expending the team accordingly.


How different is HumanSurge from other (organizational) rosters?
First of all, HumanSurge is an open roster, meaning that all humanitarian professionals can freely register. It is online, enabling each professional to update their profiles and availability status. This is a key short-coming / challenge with current (internal organizational) rosters. They tend to get outdated.

Moreover, it places the professional at the center (and not the INGO), such as by enabling professionals to indicate their preferences for deployment (#months, no-go-countries, type of contract, etc). HumanSurge shares the roster across actors in the sector, one roster-for-all, contrary to the current approach, which is more in silos with each organization having many rosters.

The more accurate and complete profiles are, the more likely it is that they will be short-listed by organizations.
Other key rosters (Canadem, RedR Australia, Norcap) primarily feed into the UN or major INGOs. Yet there is a large group of medium-large size NGOs that require similar services.


Does HumanSurge aim only for international profiles or includes national too?
In this initial phase our main focus is on international profiles. As we develop the platform, and seek feedback from users and roll-out improvements, it is important to have a clearly defined target group. The international humanitarian professional is by definition more mobile, which will allow us to test the system sooner. For this reason we are working primarily with HQs of INGOs and they typically require the international profile.

That said, we are very eager to engage at national level. The majority of responders are national (450,000 according to the latest State of the Humanitarian System from ALNAP), they are the first to respond. The focus of the humanitarian sector is increasingly directed at national-level response (and rightfully so), and there is no reason why the platform would not function similarly at national level, give and take some adjustments.


From organizations side, do you see them forthcoming to participate?
Yes. Generally there is a lot of interest to try new innovations. They face a significant challenge and are open to try something new. Not all are innovators. Some may come onboard later, once it is more established, but we have had overwhelming positive feedback.
We are now offering an attractive, paid, access to the platform for a small group of innovative INGOs, and expect to reach our target of 10 INGOs by mid-May. [Note: This target has been exceeded]


What is the future vision of HumanSurge?
Our vision is a world in which HumanSurge significantly enhances surge capacity at national and international level, increasing timeliness and quality of humanitarian response.

For this we also see value in validating profiles. It has been among the first questions of nearly all key informants, senior recruiters and humanitarian professionals, when explaining HumanSurge. And it makes perfect sense. However, for us it should be crowd-sourced, peer-to-peer validation or otherwise automated (such as linking to initiatives like Humanitarian Passport and OpenBatch, as well as individual Master programs – NOHA – etc). This way we can keep costs low and make it accessible for all NGOs, national and international.
HumanSurge is a social enterprise, meaning that we value social impact over profit. We look for widespread usage, so costs can be shared among many.


Do you have any success stories?
HumanSurge only just launched and already gained significant traction in a short period. We have been pleasantly surprised that over 700+ humanitarian professionals (across all clusters/sectors) registered in a matter of weeks and 5 major INGOs already signed-up with 7 others having the innovation under review. In start-up terms, that is already a success.

However, we would like to measure real success in new contacts established between INGOs and humanitarians, to increase the number of matches in less time, to the ultimate benefit of the beneficiary. That is the real success and we hope and expect to deliver as the platform grows.


Any tips for NOHA Alumni?
Register on HumanSurge and tell your peers. Also provide us your feedback and suggestions, so we can improve and ensure the platform is of use to you!

We look forward to a time when we can cross-verify all NOHA alumni on the platform, so as to validate profiles. This will give all alumni that competitive-edge which recruiters are looking.

By Alisa Ananbeh


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