Guest Blog: DEPP Learning Conference, Kenya

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"Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme’s (DEPP) inaugural Learning Conference in Nairobi, Kenya," writes RedR Associate Trainer Eric Swaleh Juma.

The DEPP is a portfolio of fourteen projects*, all designed to improve the way the global humanitarian community prepares for and responds to emergencies. RedR UK has been involved with the DEPP since late 2015, and within its Talent Development project, has been delivering a pioneering professional development scheme called ‘Context’ in Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, and Lebanon. ‘Context’ aims to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian responses by building the skills of national aid workers, who are increasingly at the forefront of emergency response.

RedR Learning Champions

Prior to the conference, DEPP asked partners to nominate ‘Learning Champions’ who had made significant contributions to the programme. My name was submitted, together with that of my colleague Ola Telfah, Context Project Officer in RedR’s Jordan office.

The conference brought together knowledge from all the DEPP projects, with a view to sharing and amplifying what has been learnt so far. Participants came from all the countries where the projects are implemented: Ethiopia, South Sudan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, the DRC, Myanmar, Jordan, Mozambique, and Kenya, which hosted the conference.

I have been training on ‘Context’ since 2015. However I must admit that it was only during the conference that I was able to truly comprehend and appreciate the size, scope and impact of DEPP. What was amazing was the amount of tacit knowledge that was held by the participants. Every interaction or contribution by a participant provided an opportunity for me to learn.

Left: Learning Champion Ola Telfah presents RedR’s participation in the Talent Development project. 

RedR Learning Champions

Collaboration is the key

Day one was centered around collaboration, with day two focused on localisation and capacity-building. The day saw the two regions represented, Asia and Africa, holding separate round-tables where they shared experiences and explored ways in which they could improve collaboration.

My first main responsibility at the conference was to support Ola as she made a two-minute pitch on RedR’s participation in the Talent Development project. This was well received as she demonstrated a deep understanding of the programme’s different components.

Right: Ola receives her 'Learning Champion' certificate.


Collaboration is the key

Sharing our learning

During the afternoon session of the first day we participated in a round-table discussion of the project by sharing our experience with others. I acted as the secretary of the group and had the honor of presenting the group’s findings in plenary. One of the common observations from Africa, Asia and the Middle East related to the composition of the cohorts and how this affected dynamics. It was observed that participants’ level of experience, academic qualifications, scope of work, and position in their organisation varied within each course. This called for the facilitators to adapt the level, content and delivery style to best fit each group. However, this also presented an opportunity for the participants to learn from each other.

The highlight of my participation was moderating a high-powered session on localisation, with panelists from Church Aid, Relief International, and the Start Network. I had been asked to facilitate this session by the regional learning advisor for DEPP, Ms Helen Asneka, and I was happy to take up the challenge. There were candid discussions on the challenges of localisation, among them the inadequacy of funding for local organisations due to low trust levels from donors. The need to not only build the capacity of local organisations but also involve them in the actual response was emphasised.

Eric Swaleh Juma receives his 'Learning Champion' certificate.
Eric Swaleh Juma receives his 'Learning Champion' certificate.

Localisation: From agenda to action

My two main take-home messages from the conference were:

  1. There is a need to identify how private companies can work in a non-profit environment profitably i.e. moving from “aid to trade”. This is relation to a presentation made by Vincent Henson of HelpAge, during which he shared their experience of collaborating with private sector actors on the Alert project. The project was highly IT-based, but his team did not have the time to develop the necessary expertise needed to deliver and therefore had to engage IT experts from the private sector. This was the first time they were having this level of engagement with a private organisation, and that presented numerous challenges - although this were outweighed by the benefits.
  2. Localisation needs to move from being an agenda item to action in preparedness and response. However, to overcome the many challenges, there is a need for advocacy to the key players - amongst them the INGOs. This was brought out during the panel discussions on day two. The purpose of the DEPP is to strengthen local capacity to respond to emergencies which is an example of moving localisation from agenda to action.

I would like to thank all those who made the conference possible and all those who generously shared their experience in those three very exciting days in Nairobi. I surely did receive more than I gave and expected.

* The portfolio is funded by DFID (UK Aid) and managed by the CDAC and Start Networks.

Our Partners

Context, led globally by Oxfam GB, is part of the Start Network's Talent Development project. The latter is one of fourteen projects in a portfolio funded by UK Aid (DFID)