Urban Humanitarianism: e-learning

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As technology develops, delivering skills no longer has to limit itself to face-to-face training. With the support of Lloyd's Charities Trust, RedR has had a dedicated team working on including elements of e-learning in its programmes since April 2016.

Jamila El-Mir is a senior consultant (environment and sustainability) at Arup, where she has been working since 2013. Trained in environmental sciences she has a strong interest in humanitarian work, and recently enrolled in RedR’s first online Urban Humanitarian course which, over six weeks, mixed individual assignments with group tasks and discussions. Jamila explains why she took the course and what she’s learned from it:

Jamila's Story

"I had known about RedR for a while, and had previously attended a ‘Managing People and Projects in Emergencies’ training course in London in 2014. I wanted to build my skills and credibility in the humanitarian sector, as it is something I feel passionate about. I spent some time in Lebanon where I volunteered for the Red Cross and have also experienced the 2006 war, so I understand what it is like to work in development and to be in the context of emergencies. My experience in development work also includes looking at climate change adaptation in Africa which I worked on during an internship in Canada. More recently with Arup, I was part of a project in post-earthquake Kathmandu in 2015, to assess water systems in schools."

One advantaeg of e-learning is that it's not limited by location and so is accessible to a large audience. People from places as diverse as Zimbabwe, Greece and Pakistan have signed up to take RedR e-learning courses. Jamila explains why she chose e-learning:

"As I am based in Dubai, flying to London to take a course is not practical. I had been keeping my eye out for training that would be appropriate and convenient. I spotted the Urban Humanitarian online course and enrolled straightaway. I was on maternity leave at the time, so it suited perfectly given my limited ability to travel." 

The key thing I took away from the course is the big difference between working in an urban and rural context in emergencies. Learning about the complexities of urban disasters was very eye-opening.

Jamila El-Mir

RedR UK Trainee

Urban Humanitarianism

As the world grows more urbanised, large scale disasters are increasingly impacting urban areas. Aid agencies are much less significant players in urban responses, as their available resources are often dwarfed by those of existing service providers. It is crucial for effective urban disaster response to build strong relations with national and municipal authorities as well as private sector services suppliers, and to work within existing legislation and long term plans for the cities.

As a senior consultant at a large, private sector service supplier, Jamila explains the impact of RedR’s training on her role:

"The key thing I took away from the course is the big difference between working in an urban and rural context in emergencies. Learning about the complexities of urban disasters was very eye-opening. One of my main interests is community engagement and stakeholder management, and it was interesting to explore this in an urban emergency context. We also covered how to profile populations, communicate with them, and assess their different needs and opportunities for engaging them in the response efforts.

The exchange with others on the course was another valuable aspect ­- I think I was only 1 of 2 participants [out of 20] who were not working with iNGOs in emergencies on the ground. I would definitely recommend the course to my colleagues. Overall, the quality of the case studies and material used, as well as the group and individual exercises were very well suited to the topic and to give us a good understanding of managing emergencies in an urban context. The course facilitator, Jim Kennedy, was particularly knowledgeable in the topic and made sure that he gave us clear and generous explanations and feedback on the several questions and points raised.

In terms of how the course has impacted on my work, I applied some of my learnings in a proposal for a WASH project in Jordan following the course. I definitely think it contributed to my professional development as it increased my understanding of the complexities in cities from a governance perspective (which in turn impacts management of emergencies) and this is a key focus area in the work we do in Arup. Separately, it has helped build on my skills in the humanitarian sector and I hope this will help me get involved in more projects with a humanitarian focus going forward."