Leading the Way: Applied Humanitarian Leadership Learning in the Haiyan Response

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
Originally published


Executive Summary

A unique partnership was born the day that Stephen McDonald from Save the Children walked through the doors of Deakin University to share his ideas on leadership training in the humanitarian sector with Dr Phil Connors from the MICD program in 2011. In the intervening period this partnership has expanded its global reach to include other actors in the humanitarian sector and has resulted in the development of the GCHL/HLP. Over three years this course has proved enormously popular with over 1000 applicants, some 120 graduates and currently has over 200 participants worldwide. The course utilises a combination of cloud based and intensive located learning pedagogies to provide world leading education.

The research was commissioned to ascertain the effectiveness of the applied learning for graduates and current students involved in leadership roles in the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda that devastated central Philippines in November 2013.

The findings from the research indicate that the structure and content of the course is relevant and very effective in building the self-awareness, self-confidence, resilience, reflective practice, strategic thinking and relational leadership skills of graduates and current students. All informants indicated the course had assisted them to become better leaders within their organisation’s response.

The research also identified limitations in the current structure. The course is restricted in its reach because it can only accept limited numbers in each iteration due to the nature of the intensive located learning units. Currently the programme is run once a year, due to budget and staffing restrictions, and is taught in English, limiting its impact and reducing access for potential non-English speaking students. There are plans to expand delivery through partnerships with other educational institutions, humanitarian organisations and private sector partners. Discussions are currently underway with the University of Indonesia, University of Nairobi and the Asia Institute of Management in Manila. It is also planned to have the course available to be taught in Bahasa Indonesia and other languages as part of this process. Negotiations for a Francophone version are also underway. A wider reach can only benefit the sector as a whole.

To realise the transformation of the sector through a focus on leadership, as indicated in the multitude of reports on the subject over the last decade, it is important that scale is achieved. What this report identifies is that the course and process has significant impact on the leadership capabilities of graduates. Expansion of the course into other regions and languages will make it more accessible to a greater variety of humanitarian actors. Essential to the process is maintaining the pedagogical integrity of the course while contextualising the content to suit the focus and diversity of the region in which it is being delivered. By making the course available across regions achieves the outcome of building local capacity to be able to lead responses to complex disasters. The benefits of this would enhance the necessary transformation of the sector making it more sustainable and more proficient in coping with the increasing demands being placed upon it.