Clusterwise 2

Everything you wanted to know about Clusters but were afraid to ask

Forward to ‘Clusterwise 2′

Forward to ‘Clusterwise 2′

As editor and principal author of ‘Clusterwise 2’’,  I am clearly a “Cluster Nut” who needs to get a life. I might as well tell you that I also happen to be co-founder of ‘clustercoordination.org’, a global public good provided by an informal ‘community of practice’ of experienced Cluster Coordinators and Information Managers whose sole interest in life is to provide those involved with Clusters some practical tips on how to manage the coordination of humanitarian action based on their own experience of what works. And, believe me, we have learned the hard way ! More detail on how to actually do the tasks outlined, complete with templates,...

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Introduction to Clusterwise 2

Introduction to Clusterwise 2

We, the humanitarian community, have to confront the inevitable: Clusters are struggling to embrace the new humanitarian paradigm with which disaster risk is managed. The twin impacts of climate change and population growth have changed the goal posts more than humanitarian reform ever did. And events unfolding across the Arab world show us that the information age is pretty brutal on those who thought they would never have to reform or be held to account. Those of us who manage disasters indirectly as ‘coordinators’ seem unaware of the consequences of the monumental changes unfolding around us, and continue more or less to conduct business as usual. This means we...

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Civil-Military Coordination

Civil-Military Coordination

Soldiers are lean, mean killing machines. Brainwashed, incapable of original thought, and intent only on closing with and killing an enemy so conniving that they murder girls just for going to school. Aid workers are pink and fluffy, tree-hugging yoghurt-knitters. Warm and fuzzy social misfits with an adrenaline habit. This is, of course, stereotypic rubbish but it’s not uncommon to hear views expressed along these lines when civilian aid-workers are operating alongside the military. One does ‘quick impact projects’, the other does ‘development’. And both use a ‘lingo’ so totally incomprehensible to the other that they wonder if they are from the same...

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Clusters: Present Tense or Future Perfect?

Clusters: Present Tense or Future Perfect?

The present situation via-a-vis Cluster coordination is imperfect, tense, and gives the appearance of having an uncertain future. This is hardly surprising since it is becoming ever-clearer that humanitarian reform was a concept dreamed up by non-native English speakers with an unclear grasp of the grammatical peculiarities of the English language. Clusters have been brought up as ‘nouns’ by their parents, the ‘Global Cluster Lead Agencies’, with the sort of benign distracted indifference that busy nanny-hiring parents so often display. But, with their parenting skills being increasingly challenged by those who pay the school fees, it turns out that these parents...

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Disaster Risk Management

Disaster Risk Management

Managing and reducing disaster risk are the new paradigms of humanitarian action, and ones in which Clusters play their part. This is because Clusters have to manage risk while neatly straddling the conceptual divide between the ‘quick fix’ of disaster response and the longer-term ‘development solutions’ needed to adapt to the twin effects of climate change and population growth. To understand this better, we need to know what the words mean. In formal terms, “disaster risk is the potential loss expressed in lives, health status, livelihoods, assets and services which could occur to a particular community or society due to the impact of a natural hazard”. In...

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What is Cluster coordination?

What is Cluster coordination?

Too many people working in the aid business think coordination involves little more than holding meetings – of which there are too many – and posting situation reports which nobody reads because they are too long and too often list what has been delivered rather than what impact has been achieved, and what gaps remain to be addressed. The coordination fiascos of Haiti and Pakistan in 2010 surely demonstrated once and for all that managing the coordination process is a little more complicated than this….  As the ‘Forward’ suggests, Cluster coordination is a thankless and almost impossible task, often likened to “herding cats” as it usually involves...

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What is the Cluster Approach?

What is the Cluster Approach?

In humanitarian circles, the dreadful word ‘cluster’ is now synonymous with ‘humanitarian reform’ and has come to embody notions of predictability, responsibility, accountability and partnership in all areas of humanitarian action. But why was reform needed in the first place? This is what the then Secretary of State for International Development in the UK said at the time: “We have called for far-reaching reforms to the UN humanitarian system. At this time there is not enough money for emergencies, for example, the UN appeal for Chechnya in 2003 was almost fully funded at £23 a person, but in Mozambique only 15% of what was needed was provided, at 23 pence a...

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What do Cluster Coordinators do?

What do Cluster Coordinators do?

The planning, management, and information infrastructures are coordinated by a single focal point in the form of the ‘Cluster Coordinator’, through whom discussion and subsequent decision-making is channeled. The perceived credibility of the Cluster Coordinator does not so much depend on his or her technical qualifications related to the sector concerned – important though some form of qualification is – but on how he or she demonstrates application of the correct management skills. This is not to be confused with ‘personality’ traits or ‘leadership’ skills which have tended to dominate the search for ‘core competencies’ until now. More...

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Two-tier coordination management: SAG & TWiG

Two-tier coordination management: SAG & TWiG

There are three stones, not two, balanced on one another here for a reason. This is because the entire Cluster coordination process is about balancing the divergent needs of traditional and non-traditional Cluster partners in three key areas of work, each represented by one of the stones: Collectively agreeing a strategic operational framework which outlines the overall approach while allowing for diversity in programme orientation Timely sharing of reliable and relevant evidence that points out the need for mutual cooperation in adapting on-going programmes to the evolving needs and priorities of others Formulating and sharing the most appropriate technical...

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Inter-Cluster Coordination

Inter-Cluster Coordination

If you thought the HC might have a difficult job in trying to juggle the conflicting demands of Heads of Agencies — who didn’t get where they are today by being ‘shrinking violets’ – then try being an Inter-Cluster Coordinator … surely the most demanding of all humanitarian coordination jobs?! This role is currently ill-defined and is being reviewed by the IASC who have finally woken up to how critical this function is to the overall succes or otherwise of the entire emergency response and recovery effort. It seems that a special cadre of experienced Cluster Coordinators will be formed in support of the RC-HC who will continue to double if not...

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Information Management

Information Management

Information management is the orphan of the Cluster Approach; apparently misunderstood and neglected at the country level by too many Cluster Lead Agencies who almost always under-invest in the people, processes and machinery to properly harness the information needed and expected in the information age. The major challenges in emergencies are ensuring information is clear and reflects the most urgent needs of the affected population, and that information is produced and updated regularly. The outputs are relatively simple and are listed at the end of this section. The ‘back-end’ process is, however, far from simple. How many in the relief and development community...

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Gap & Capacity Analysis

Identifying and filling gaps in aid delivery is one of the priority functions of Cluster coordination. At its most basic, this involves mapping geographic areas of greatest need and overlaying the locations of where Cluster partners are working, or intend to work. A simple matrix will suffice for this. However, this assumes that a comprehensive needs assessment has been done, with disaggregated data down to the lowest possible (probably sub-District) level – which, in the first phase of a sudden-onset disaster, it won’t have been. Instead, the results of a rapid assessment will be all that is available. It is useful at this stage to conduct a financial gap analysis...

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Strategy Development

Strategy Development

Shared strategic approaches allow multiple agencies with diverse mandates to achieve goals collectively that could not be achieved by individual approaches alone. Clusters are the expression of that collective realization and aim to provide the “enabling environment” that allows diversity to strengthen both the effectiveness and efficiency of aid delivery. Planning and developing a strategy requires: The promotion of timely and preferably joint needs assessment and sector specific analysis. This should use appropriate methods and ground-truthing to ensure beneficiary participation. This includes the adequate attention that should be given to the needs and...

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Adding Value

Adding Value

Cluster coordination often has to be ‘sold’ those more sceptical of humanitarian reform in general and of the Cluster Approach in particular. It therefore requires explaining: That Clusters add value through: Transfer of knowledge Legitimacy through wider engagement and inclusivity Coherence of standards Leverage at national, local authority, and community level Sharing of values Joint strategic planning Advocacy, with the Cluster speaking with one voice Enhanced predictability Increased transparency and accountability   To Donors that coordination ensures appropriate programmatic responses against a commonly agreed strategy, that you helped...

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Coordination Architecture

Coordination Architecture

These roles and responsibilities clarify the humanitarian architecture at country level. They are currently being agreed among Global Cluster Lead Agencies. Much of what follows is adapted from a draft internal briefing note from OCHA, dated September 2010. RESIDENT / HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR (RC/HC) The overall goal of the RC/HC is to provide leadership and coordination to ensure appropriate and effective humanitarian action. The RC/HC establishes and convenes the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT). The HC has a key role in all areas of work of the Clusters and should meet with Heads of Cluster Lead Agencies and Cluster Coordinators regularly. The HC must advocate with...

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National and Sub-National Coordination

National and Sub-National Coordination

Effective coordination requires a dual approach which recognises operational coordination on the one hand and strategic coordination on the other. The latter will always take place initially at national level i.e in the Capital, and will include the Humanitarian Country Team whose role is to provide overall strategic direction. This is where policy, strategy, objective, and standard-setting must be set if coherence is to be achieved. The strategies can be adapted at sub-national level if necessary, but only if local circumstances are so different that such a course of action is deemed absolutely necessary. Technical standards cannot be set at the sub-national...

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Lifespan of Clusters

Lifespan of Clusters

There is a formal process for establishing the Cluster Approach at country level. In brief, once it becomes clear that an emergency situation has arisen, the HC/RC consults with national authorities and relevant IASC partners at global and country level. This based on three key criteria: 1) a multi sector response is required; 2) a large number of agencies require coordination; and 3) the required response exceeds national capacity. The HC then forms a Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) if not already in existence consisting of the UNCT plus representatives (from Government), the Red Cross–Red Crescent Movement, and the NGO community. Henceforward, all decisions regarding...

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Preparing to respond

Emergency preparedness increases planning for identified hazards, therefore reducing vulnerabilities to future disasters. It entails the mapping of sector capacity such as roles, responsibilities, skills and numbers of staff, the development of disaster response tools- including contingency plans simulations, multi-hazard mapping, and building capacities at the local and national level of government departments and cluster partners to respond to future crisis. (For more information on Emergency Preparedness, please consult UNOCHA’s Emergency Preparedness Section website) A major component of emergency preparedness is contingency planning. The key objective of...

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Responsibilities of the Cluster Lead Agency

The actions outlined in the table below are adapted from a matrix developed by Global Cluster Leads. Note that many of the actions defined as the responsibility of the Head of the Cluster Lead Agency can be – even should be – delegated to the Cluster Coordinator depending on his/her seniority and experience. In a large-scale, rapid-onset emergency, in-coming Cluster Coordinators should be the same grade as their counterpart Programme Section Chief.   AREA OF WORK HEAD OF CLUSTER LEAD AGENCY CLUSTER COORDINATOR   1. Coordination and inclusion Appoint (hire) dedicated CC Ensure regular meetings Ensure CC attends ICCG Help CC find solutions to...

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Expected Results Framework

Expected Results Framework

The standards and indicators outlined in the table below for each functional area of responsibility are not exhaustive, but, as a list of expected process results, form the basis for ascertaining whether and where Humanitarian Country Teams and/or CLAs are falling short of upholding their Cluster responsibilities at country office level. The functional areas of work described reflect the IASC guidance note of November 2006 on Cluster responsibilities, but include additional areas that are deemed appropriate for empowering and enabling Clusters in the field. It has not been ratified by the IASC nor any of the Global Cluster Lead Agencies, and is offered here as an...

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Priority actions for first 7 days

A checklist for the first 30 days can be found at www.clustercoordination.org IMMEDIATE ACTIONS FOR THE (IN-COMING) CLUSTER COORDINATOR TO DO TO CONSIDER Contact key informants   Stakeholder Groups include: Donors Government NGOs (national and international) CBOs Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement (ICRC, IFRC, National Society) Other Sectors RC’s Office (and/or OCHA) Academic institutions Private sector Meet and establish a relationship with your Government counterpart   It may be necessary to involve the Head of Agency and/or the RC/HC in identifying the single person within Government responsible for the sector. Be prepared to...

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Resource Mobilisation

Resource Mobilisation

Adapted from IOM coordination handbook, ShelterCentre, 2010 The UN operates two mechanisms for the launch of crisis specific joint funding appeals to the global community – the Flash Appeal for emergency responses and the Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) for longer-term crises. Additionally, agencies may source funds directly through a bilateral relationship with public sector donors such as government agencies or with private donors, although these projects should still be included in the Flash Appeal and the Consolidated Appeals Process. Standby funds consist of contributions from many donors which are pooled for allocation according to a common purpose. These...

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Needs Assessment

Needs Assessment

Agreeing on the Cluster’s information needs is the first step towards identifying the objectives of the Cluster strategy. After the beginning of the emergency response, common information needs are usually determined by pre-emergency and in-crisis baseline data (i.e preliminary damage and disaster impact data) along with stakeholder profile data. They will then be refined on an on-going basis to ensure that it is responsive to stakeholders’ information needs. Cluster members also have to agree on common standards and tools to work with: If possible, cluster members should use common collection tools as it enables to process and collate different types of data. Common...

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Managing Effective Meetings

Managing Effective Meetings

Have you noticed the tendency among Coordinators to march, late and slightly harassed, into a coordination meeting in a flurry of files, testosterone and radio static, and then bark that the meeting will take exactly one hour. I think they must have got this mistaken idea of what they think it takes to look efficient from one of those very expensive East Coast business schools. On the other hand, there is a counter tendency that sees some Coordinators hijack the first agenda item for the first 45 minutes, leaving no airtime for the remaining, equally pressing issues. Neither approach works in multi-cultural and multi-lingual settings, especially if the Government is...

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Consensus Management

Consensus Management

Consensus building in clusters requires that cluster participants share information, air and discuss differences, and work together to analyze problems and find mutually acceptable solutions. After a decision has been reached, all cluster participants should feel that their viewpoint was heard and understood, and that they heard and understood the viewpoints of others in the group. They will support it because it was arrived at in an open and fair way. Yet reaching such a consensus is admittedly difficult in “standing-room only” cluster meetings attended by representatives of forty or more agencies. In such large unwieldy groups, proven methods do exist to manage...

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Project Management

Project Management

Problem solving is one of the most essential skills in life. Yet we do it sub-consciously many times each day without really thinking about it. When parking the car, for example, so that another embarrassing dent doesn’t appear in the newly repaired rear door. Or when cooking Sometimes, we have to solve problems consciously. Regardless of who we are or what we do, challenges crop up almost daily to test our resolve. How we deal with such challenges often determines what paths our lives take from then on. In dealing with a problem, the aim is to achieve a particular result. Consider what steps must be taken to achieve that result given the parameters posed by the...

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Managing Time

Managing Time

Technology has evolved faster than the human brain’s ability to process the data and information IT systems now throw at us. In the past, either information didn’t exist, or it existed but we didn’t have access to it. Nowadays, a barrage of e-mails, text messages, and tweets comes at us relentlessly, day and night, from blogs, social networking sites, wikis, the corporate intranet, groupmails, and the rest. Trying to figure out which messages are really important, or even which warrant some form of response from this blizzard is difficult. Information overload can lead us to ‘tune out’ messages altogether. Without sophisticated software to help us filter and...

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Costs and Benefits of Coordination

Costs and Benefits of Coordination

When looking at the costs and benefits of coordination as conducted by Clusters, there is an underlying assumption that good coordination positively affects the effectiveness of humanitarian aid delivery and is therefore better than chaos. This certainly seems to be consistent with the finding of the IASC’s Phase II evaluation of Humanitarian Reform and the Cluster Approach which stated that “the benefits of coordination outweigh its costs”. How much coordination costs is not just about salaries and overheads, however. And the benefits are not just measured in terms of lives saved (see the end of this section). To understand how to do a cost-benefit analysis of...

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Leadership

Leadership

Donald Trump, that icon of corporate America and one-time Presidential candidate, thinks that successful business leaders display character traits best described as, “charming but sometimes arrogant, even obnoxious”. I have been called all of these in my time; the latter by an Inter-Cluster Coordinator in front of everybody during a meeting. I took it as a compliment. Rather like getting PNG’d from Sudan … I must have been doing something right ?! Successful application of the cluster approach will depend on all humanitarian actors working as equal partners in all aspects of the humanitarian response. To be successful, therefore, sectoral groups must function in...

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Complexity

Complexity

Adapted from: http://morealtitude.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/embracing-the-chaotic-cynefin-and-humanitarian-response/ When aid is mentioned in the media, it is generally messaged very simplistically. Children are starving. They need food. The same with earthquakes. Houses are destroyed and people are shivering out in the rain, so give them tents. These are the simplest of X = Y Cartesian paradigms. The responding aid agencies appear to apply equally simple management systems: Need is assessed, the appropriate response defined,  goods procured, and then distributed. The linear procedure is followed. Simple. Yet, when you look a bit closer at how aid agencies manage their...

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The Private Sector

The Private Sector

The private sector is getting more engaged in large-scale humanitarian responses.  The term ‘private sector’ itself covers an enormous group of organizations and companies and an astute cluster coordinator should understand their varied interests.  Don’t forget the 80/20 rule, however.  Engage the big ones or, even better, the structures which coordinate assistance coming from different private sector groups.  These structures could be a Chamber of Commerce, the local Rotary clubs, or a traditional donor which hires the private sector to deliver humanitarian assistance.   If your Cluster demonstrates value then you will not have to chase the private sector;...

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Definitions

PARETO OPTIMALITY This is the ‘80:20 principle’ that stems from the observation that where a large number of factors contribute to a result, the majority (about 80 percent) of the result is due to the contributions of a minority (about 20 percent) of factors. Evaluations suggest, for example, that some 80 percent of the services delivered by a Cluster are generated by 20 percent of its members; 80 percent of the budget for non-food items is tied up in 20 percent of the items; and 80 percent of the challenges faced by a SAG are resolved by 20 percent of Cluster members. It is however a heuristic principle and not a ‘law’ which suggests that it does not always...

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Hiring & Firing

Hiring national or international staff locally can be something of a lottery. Half the time, you will hire someone who excels in the job and makes you look good. But the other half of the time, you will hire someone who lets you down two months later and makes you look bad. You can improve the odds by being ruthless when short-listing candidates for interview on the strength of their CV’s (curriculum vitae). Look neither at age nor gender, but only at the degree to which their qualifications and experience match the specifications of the job. Prior to interviewing, ask the candidates to send an example of their recent work. Read this, and be prepared to quiz the...

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Media Interviews

Media Interviews

If asked for a media interview, alert your ‘boss’ and allow him or her the opportunity instead. If you are authorized to face up to the cameras on behalf of the company, you should have had formal media training. You are being interviewed because you are considered knowledgeable in your field. It follows therefore that you must know your facts and be aware of any recent changes that may have occurred within your subject or situation. If you don’t, then don’t do the interview. If you have not recently been in the affected area, don’t do the interview. Before the interview, make sure you have found out: What the interview is going to be about What angle the...

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Writing

Writing

When drafting a document, circulate it to your team by posting it to a website where simultaneous changes can be made by multiple authors, each of whom can see what the other is amending in real time. This prevents changes being made in ignorance that the original text has already been altered. For further information on real-time on-line document editing, see: www.documents.google.com www.etherpad.com www.dropbox.com Otherwise, request inputs in the usual time-consuming ‘linear’ way and edit the changes into the master copy as and when you receive them, and then re-circulate, remembering to amend the (zero) draft number and the date when doing so. Encourage them to...

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Accountability

Accountability

It is no surprise that the word “accountability” is so widely misunderstood by the aid world when one realizes, as any supporter of Silvio Berlusconi surely does, that there is no such word in Italian. Or French. Or, for that matter, that other lingua franca of the aid business, Spanish. The nearest one gets to it is something similar to “responsibilité” … which of course, means something entirely different (see Section on ‘Consensus Management’). Accountability is all about the responsible use of power (HAP, 2009). It comes in many shapes and forms: upward accountability to donors and governments lateral accountability to peers within the Cluster and...

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Why don’t all agencies coordinate?

Why don’t all agencies coordinate?

Humanitarian agencies are instinctively averse to coordination because coordination is hard. Actual coordination is neither easy nor intuitive. Coordination also implies a certain ‘accountability’ to people other than your own immediate agency, its programme, or the beneficiaries it serves. In Haiti, one large NGO told me to my face that they “wouldn’t attend coordination meetings because they didn’t want to be held to account for anything that went wrong.” Others preferred to ‘plough their own furrow’ arguing that this was the only way to preserve their independence of action. Yet more said they would have coordinated if they had known how. How exactly...

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Principles of Cluster partnership

Principles of Cluster partnership

These operating principles have been collated from both formal (i.e. IASC approved) and informal sources. They are based for the most part on the principles of partnership (PoP) agreed by the Global Humanitarian Platform in 2007, encompassing: Complementarity Responsibility Equality Transparency For full Principles of Partnership, see: www.globalhumanitarianplatform.org The following principles could form the basis of a local ‘compact’ between all Cluster partners. If they are used in such a capacity, it might be useful to obtain signatures from the Country Director of each organization in the Cluster to this effect. Alternatively, just insert a bullet point into...

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Tips for Cluster Coordinators

  TIPS FOR CLUSTER COORDINATORS IN THE FIELD ACTIVITY TIPS 1 Contingency Planning Convene a workshop and use an independent facilitator (half day on lessons learned; half day orientation to contingency planning; half day scenario planning; 1 day contingency planning) 2 Joint Needs Assessment Have an initial disaster impact assessment, however ‘rough’, no later than day 7. This can use observation, anecdotal evidence, and experience. Maintain dialogue with 2 or 3 of the larger NGOs Conduct meta-analysis of assessments as they come in 3 Analysis of stakeholder capacity and competence Use standard format (number of international...

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Contents of Cluster Office-in-a-Box

  Coordination Management (Hotel) 1 x Corporate Identity manual (CD Rom) + Templates (Business Cards, Letters, File spines etc.) 2 x Flip Charts (+ 4 x paper pads) 4 x Four Colour Flip Chart pens 4 x White Boards (5×4 ft) +  colour water pens 2 x Cork Boards (5×4 ft) 200 x Blank Business Cards with Cluster Name (and logo) 1 x Multi-media Projector (+ remote) 1 x Projection Screen (wall mountable) 1 x Laptop + charger (pre-installed with MicroSoft Office Suite, Photoworks, and Publisher) 4 x 4Mb flash-drives 1 x Colour laser-jet printer (6 x black ink spare + 3 x sets of spare colour ink cartridges) 1 x Portable Scanner / Printer / Photocopier (+ 3 x...

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Coordinator’s Kit List

Apart from all the usual stuff like laptops and radio’s, a coordinator is quite likely to need the following:  Business cards x 500 (preferably printed but blank if not; use the generic e-mail address, not your own; use the cluster logo, not the agency’s) Stamp kit (for putting your phone number and e-mail address on blank business cards; if you have ever had to write your contact details by hand on each business card, you will appreciate how important this is) Flashdrive (4GB) Neck cord (for laser-pointer and flashdrive as well as ID card) Bicycle bell or similar for attracting attention (bringing the meeting to order) Chewing Gum (adrenaline makes the mouth...

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