You may have noticed some changes in the design of RRN publications. We hope you like them. It seems appropriate to usher in our second phase of operation with a revitalised style and draw your attention to some of the developments proposed over the coming three years. Rest assured that there is no change in our commitment to the exchange and dissemination of high quality publications in a format that is practical and accessible to humanitarian agency personnel, both at HQ level and in the field.
This February 1997 mailing launches the second phase in the RRNs operation, supported by four new donors DANIDA, ECHO, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland, and ODA. Building on the results of the February 1996 members survey and lessons learned over the past three years, a Strategic Review of RRN practice was undertaken throughout last year. The Review culminated in the first Advisory Group meeting on 31 January 1997, bringing together representatives of the four new donors, the Danish Refugee Council, Oxfam and UNICEF, to consider proposals to improve the relevance and reach of RRN material. The group endorsed the RRN strategy for the next three years.
This brief summary reflects the key thinking which emerged during this process and which will guide the development of the RRN over the coming years. The principal goal of the RRN programme, during the coming three year phase, will be to improve aid policy and practice in protracted complex political emergencies. The purpose, principal activities and target audience are outlined in more detail on the back cover of this Newsletter. RRN publications will principally focus on humanitarian assistance in situations where conflict is a key feature, but will also cover the implications and impact of slow-onset, natural disasters in the context of complex political emergencies.
In light of our objectives, RRN policy will be to offer free annual subscription to a limited number of individuals actively engaged in humanitarian work in complex emergencies. New funding has made it possible for us to fund up to 1,500 free subscriptions. In order to target our priority audience, mem- bership criteria have been drawn up to enable the RRN team to judge applications in a consistent and appropriate manner. For detailed information on how to obtain RRN publications, see opposite page. New applicants will automatically be considered according to the new criteria. Existing members covered by the previous funding regime have until September 1997 to re-apply. All memberships will lapse after this date.
The distinctiveness of RRN publications lies in their focus on policy and practice in complex political crises, the accessible style and practical orientation, the range of formats and the conscious intent to encourage learning from experience across a broad geographical spread. In addition, all RRN material continues to be produced in both French and English to ensure that a significant proportion of the target readership is not excluded on language grounds.
The RRN will retain its existing three formats:
Newsletters provide a forum which is conducive to the raising and airing of issues, brief reflection and comment, information sharing and debate. There will be three Newsletters per year, free on request.
Network Papers deal with generic studies of general relevance to the humanitarian aid community, eg. Network Papers 10 and 20 on management and support of aid personnel (see, for example the People in Aid Code of Best Practice) and Network Paper 19 (Human Rights and International Legal Standards also in this mailing) and topical case studies. Authors of case studies are encouraged to transcend the specificity of their context by highlighting policy dimensions of each situation.
Good Practice Reviews (GPRs) are to be central to the main purpose of the RRN. They represent more than technical manuals although often treating technical policy areas such as water and sanitation issues, targeting, distribution etc. (see GPR 4 Seed Provision during and after Emergencies) with the emphasis on policy requirements and implications of programmatic choices. Commissioned by the RRN team, GPRs typically have a lead author but are also the outcome of extensive peer review.
The RRN team solicits written material and experiences from members and readers. Authors of GPRs are remunerated and, in this second phase, honoraria are also available to authors of Network Papers.
Regional Outreach Initiative
A Regional Outreach Initiative will be implemented during this second phase and two individuals will be employed on a part-time basis to act as RRN Regional Representatives; one for the West Africa region and the other for the Horn and Great Lakes Region. Their role will be to advocate the value of institutional and individual learning within their area of operation, and promote RRN publications as a relevant resource. In recognition of the need to receive more contributions from the regions, the Representatives will identify individuals and organisations with which the RRN can establish ongoing contact and who will, over time, contribute written material to the RRN. The experience will be reviewed in March 1998 and, if successful, other regions may also be considered.
IMPORTANT: IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN ON THE MEMBERSHIP LIST, YOU MUST REMEMBER TO RETURN THE RENEWAL SLIP ATTACHED TO THE LAST NEWSLETTER OF EACH YEAR OR YOUR PLACE WILL AUTOMATICALLY BE TAKEN BY ANOTHER APPLICANT
To ensure that the limited number of free subscriptions continues to reach the most appropriate individuals/organisations in a range of countries/ emergency situations, a system of annual renewal is necessary. An annual renewal tear-off slip will be attached to the Nov/Dec Newsletter every year. Its purpose is three-fold: to ensure that we have your correct name, title and contact details on our mailing list; to weed out the less motivated/ interested; and to allow the RRN team to review its reach amongst its target audience in the light of changes in countries/regions experiencing complex political emergencies in particular. It may be necessary to consider a redistribution of FREE subscriptions – those falling outside the free category as a result of the annual review will be offered membership on the basis of the £25.00 annual fee or individual copies at the standard prices.
Over the coming three years, the RRNs written material will reflect its revised focus on protracted complex political crises. While publications continue to cover good practice in practical aspects of the delivery of assistance, such as food distribution or water and sanitation, the choice of subject, author, and the issues covered by RRN papers will be guided by one or more of four broad, overlapping themes: political/legal, strategic, programming and organisational.
The RRN team recommends including evaluation in the design of any programme and is committed to seeing its own performance evaluated on an annual basis, to determine the relevance and reach of its publications, by means of the annual renewal system (see above box) and questionnaire. Towards the end of the three-year period, the RRN team would also welcome an independent evaluation.
Evaluating the RRNs impact on learning and on policy and practice is a complex exercise. Individual and institutional learning draw on many other sources and are subject to a variety of factors outside the RRNs control. Comments from members/readers as to the ways they use RRN material will be greatly valued in addition to the annual questionnaire. The RRN team also plans to look more closely at institutional information processes and obstacles to learning, which, it is hoped, will offer further insights into the impact of the RRN materials.
Recognising the value of external views and the involvement of a range of stakeholders in its development, the RRN has initiated regular meetings of its Advisory Group. The Advisory Group provides advice, feedback and suggestions on the general concept and direction of the RRN and priorities for analysis and publications. Members of the Advisory Group attend and contribute primarily in their personal capacity as humanitarian professionals rather than as representatives of their respective organisations. Members are drawn from across the spectrum of the humanitarian community, to enable the RRN to draw on their knowledge of the needs, interests and priorities of the different sectors with which they are associated eg. NGO, UN etc.
While advice and guidance are welcomed, the RRN prides itself on its editorial independence and role as a neutral forum.