Origins of the RRN, objectives and plans for the future
by Humanitarian Practice Network March 1994

The Origins of the RRN

The idea of establishing this Network was formed over two years ago. Initial results of research at ODI on the changing role of NGOs in relief and rehabilitation operations (see Publications) and a review of the readership structure of Disasters (published quarterly by ODI in conjunction with Blackwells publishers) indicated the need for a mechanism facilitating the exchange of professional information and experience between relief workers from different agencies. Our perception was, and continues to be, that despite the enhanced role of international and local NGOs in the provision of relief and rehabilitation assistance, the exchange of such professional information is frequently hampered by a combination of institutional factors, language barriers and the absence of suitable mechanisms for professional information exchange between busy individuals working in difficult and often remote locations around the world.

Drawing on ODI’s experience in operating four existing networks (linking practitioners and researchers in agricultural research and extension, rural development forestry, pastoral development and irrigation management), a draft funding proposal was prepared in early 1992 and submitted to EuronAid. EuronAid was selected as it was the most suitable pre-existing group of European NGOs involved in emergency operations, composed of a mixture of directly operational NGOs and those funding local partners. The proposal requesting funding for a three year period was approved by the General Assembly of EuronAid member agencies in May 1993 and shortly thereafter by the Food Aid Unit within DGVIII.

Setting Up the RRN

Since the autumn of 1993 the process of obtaining the names of personnel nominated by NGOs, sending out the Registration Forms and entering the completed forms onto a database has been underway. Because of difficulties in identifying an appropriate third member of the RRN Team this first mailing has been produced by the Coordinator and the Administrator. Because of the limited staff capacity the RRN Team’s efforts have been focused upon establishing the initial RRN membership through the EuronAid member agencies and those with observer status. So far 132 members have been nominated by 17 of the 25 member agencies and the four agencies with observer status. Completed Registration Forms have been received from 75 members. A breakdown of the 132 on a country basis is enclosed with this mailing so that members may be aware of other RRN members in their country.

Following this first mailing, efforts will be made to increase awareness of the RRN and its objectives among a wider group of agencies including other international and local NGOs, UN agencies, donor organisations, agencies of developing country governments and individuals with a professional involvement in relief and rehabilitation programmes. It is anticipated that the number of RRN members will grow substantially as a result. It is also planned to readvertise the post of RRN Research Fellow within the next few weeks.

The Operation of the RRN and Future Plans

Each year RRN members will receive four mailings in either English or French. The March and September mailings will consist of a Newsletter and Network Papers of which there will usually be three in each mailing. Each June and December, members will receive a ‘State of the Art’ Review on a selected sector or activity within the relief and rehabilitation field. The Reviews will be prepared by a recognised specialist in that particular field and will explain, in a form readily accessible by non-specialist field personnel, what is generally agreed and what is not agreed in how to plan and implement certain types of intervention and what are the common pitfalls in undertaking those types of intervention. The first State of the Art Review, to be completed and translated by June, will be on Water and Sanitation – a sector indicated as an area of interest by the majority of those members who have so far returned their Registration Forms. The second State of the Art Review to be sent out in December will be on Supplementary Feeding Programmes. Subsequent Reviews will probably include health care, logistics, agricultural rehabilitation and evaluation methods for emergency programmes, but we are open to suggestions from members on the subject of the Reviews to be prepared in 1995 and 1996.

The Need for Feedback from Members

The principal objective of the Newsletter, Network Papers and State of the Art Reviews is to inform members of the experiences of other agencies working in different contexts and to keep them abreast of developments in the field of relief and rehabilitation. However, we sincerely hope that the process will not just stop there and that members will comment on the contents of the mailings and thereby help to improve understanding and practice in this field. For instance, do members agree with all the points made in the first three Network Papers? If not, then we would like to receive your comments which will be collated and summarised in the Feedback section in subsequent Newsletters.

Similar points apply to the design of the RRN and the mailings. In establishing the principal elements of the RRN and in producing this first mailing we have had to make many decisions without the benefit of direct input from the members. We are therefore anxious to receive the views of members on this first mailing and our plans for the future. Do you like the content, layout and style of this Newsletter? Do you have any suggestions for future Network Papers and State of the Art Reviews? If so we would be happy to receive them and share them with other members in this Feedback section.