Conflicts, acute crises, epidemics, and natural disasters affect hundreds of millions of people annually – and not enough is being done to address these humanitarian situations. In 2014 alone, over 165 million people were estimated to be directly affected by humanitarian crises. This represents a 10% increase over the 150 million people affected in 2013, and is over double the 76 million beneficiaries targeted in 2012. Donors and agencies have been increasing funds in response to this suffering: contributions in 2014 were US$24.5 billion, up 19% from 2013. Yet in 2014 OCHA and other agencies still reported US$7.5 billion in unmet requirements (the largest gap to date), indicating that increased funding is not keeping up with needs.

Beyond the gap between needs and resources, the nature of crises is changing rapidly, and new challenges are emerging. Climate change is causing natural disasters to grow in scale and size, requiring more advanced early warning systems and more sophisticated response mechanisms. There is a widespread expectation that humanitarian agencies will focus on preparedness and recovery, not just response. Yet development and humanitarian funding remain siloed, and underfunding of resilience and recovery is pushing actors to seek alternative financing. The humanitarian agenda calls for mobilization of less traditional resources, asking humanitarians to better engage the private sector, local and national developing country governments, and beneficiary communities. This in turn translates to a need for stronger coordination among a broader, more diverse set of actors – all the while coordination still remains a weak point in the humanitarian system. In addition, humanitarians are dealing with more diverse and complex crises. The ongoing Syrian conflict, the Nepal earthquake, and the Ebola virus outbreak all tested the humanitarian system in very different ways, demonstrating that each new crisis requires a unique combination of resources, actors, and response types. Man-made conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq are increasing in middle-income countries, and are compounded by societal pressures like unemployment and religious radicalism. Resolving these protracted conflicts require a combination of political, economic, and social solutions that are not always in control of humanitarian agencies.

In the midst of limited funding, higher expectations, and more complex crisis scenarios, successful humanitarian action is increasingly difficult. But smarter solutions are within reach – we can help humanitarian actors face these changing dynamics. Dalberg helps clients design effective strategies, establish new partnerships, identify innovative financing sources, and improve aid delivery for timely and effective humanitarian responses. We support a diverse range of humanitarian actors in becoming more flexible and in preparing to face the humanitarian scenarios of the future.


 Our Expertise:

  • Strategy design. We build compelling strategies to help leading organizations achieve their goals. These include multi-year reviews of priorities based on relevant humanitarian trends, and wholesale organizational strategies matching an organization’s needs to on-the-ground realities.

  • Operational change. Whatever role a client plays in humanitarian assistance, we make sure they are set up to achieve their goals. We evaluate and rethink staff structures to optimize interventions as well as to facilitate better coordination and partnerships, especially with new or non-traditional actors.

  • Innovative financing options. We help clients create strategies for, and connect with, alternative funding sources such as private companies and individuals. We also contribute more broadly to the development of innovative financing mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships and development and humanitarian impact bonds.

  • Product and service development. We aid humanitarian actors in adopting new technologies, products, and services that can improve response. Through our Design Impact Group we can also use human-centered design to support innovative service and product development for actors operating in natural disasters, refugee camps, food-insecure environments, or other humanitarian contexts.

  • Impact measurement and performance management. We develop practical ways to measure and track progress toward organizational objectives and goals, tailoring robust metrics tools from the development and private sectors to humanitarian assistance groups.


Client Success:

One Billion Coalition for Resilience Campaign – International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 

As part of its commitment to humanitarian action and to the post-2015 SDGs agenda, the IFRC aims to engage at least one person in every household around the world in increasing resilience to adversity. This “One Billion Coalition for Resilience”campaign would operationalize efforts through the IFRC’s network of volunteers and National Societies, with a focus on better preparedness for natural disasters and humanitarian crises. To support the campaign strategy the Federation sought to define current levels of community resilience worldwide, and to identify where the greatest resilience gaps and opportunities existed.

Our Approach

The Dalberg team first helped the IFRC clarify the dimensions of resilience that it would focus on within its campaign. The definition encompassed six dimensions: financial capital, human capital, natural capital, physical capital, social capital, and governance systems. By defining ‘resilience’ in human terms, we were able to identify where specific types of programs would have greatest impact.

Dalberg mapped the resilience of communities across the globe. We gathered data for indicators under each of the six resilience dimensions and assessed every country on each indicator. Our analyses allowed the Federation to compare countries and to see where the greatest resilience gaps were found. For example, we found that over 1.2 billion people live in countries with the lowest financial income and access to financial institutions, predominantly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, while communities with the lowest natural resource assets (approximately 1.2 billion people) are mostly located in Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa. We also determined the number of people that could currently be classified as “resilient”. Our report highlighted existing IFRC work targeting each dimension of resilience, so the Federation could more easily decide on additional interventions that could be taken as part of its broader humanitarian mandate.

Finally, we assessed different models the Federation could adopt in creating the new coalition, to ensure successful set-up of the partnership. Our team looked at a wide range of change models for building coalitions. We identified best practice principles from typologies most relevant to the IFRC’s goals. Our expertise and analysis provided important recommendations for the campaign’s governance structure and national-level coalitions.


Dalberg’s work is serving as the foundation for the IFRC strategy and campaign to strengthen the resilience of up to 1 billion people worldwide. As Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and volunteers begin building resilience in their local communities, our original resilience country assessments will help guide the gaps they address and the interventions they select. The coalition change models we identified supported the IFRC in determining the coalition’s structure and organization. Finally, our insights have helped the Federation understand how to catalyze action on resilience from non-traditional actors such as the private sector, governments, and civil society.

Learn more about our work by reading our insights or contact:

Matt Frazier, Washington D.C. or

Sam Lampert, Geneva


Photo credit: Flickr, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies