How do you empower Humanitarian Aid Workers?

Humanitarians work tirelessly to provide hope, resources, and relief in some of the direst natural disasters and conflicts around the globe.  Very few receive ongoing professional development and training either because they cannot afford it or because the classes take place in locations not accessible from the field.

In partnership with leading humanitarian organizations such as the International Red Cross, UNHCR, Oxfam, and Save the Children, the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation launched to provide high-quality online training to humanitarian aid and disaster relief workers around the world. Registration is free and all users have unlimited access to more than 400 professional development resources including videos, webinars, and e-learning courses.

More than 45,000 aid workers have signed up for from more than 190 different countries and the usage is expected to grow to 60,000 by the end of 2015.  Recognizing that many aid workers are on the move and not always connected to the Internet,’s training is now available on mobile devices and offline players.  With such a global and multi-lingual audience, we have worked hard to make accessible in English, French, and Spanish.  By making this no-cost training available to more humanitarians in their native language, we can reach even more of them and fulfill our mission of increasing the preparedness and effectiveness of humanitarians in natural disasters and conflicts around the world.

Increasingly, aid workers are responding to these disasters in countries where they do not speak the local language.  And as aid organizations seek to work more collaboratively with their beneficiaries and local staff, being able to communicate in the local dialect becomes an operational imperative.  Unfortunately, access to high-quality language courses is often limited which places additional burden on the organization’s interpreters as well as national staff.

This is why we are so fortunate to partner with Speexx to give disaster responders the opportunity to learn conversational basic English, French, and Spanish.  In recent months, demand for these courses has increased significantly as more humanitarian staff and health professionals have responded to the Ebola outbreak in French-speaking West Africa as well as the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Dadaab Refugee Camp, which is the largest refugee camp in the world, hosting over 400,000 refugees that have fled various conflicts in the larger Eastern Africa region.  I had the opportunity to interview a number of aid workers and hear firsthand about their experience working in this challenging environment.  One aid worker, Evanson Njoroge, has worked at Dadaab since 2008 told me about the Speexx French language courses he has been actively engaging with.  He reiterated that access to traditional learning institutions is severely limited when working in the field.  After taking the Speexx course, Evans can now work in emergency operations like the Ebola crisis in West Africa where French is actively spoken.

For humanitarian response to be most effective in fulfilling their mission, they must build trust with their beneficiaries.  Having even a basic understanding of the local language allows the aid worker to better understand what the local population is facing and what specific interventions would be most effective.  Moreover, a direct conversation between humanitarians and beneficiaries helps break down any perceived barriers and fosters a more collaborative approach to long-term relief.

this is an updated post from April, 2015

Managing in the Humanitarian Sector

On Thursday 2nd February 2017 at 11:00 am UTC the Humanitarian Leadership Academy in collaboration with the Open University (UK) are running a live discussion with Robin Nataf to share some practical experiences of management in the humanitarian sector. This is part of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) ‘Managing in the Humanitarian Sector´…

This live discussion was an opportunity to explore some of the challenging issues involved in meeting the needs of crisis affected people.


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