Constructive deconstruction: imagining alternative humanitarian action

Publication series
May 2018
Christina Bennett, Paul Currion, Marc DuBois and Tahir Zaman

The international humanitarian system needed a rethink, a modernisation, an upgrade. This project helped to catalyse that thinking by challenging the values, assumptions and incentives that underpin humanitarian action today to reimagine a more effective humanitarian system that truly 'puts people at the centre'. 

ODI’s Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) used Design Thinking to map the experiences of users of humanitarian aid, and found a strong desire from within the humanitarian sector to remake itself as a more adaptable, accountable system that recognises people affected by crisis as agents of change in their own lives. Based on this process, this project explores three alternative visions for humanitarian action:

The new humanitarian basics calls for a rescoping of the concept of humanitarian crisis and the humanitarian sector’s role in it. 

Network humanitarianism challenges the notion of a humanitarian ‘system’ as a structured architecture led by the UN, and instead envisions it as a system of distributed governance.

The 'humanitarian anchor' outlines a social economy approach to humanitarian action that addresses the urgent and growing need for meaningful solutions in protracted crises and caters to the aspirations of affected people.