Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 30 - July 2024 عربى
Terminology Corner
Survivor- and Community-led Crisis Response (SCLR)

is a set of approaches proposed that represent a workable interface between a ‘Big Aid’ system confined within the limitations of excel sheets, predefined proposal and reporting formats, narrow timeframes, ‘compliance angst,’ log frames and ‘theories of change.’ Rather, SCLR recognizes the life-long and ever-changing process of survival, self-protection and intended recovery confronting crisis-affected individuals and communities every day.

Faced with growing documentation and recognition of citizen activism, mutual aid and self-help in response to crises related to conflicts, climate change or pandemics such as COVID-19, SCLR creates space for truly user-led ways of working will be crucial if humanitarian organizations are to remain relevant to current and future challenges.

Adopting the SCLR approach is one step in that direction by operationalizing nine core principles:

  1. Participatory action learning in crises (PALC), a shorthand for a community mobilization and facilitation, combines appreciative inquiry, identifying locally relevant do-no-harm mechanisms and supporting experiential learning and information sharing;
  2. Systems for rapid, accountable and do-no-harm use of group micro-grants as one means to enable and scale up collective action by citizens aimed at enhancing survival, protection, well-being, recovery or transformation.
  3. Rapid provision of demand-led skills training that SHGs consider will increase the effectiveness, scale or impact of their initiatives.
  4. Actively linking, connecting and networking SHGs, both horizontally (within crisis-affected populations) and vertically (to duty-bearers and other organizations and programs that could support resilience).
  5. In protracted disaster responses that involve multiple local SHGs and agencies, support for the development of locally relevant mechanisms for improving coordination, collaboration and information sharing. May also serve as platforms for informing and improving synergy with external interventions.
  6. Proactively seeking opportunities for local groups to initiate and sustain their own longer-term transformative processes for tackling root causes of vulnerability.
  7. Promoting changes in organizational cultures and institutional relationships to allow core SCLR attributes (victims as leaders, power transfer, nexus-friendly, risk tolerance, learning-by-doing) to become standard good practice in humanitarian programming.

As this way of working has evolved, a number of guiding principles have emerged and are the subject of continued practice, research and reflection. These include stressing the importance of understanding crisis-affected individuals and groups as first responders, and reforming and changing existing aid systems and practices to better support locally led responses.

  1. Adopt a new mindset that recognizes crisis-affected people as first and last responders.
  2. Adopt strengths-based participatory assessments and appreciative inquiry methods.
  3. Challenge gender narratives: women as leaders, not victims.
  4. Strengthen (don’t weaken) collective action, social cohesion and sense of community.
  5. Support multiple different groups to reflect the heterogeneity of crisis-affected people.
  6. Explicit transfer of power (using micro-grants) to community groups.
  7. Promote broader well-being and psychosocially informed approaches.
  8. Recognize that a crisis-affected population’s natural tendency is to respond holistically.
  9. Develop new management systems and organizational cultures that incentivize staff to ‘let go’ and allow greater sharing of power.
  10. Give more focus to supporting local government agencies to adopt and fund SCLR.
  11. Redefine relationships between donors, national and international agencies.
  12. Support ‘whole of system’ change that motivates all aid departments to challenge assumptions and accepted norms that limit opportunities for humanitarian aid to enable local agency.
  13. Optimize the balance between externally led and people-led approaches as two complementary parts of a more empowering mainstream aid response to humanitarian crises.

For more information, see Justin Corbett, Nils Carstensen and Simone Di Vicenz, Survivor- and community-led crisis response: Practical experience and learning(2021)


All rights reserved to HIC-HLRN