Hi everyone,
I’m enclosing below some recent information from PHAP – http://www.phap.org which attempts to address this issue of humanitarian professionalisation. I actually filled in the three surveys named, but found (sorry to say) some of the material a little bland. It would help if they used some clear diagrams like the DRMC/DRR/PMC etc ! Before I ‘paste & copy’ this material, just want to refer Michael B’s last point – about psycho-social issues. Check out the Melbourne-based Mandala Foundation – http://www.mandalafoundation.org.au which offers training in this area. Here’s the PHAP material !

In June this year, the PHAP membership adopted the association’s new Strategic Framework. Putting this strategy into practice, we are now creating a program that offers something new for the humanitarian sector in the area of professional standards and recognition of competency. As an experienced practitioner in the sector, and a member of the association, your input will be crucial to the development of this program.

In this e-mail, I would like to introduce PHAP’s new Credentialing Program and some of the process and thinking that led to its creation. I am also attaching a two-pager that outlines the main aspects of the program. In the coming days, we will contact you about the next step in the program’s development, in which we would ask for your input.

The challenge
There have long been concerns about capacity issues across the humanitarian sector, including gaps in the understanding and application of key concepts for humanitarian action. In a complex sector, with a greater number and variety of actors and increasing external pressures, the confusion and coordination problems arising from lack of mutual understanding impact the effectiveness of humanitarian action.

In addition, there have been concerns about professional development offerings specific to the humanitarian sector being of mixed quality, lacking consistency, and lacking in clear progression, leading to duplication and waste of scarce resources for staff development.

Humanitarian practitioners have long been interested in having ways to both demonstrate their relevant knowledge and skill and raise professional standards in humanitarian action – but most reject the idea of an all-encompassing “certified humanitarian professional” designation as unsuitable to an area as complex and varied as the humanitarian sector. Agencies, too, are keen to have robust external verification that their staff and volunteers possess the required foundational knowledge and know how to apply it in humanitarian contexts, while retaining in-house the role of assessing “soft skills” critical to humanitarian response.
There is a call for something new. And we know that humanitarian practitioners overwhelmingly wish to have a voice in its development.

Identifying a flexible and robust solution
Through extensive environmental scanning and surveying (which you may have participated in earlier this year), as well as a highly collaborative strategic planning process with its members all over the world, PHAP has identified a way forward in this area that promises to meet the sector’s need for credentials that are robust and verifiable, while also being practice-oriented, cross-sector, inclusive, and accessible.

The concept is a “micro-credentialing” program which identifies essential applied knowledge in specific areas relevant to humanitarian practitioners. It combines two critical aspects:
1. The program is developed according to the established and rigorous international standard for professional credentials: the ISO/IEC 17024:2012 standard for personnel certification.
2. To meet the specific needs of the humanitarian sector, instead of a single large certification, the program is designed around the idea of a number of narrower certifications in specific areas of knowledge and skills.
The ISO standard provides a very strong basis for offering credible credentials, laying out best practice and setting a very high standard for their development. It requires, among other things:
• That the certification content be based directly on actual field practice and what humanitarian practitioners say they need to know and be able to do;
• That the assessment be fair, robust, and invigilated for the purpose of verifiability of results;
• That there be maintenance and re-certification requirements based on how often the needed knowledge and skill for humanitarian practitioners is expected to change over time;
• That the quality and reliability of the assessment be monitored over time and refreshed as needed; and
• That the organization offering the certification has a robust governance structure and strong prospects for long-term sustainability.

The first three specific areas for certification include:
• Understanding the humanitarian eco-system
• International legal frameworks for humanitarian action
• Applying humanitarian principles in practice

The certifications also, necessarily, are independent from any specific learning program or pathway. This gives individuals the flexibility to prepare for the assessments however they choose – by studying recommended reading and resources, following an intensive course offered by another training provider, or an academic course. It also allows for practitioners who already have the requisite knowledge and skills to take the assessment directly. A self-assessment option provides you with a diagnostic report identifying areas for improvement and helps you determine whether you are ready to take the official invigilated assessment to earn the certification.

Complementary to organizational standards
The credentialing program is complementary to organizational-level standards initiatives. It will provide tools that organizations can use to clearly demonstrate that they are meeting their commitments. This is particularly relevant, for example, for Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standard. It is also a way to improve inclusivity and help promote fair, equitable, and dignified partnerships for humanitarian action, by giving donors greater confidence in local capacity, and to support collaboration among practitioners as peers with a shared humanitarian purpose across organizational and geographic divides.
We are developing this program in the context of collaboration with CHS Alliance and the Humanitarian Leadership Academy, which have complementary aims related to standards and capacity development, as a program of the Collaboration Center for Recognition of Skills, Experience, and Learning in Humanitarian Action. Financial support for the Center is provided by the Academy.

We are documenting everything about the process and gathering lessons learned, as well as developing general guidance, to share with other organizations in the humanitarian sector who may wish to establish additional certifications in specific areas, in compliance with the international standard.
Development process and next steps
The three certifications are being developed this year, for launch in early 2017.