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    I think an ideal humanitarian would be someone who is empathetic and can listen and understand the issues people are going through, and also has a very good sense of project management processes.
    However, there is a need for all sorts of people to be involved in humanitarian responses so you’ll need those who see the big picture, those who are detail oriented, those who are excellent at working with people, good with grief, excellent planners, etc etc so i doubt there is such a thing as a ideal attributes for a practitioner, but rather the attributes you need over a team of people.


    I appreciate what Mitchell has contributed above. I think the ideal humanitarian would also be someone who has an adaptive mind…meaning someone who can take in new information on a consistent basis and change tack if needed. It would also be important for them to keep abreast of best practice and make the necessary changes based on what emerges in the field. I could imagine that it may be tempting to rely on what worked in a previous experience to guide what you do in subsequent situations and although that experience would be valuable, you would also have to pivot as needed (and as new research is published).


    Thanks, Mitchell & Kelly, for this. A lot of things resonated with what you both said. Mitchell’s comment about teams reminded me of john Adair’s Leadership Model (Task/Team/Individual); whilst Kelly’s comments on keeping abreast of best practice (ie no need to ‘te-invent the wheel’), are reasons why we include the Bibliography & Agency Directory as part of this course. Also it’s the same reasoning behind the red and green ‘Learning & Sharing Lessons’ in the Project Management Cycle (PMC). Keeping abreast of current international events is also important – i generally do this by reading/watching BBC (internet), SBS TV, Weekend Australian & Guardian Weekly. I remember when the Myanmar Cyclone Nargis struck in 2008 (and I was subsequently doing some work for an Australian NGO), I was able to pick up a book on Aung San Sui Kyi at Singapore Airport and relatively quickly and easily mug up on some of the political nuances. .


    I agree with what Kelly and Mitchell have said above. Being adaptable and empathetic would be incredibly important. With regards to what Kelly has said about continually keeping up to date with new learnings, from experiences in the past with practitioners in other fields (not humanitarian specifically), continual learning is something that is often neglected. People become complacent which in a humanitarian setting would be less than ideal. This echoes what both have said but it seems to me that an ideal humanitarian is someone who is able to give up control to some extent. In situations where you are in charge of managing resources, people, plans etc. but are in a setting where you are an ‘outsider’ it would be critical to be able to collaborate and be a helpful guiding force rather than only being able to manage if you have complete control. (In other words, they need to be able to employ transformational leadership to help communities get back on their own feet). I have never participated in any humanitarian work though so it would be interesting to see what those who have think about this!


    Empathy and applying the principle of empowerment seem to be good bases, although we must obviously also be guided by a principle of efficiency, which means trying to do the best in terms of alleviation of suffering with the limited resources that are available to us. This implies that we have to get a good understanding of the social and environmental systems that we work in, in order to kind of optimize our action and do no harm. A participatory appoach seems to be a good starting point to dive into the reasonings of our beneficiaries, but there are obvious limits to that: we want to be innovative, as was said before, so we have to bring some external knowledge into our work and transmit it through awareness raising; and there are things that we cannot support, e.g. if a group of displaced people would like to get arms to reconquer the land they were driven from.
    Having said that, like Kirsten, I haven’t really worked in humanitarian settings myself. My experience is rather in DRR in development settings.


    Thanks for these thoughts and comments. When I read Kirsten’s about ‘continual learning’ it reminded me of the Project Management CXycle (PMC) where there are those dotted red arrows in Implementation Stage, and green dotted arrows in Post Implementation stage relating to ‘Learning & Sharing Lessons’. Much of the material in the Humanitarian/Development Bibliography & Agency DSirectory (both found in the are just that – learning & sharing lessons.


    For me, the ideal attributes for a humanitarian practitioner is having a focus of the most vulnerable groups, capable of designing programmes that are appropriate, timely, and effective, as well as abiding to principles such as impartiality, neutrality, and independence.

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