Updated: Jan 6
Written by: Max Baiden (Humanitarian Innovation and Collaboration Adviser, Save the Children UK)
Contributions by: Josie Scott (CCD Ethiopia, Collaboration Manager) and Micah Branaman-Sharma (CCD Global, Communications Advisor)
The rise of the collaborative enterprises has shifted economies globally from traditional business models to online-sharing platforms, such as AirBnB and Uber, that allow for real-time data and partnership brokering.
But is this a model that is replicable and scalable within the humanitarian sector, particularly the growing cash and voucher programming market? Can this way of collaborative working generate opportunities to deliver collective impact and long-lasting sustainable and systemic change? We explore these questions through the lens of the Collaborative Cash Delivery (CCD) Network – a group of 15 international NGOs that have banded together to deliver a more effective, efficient and harmonised approach to cash programming.
This blog aims to showcase how the CCD is changing the cash programming game with a new online collaboration platform and country-level support of organisations to share resources, align language and goals whilst maintaining competition across the cash value chain, develop collaboration models suited to the context, and increase quality and efficiency of cash delivery for people affected by emergencies. It also recognises the long road ahead and how the increasing pace of technological change calls for constant innovation and flexibility in the search for success.
It is interesting to remember what life was like before certain innovations emerged; the introduction of the first touch phone or hailing a cab before Uber came along. The same could be said of AirBnB, which has reshaped the hospitality landscape, majorly disrupting the hotel industry. The peer-to-peer platform has supplanted the top five hotel brands since its inception in 2008 by acting as a broker between a provider and a purchaser.
What if the same business model could be utilised for humanitarian cash programming?
Seeking the answer to this question, amongst several others, is the Collaborative Cash Delivery (CCD) Network. CCD believes that collaboration enables organisations to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of people affected by crises. CCD’s 15 founding members seek to create a more harmonised approach to delivering collective impact in cash programming. To achieve this, CCD is developing a suite of tools and standards; supporting the formation of decentralised, in-country collaborations; and designing an online platform to allow users to unlock information and partnerships across the cash value chain.
However, making this an operational reality is not straightforward. What does this approach look like in practice? How do you put structures in place for effective collaboration whilst leaving enough flexibility for innovation and adaptation to different contexts?
CCD’s models are focussed on breaking down the cash value chain within a given context to optimise operations. Rather than one organisation overseeing all activities in all geographies, CCD’s members consider their capacity/strengths across the value chain and settings to determine the best approach. This allows a system of comparative advantage to occur where resources, capacity, and expertise are competitively decided within the network or synergies established to avoid duplication. Five members of CCD Ethiopia’s network used a mixed approach to deliver last mile solutions in two districts in eastern Ethiopia with overarching management and monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning functions supporting the entire response.
One of CCD’s most important features is its openness and relevance to all humanitarian actors working in cash programming. It is not exclusive, and its outputs can be shared externally (e.g. cash working groups or other coordination bodies). The Ethiopia network manifested in an organic way as several organisations expressed interest in collaborating and sharing technical support. CCD adds value by brokering these partnerships across the cash value chain. CCD encourages national networks to invite international and local NGOs to participate and then expand to embed other stakeholders, such as financial service providers, H2H network, Red Cross/UN agencies, or governmental bodies.
It is critical for CCD to maintain neutrality, consistency, and transparency so it can operate to its fullest potential. Cash delivery actors and systems are chosen according to the context and their ability to meet required standards. The structure of CCD Ethiopia’s first consortium was determined by the actors operating within the context and their capacity/willingness to respond. It was backed by the lead agency and a neutral third-party Collaboration Manager.
CCD-endorsed collaborations follow a set of recognised standards, processes, guidelines, and characteristics. This consistency allows actors to collaborate effectively across responses. In-country networks, like Ethiopia, have a degree of flexibility over the standards they set and processes they follow. CCD is making all documentation available online to ensure transparency and accessibility.
One of the greatest start-up challenges is scalability. CCD is no different in that it also needs funding, pilot success, and engagement. It also needs a level of facilitation that can support the various stakeholders, as well as a consistent space for testing and learning. CCD Ethiopia established a collaboration unit run by a neutral Collaboration Manager, working on behalf of all members, with funding from ECHO. It enables members to focus on scaling activities and sharing resources rather than scrambling for resources.
This is not to say that the CCD is without its challenges.
Networks must have buy-in to get CCD off the ground. This is largely reliant on having an influencer who can build trust and understanding amongst potential members locally. CCD Ethiopia would not be where it is today without that support. CCD also requires behaviour change. In a sector that is often focused on organisational bottom lines, CCD emphasises a mindset of mutual understanding and a harmonised approach to cash programming. Prioritisation and decision-making are also essential. You can have all the models set up perfectly, but if the network or its goals are not a priority or the decision-making power is held by a few very busy people, things cannot move forward. Nonetheless, these barriers can be overcome as CCD’s in-country achievements gain global recognition, (and given that CCD was recently endorsed at the Grand Bargain Summit, the future is bright!).
There is a sense that the CCD way of working could become the norm amongst cash programming stakeholders. It requires hard work and resources, but it has the potential to be a beacon of success within emergency cash delivery.
 The mixed approach refers to some parts of the value chain being geographic based and some cross cutting, like the monitoring for example