In-country Research: State of the Humanitarian System Report

Terms of reference

Deadline: 29 April 2024

Applications should be sent by email to [email protected] by midnight UK time on the 29 April. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted for interview. 

ALNAP will review submissions and will be in contact with short-listed candidates for interviews to take place in late May. This contract will span between mid-2024 and December 2026. 

If you have questions about the scope or qualifications for this work, please get in touch with ALNAP SOHS program manager, Daniel Squire:[email protected]

The consultancy in brief

The aim of this consultancy is to conduct research on the performance of humanitarian action in countries where there is an ongoing humanitarian response for the sixth edition of the State of the Humanitarian System (SOHS) report, a longitudinal study assessing humanitarian performance since 2010.

Our priority is to work with nationally-based researchers, and we will not consider bids from research or consultancy teams based entirely in global minority countries – however, we will consider consortia or partnership bids from teams combining global minority and majority team members.

We welcome one of two types of bids for this work:

  1. Pre-formed consortia or bids from teams of consultants who are able to conduct research in 4-8 countries which feature an HRP.  We expect the lead researchers for each country to be based in the country they are researching.
  2. Bids from individuals or teams from a single crisis affected country, with the expectation that ALNAP will create a consortia of nationally-based researchers in multiple countries in which you will participate.

About the SOHS

The ALNAP State of the Humanitarian System Report (SOHS) is an independent study that compiles the latest statistics on the size and scope of the humanitarian system and assesses overall performance and progress of global humanitarian response. The report is ALNAP’s flagship publication and is a critical element of ALNAP’s strategic focus on monitoring and reporting on system-wide performance.

A pilot exercise and four subsequent editions (2012, 2015,2018, and 2022) have already provided a baseline and an analysis of performance between 2008 and 2021.  The sixth edition is expected to adopt a similar methodology to the 2018 report focused on key policy questions with longitudinal links to the OEDC DAC criteria and through the production of new research components designed to provide a more in-depth understanding of performance on certain criteria. ALNAP will also be seeking to strengthen its partnership approach to conducting case study research in crisis-affected countries.

The main objective however will remain the same:  to gather and synthesise evidence to form an overall picture of the global humanitarian system and indicate how well it is serving the needs of peoples affected by conflict and crises.   Specifically, the report will provide a description of the shape and composition of the global humanitarian system and an assessment of its progress and performance over time.

Aim and Scope

The aim of this consultancy is to collect perception-based performance data in countries where there is an ongoing humanitarian response for the sixth edition of the SOHS. The objectives are to conduct key informant interviews and focus group discussions with crises-affected people, government authorities, and humanitarian, development and peace keeping practitioners in-country. Findings from this research which will form a key part of the evidence base for the SOHS sixth edition.

In addition to supporting the main SOHS report, there is also the potential for the consultants to create country-specific reports assessing progress of the humanitarian system with a focus on themes that are particularly relevant to their context. Interest in producing those will be discussed and additional days/time for producing them agreed between the ALNAP secretariat and the consultant(s).


ALNAP seeks to work in partnership for this component with research partners located in crisis-affected contexts and welcomes applications from a single organisation focused on one context or applications that cover multiple contexts through the presence of different organisations working together in consortia. Ideally, the team will comprise of researchers based within each country.

ALNAP is keen to work with the chosen consultants in partnership with the aim that the consultancy results in content to be synthesised in the longitudinal SOHS report, but that it also produces research content of value to country-based research institutions with the potential production of short country reports on a theme relevant to that context. The research team should meet the following qualifications:


  • Experience conducting research in humanitarian contexts
  • Successful experience working as a remote team
  • Proven track record of delivering large, complex projects to deadline
  • Proven track record of conducting research collaboratively
  • Significant experience carrying out key informant interviews, focus group discussions and literature review, across the proposed research team
  • Established relationships among experienced researchers in-country in those places where research is expected to take place.
  • Clear understanding of the ethical implications of carrying out interviews with vulnerable people
  • Able to write, in English, in a clear and consistent style, adhering to the agreed document length
  • Willingness and enthusiasm to contribute across the development of the SOHS 2026 report and to produce inputs for the SOHS report according to the style/templates identified by the SOHS research leads to support longitudinal comparison
  • Willingness and enthusiasm to take a leading role in tailoring the research to key themes of relevance in the chosen context and produce short country specific reports


Prior experience using MaxQDA or similar software to code transcripts/documents as part of a research project.

Application process

To apply, please submit a brief proposal (max 8 pages) which outlines how you would approach the work (see Activities and deliverables section below).

This should include:

  • Justification for choosing to include (a) specific country/ies affected by humanitarian crisis, explaining why greater understanding of the humanitarian response in that context adds value to the understanding of the international humanitarian system assessed in the global report. Eligible countries for this research component include all countries with an active HRP/ERP within the study period for the report 2022-2025.
  • How you would approach interview and location selection
  • The composition and location of the proposed research team and their previous experience in conducting similar work (please note, preference will be given to proposals from researchers/organisations already in-country). Proposals should indicate whether these relationships are pre-existing or new for this proposal, and should indicate who will act as the ‘lead’ researcher. Note: individual country proposals will be considered with the potential to be grouped with other institutions in a consortia to deliver across multiple contexts.
  • How you will take into account the extreme settings in which the research will take place and associated access issues.
  • Key milestones/deliverables and how you will undertake these
  • Ideas to bring to life the Report findings with contributions from the in-country study process
  • Estimates of days & budget for each activity/deliverable
  • 2 references who can be contacted after interview.

The proposal should include links to examples of previous related work and CVs of the proposed research team.

The above should be sent by email to [email protected] by midnight UK time on the 29 April. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted for interview.

Activities and deliverables

This consultancy covers the following activities:

Key informant interviews and focus group discussions in crisis affected countries 

With this research, we aim to cover at least 5 crisis affected contexts. Within each context, organisations will conduct interviews and focus group discussions with a minimum of 20 key informant interviews and 30 individuals in focus group discussions. These will gather qualitative information from key stakeholders in the humanitarian system including governments, practitioners, donors and affected people. Interviews/discussions are expected to take place between mid 2024 and late 2025. The selection of interviewees should be aimed to achieve broad and diverse representation across types of organisation, gender, national context, etc. National authorities and local NGOs should be well represented.

Interviews and FGDs should be conducted according to an interview protocol designed on the basis of the SOHS study matrix which will be outlined in the SOHS inception report (see the 2018 version for example).

Interviews and FGDs should be audio recorded with permission, transcribed and then coded using MaxQDA according to a coding matrix provided by ALNAP which will be used for consistency across all of the SOHS components.

Eligible countries for this research component include all countries with an active HRP/ERP within the study period for the report 2022-2025. Applicants will be asked to justify why a focus on a given context would strengthen the understanding of the global humanitarian system. Countries will be selected with the aim of achieving geographical spread and representation of different crisis types, as well as a reflection of the range of activities that comprise humanitarian action. Final decisions for country contexts will be confirmed between the ALNAP Secretariat and the consultant(s).

Finally, findings from the coded interviews/discussions will be compiled into a research component findings template provided by ALNAP.

Deliverables will include:

  • Development of method, including interview protocol, selection criteria, sampling approach and details needed for ODI Research Ethics Committee approval
  • Submission of audio and transcription for each interview/focus group discussion
  • Coding of all interview transcripts
  • Detailed completion of research component findings template
  • Writing of short country focused report exploring key themes for the context (to be discussed with individual institutions)

Contributions to the SOHS process 

As one of the key component leads, the consultant(s) will take part in a number of methodological discussions and meetings about SOHS 2026.

Deliverables will include:

  • Interim progress report and participation in mid-term meeting – winter/spring 2025
  • Participation in pre-drafting meeting – autumn 2025
  • Review of SOHS drafts and as needed support throughout the writing process – winter/spring 2026
  • Regular check-in calls with the ALNAP secretariat throughout the contract period – ongoing throughout 2024–2026
  • Participation in the planning and execution of launch events – spring/summer 2026 onwards

*NB: the research phase for this piece of work will span from summer 2024 to autumn/ winter 2025, culminating in the pre-drafting meeting

Contribute to the development of written and audiovisual components of the Report

On the basis of the research conducted, consultants will work with ALNAP communications and research staff to identify interesting and compelling stories and images that bring to life the Report’s key findings.

The exact nature of these contributions will be determined in liaison with the ALNAP Secretariat, but this could include:

  • Identification of storytellers from the interviews/FGDs conducted
  • Recording audio and/or video interviews (using basic equipment, such as mobile phones) with selected key informants
  • Working with communications colleagues to identify and describe stories which bring Report findings to life
  • Taking photos and videos (using basic equipment) which can be used in the Report dissemination
  • Video diaries from the consultant’s perspective, documenting research collection
  • Other creative ideas proposed by the consultant and/or ALNAP communications staff.