Survivor- and community-led crisis response: Practical experience and learning

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If you give a stick to someone, it means they’ve been given power. Empowerment means letting them make decisions, giving them resources. Why do we hold on to the power? Release it! Let them use it! At the launch of his book Aid on the edge of chaos in 2013, Ben Ramalingam likened existing aid systems to ‘a series of wind-up clocks’: We act as if we can predict and often exactly manage the behaviour of systems around us by breaking them into manageable parts and working on individual pieces. The role of aid managers and leaders is to engineer, and construct change through reductionist analysis, through prediction, planning and control. These assumptions underpin large amounts of what the formal aid system tries to do – especially ‘Big Aid’. Ramalingam went on to explain how ‘frustration with this model is running at fever pitch whether with donors, NGOs, UN agencies or national governments. Everyone is trying to force reality into the requirements of this model – at an often high personal and professional cost. In the face of failures, it seems this model is being applied ever harderʼ. 


  • Publication language: English
  • Pages: 77pp
  • Suggested citation: Corbett, J., Carstensen, N. and Di Vicez, S. (2021) Survivor- and community-led crisis response: practical experience and learning. London: HPN/ODI