Communicating humanitarian learning: What do we know?

Lavey, J-H.
Publication language
Date published
30 Aug 2022
Research, reports and studies

Effective communication of critical lessons is essential to improve response to crises. This paper identifies what we know about how the sector communicates what it has learned to improve policy and practice. Humanitarians produce a wealth of research and knowledge. There is, however, little evidence on how to best communicate this knowledge to maximise its impact. 

This scoping paper is aimed at producers and communicators of humanitarian knowledge. It provides a brief overview of core concepts and existing literature related to communicating humanitarian learning. 

It identifies five useful findings:

  1. Change is complex: it takes time and often does not succeed.
  2. Documented evidence is a small contributor to change.
  3. Humanitarians prefer tacit, networked knowledge over documentation.
  4.  Humanitarians access knowledge that is immediately relevant.
  5. National actors are not sufficiently included.

The paper also outlines what the literature tells us about humanitarian preferences for how to communicate learning. It concludes by finding that those aiming to share documented learning to improve policy and practice are operating without a solid evidence base to guide them, and proposes a future research agenda to fill these evidence gaps.

In the accompanying blog, author Jo-Hannah Lavey summarises the paper and explains how ALNAP is taking forward research to fill evidence gaps identified around how the humanitarian sector shares and consumes learning.

As part of this research, ALNAP  is carrying out a survey with Devex asking humanitarian professionals to tell us how they prefer to consume and share knowledge and evidence. We encourage all humanitarian professionals to take this survey and share widely.  To take the survey, please find the link above.

By contributing to this important research, you can help us develop new guidance which will support organisations and individuals, like you, to access and communicate knowledge and evidence that is relevant and can influence improvements in our individual and collective performance.