Learning by Field Level Workers: ALNAP Review of Humanitarian Action in 2003: Field Level Learning

Beck, T. and Borton, J.
Publication language
Date published
01 Jan 2003
Research, reports and studies
Networks, Organisational, Organisational Learning and Change, Training

Space for learning in humanitarian operations is often limited by the fluctuating
environments in which operations take place, the nature of humanitarian
bureaucracies as well as the reactive, time-pressured responses which characterise
the sector. Space is further reduced in the highly politicised contexts of
complex emergencies, particularly where western militaries are operationally
involved as is currently the case in Afghanistan and Iraq. As introduced in Chapter
1, opportunities for field level learning require trust, transparency and flexibility, all
of which are militated against by the opaqueness, distrust and hierarchical rigidity
common to military–humanitarian operations; operations which, by their very
definition, are political.

Yet in order to improve humanitarian response – an objective identified as necessary
by successive ALNAP Reviews – it is important that individuals and organisations
involved in humanitarian action do learn. And as humanitarian action is in large part
dependent upon the ability of field staff to manage and implement humanitarian
operations, this chapter focuses on field level learning – the field of operation being
the place where much learning crucial to the success of humanitarian action takes