Meeting Akila

Creating Local Empowerment Through Organisational Transformation

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This master's thesis collaborates with the Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC) and their Water and Innovation team. The aim of the team is to foster greater engagement with local communities and establish a power balance that empowers the partnering country, rather than being centralized in the NLRC's headquarters in The Hague.

The core of the research project is the design of a storytelling book that adopts a fairytale tone to facilitate ease of reading, engagement, and inspiration. The book incorporates captivating visualizations to narrate the stories of Akila, a Mozambican girl living in Beira, and the Red Cross volunteers during disaster relief efforts.

This design is created through extensive research. The study identifies significant challenges within the NLRC, highlighting the need for substantial transformations in work methodologies. Specifically, the structure of projects must be reoriented to prioritize the active involvement of local communities. The challenges analyzed in this thesis include organizational alignment, global knowledge transfer, and local engagement.

To address these challenges, the project adopts a comprehensive five-phase approach. The initial phase involves a digital visit to Mozambique, conducting extensive research across five domains to gain a deep understanding of the context. The second phase focuses on developing an academic foundation by exploring topics such as climate injustice and climate change. The third phase encompasses in-depth interviews with a multitude of organizations both within and outside the field. Subsequently, it reconvenes to synthesize the gathered information into an engaging design specifically tailored for the NLRC. The fourth phase involves defining and refining the design concept, including testing the book and formulating an implementation strategy.

The book's target audience includes experienced and new Red Cross employees, direct project partners of the NLRC (e.g., Deltares), indirect partners (e.g., the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and organizations encountering similar challenges (e.g., Doctors Without Borders). Furthermore, with adaptations in text, language, and visualization, the book holds the potential for integration into the NLRC's existing school packages.

Currently, theWater and Innovation Unit aims to expand the organization's expertise across various phases of the disaster risk management cycle. While historically focused on the response and recovery phases, the NLRC's project in Beira signifies a transition toward involvement in the mitigation and preparation phases as well.

The extensive network of organizations and companies affiliated with the NLRC offers a significant opportunity for sustained expansion. To promote a shift of control to the partnering countries, it becomes essential to establish a network that incorporates local organizations. This necessitates the acquisition of localized knowledge to effectively engage with the NLRC, thus fostering a comprehensive understanding of the specific contexts. The primary future role of the NLRC encompasses not only financial support but also the refinement of programs, enhanced program impact, and facilitation of network expansion. Consequently, the NLRC assumes the role of a facilitator in the realm of disaster risk management, where decisions are governed by the partnering country. Acknowledging the existing power imbalance, the transition to this stage will undoubtedly demand a substantial investment of time and effort.