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The Humanitarian Horizons journey

Read our final impact report for Humanitarian Horizons 2018-21, Contributing to Change: Getting it Right, here.

Storytelling is one of the ways we make and share meaning. It allows us to connect and to learn through those connections.

And storytelling helps us reflect on our journeys – to think about where they have taken us and where we’ll go next. So, when we were looking to capture what the Humanitarian Horizons research program has achieved, we decided to explore that journey as a story. In a reflective event with our partners and others who’ve supported us, inspired us, shared their expertise, and pushed us to strive ever further, we looked back over the years since the program began. 

The Humanitarian Horizons journey started back in 2017. We are a small organisation but had been excited for several years about the idea of being able to contribute meaningful data into a sector we are passionate about. The Horizons research got underway just after the World Humanitarian Summit and the first Grand Bargain. The sector was questioning its role and looking for ways to adapt. Many were already thinking through ways to improve humanitarian action and we were privileged to be able to support this groundswell pushing for change, with evidence. 

As James Gilling, Humanitarian Coordinator at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), emphasised, robust evidence supported by rigorous analysis is vital when responders and donors are confronted with a trend of increasing humanitarian need. DFAT funded the Humanitarian Horizons program as part of its commitment to improving the quality of humanitarian responses and has played a crucial role throughout, enabling and supporting the research without seeking to direct it. Research helps policy makers and practitioners decide how to allocate their resources as well as supporting them in navigating risk. ‘The more research, the better the research, the better we can do that,’ Gilling argued, and ‘that loop gives huge confidence.’  

With our partners, we channelled our energies into four research streams. Intention to Impact:  Localised Humanitarian Action quickly gained traction with our work in the Pacific, where we focused on providing evidence of localised practice. Partnerships and Practice started shortly afterwards and aimed to provide real-time evidence and analysis to inform live response or policy questions. Diverse and Inclusive Humanitarian Leadership was all about generating evidence on the impact of more equitable and representative humanitarian teams. And finally, Building a Blueprint for Change nurtured national dialogues to explore system change from the country perspective in Indonesia. Each of our research streams told their own stories, travelling along distinctive pathways shaped by different contexts, contributors, and goals. 

Later into the program, they were joined by a fifth area of work, to design the new Humanitarian Horizons research program that will be kicking off in October 2021.

Throughout the whole program, the work we’ve done has drawn on the expertise, creativity and generosity of our national consultants, local partners and regional advisors. They have been vital to the impact of Humanitarian Horizons research, which benefited from landing at the right time, learning from the right partners, and being conducted in the right way. We see HAG’s role as elevating, accompanying and supporting the growth and priorities of local, national and regional humanitarian actors as they work in their own communities. And we know that the path we take and how we walk together on it are as important as the destination.

We were privileged to have some of our partners share their perspectives on the Humanitarian Horizons program in the video below:



As we come to the close of this Humanitarian Horizons program, we want to take this opportunity to formally thank all our research partners for walking with us, teaching us and learning with us. We know we would not have been able to achieve impact without you. Thank you for your energy, enthusiasm and brilliance.

In many ways this story’s end is only a beginning. We are excited to kick off the Humanitarian Horizons program for 2021-24 and to discover where it will take us. And we know that the ideas and evidence we’ve brought so far will continue to grow. In the words of Emeline Siale Ilolahia, Executive Director of the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO) and a member of our Research Advisory Committee, who shared this reflection at our event: ‘the impact of this work is like the tree bearing fruits for the first time. We are wrapping up but we will continue to harvest the fruits of our partnership, of our local actors advocating for change.’

If you’ve got a story to tell about how our research made a difference to you, or if you’d like to stay in touch as Humanitarian Horizons continues, we’d love to hear from you.
Front cover of Contributing to Change cover with butterflies in front of a blue cloudy sky

Read our final impact report for Humanitarian Horizons 2018-21, Contributing to Change: Getting it Right, here.