Objective 3.3


  • Development and launch of an approved learning strategy linking organizational risk management, reporting, evaluation, learning and training.
  • Expansion of training opportunities for field staff through new platforms and institutional arrangements with UN and academic partners.
  • Launch of new mechanisms for aggregate reporting across field offices, improving accountability and performance-trend analysis.

Year In Review

To guarantee high-quality services and partner support, OCHA must be a learning organization, capable of assessing and applying lessons, transferring best practices to staff across the globe and ensuring accountability towards each of its commitments. In 2012, OCHA promoted this culture of learning by launching the OCHA Organizational Learning Strategy (OLS). The strategy lays out a multi-year plan to draw from lessons from evaluations, audits and performance reporting, and to develop the capacities of OCHA staff to perform their jobs better. It also introduces an improved learning architecture that uses many learning opportunities from within and outside the organization.

In line with the new strategy’s goals, steady progress was made to increase learning opportunities for OCHA staff in a strategic, demand-driven and cost-effective manner. Priority was given to enhance access for field colleagues, with a strong emphasis on national staff. The OCHA Field Learning Management System (FLMS) was launched in November 2012 with UNDP, providing over 750 national staff with access to a wide range of courses covering management, communication and information technology, as well as UN-specific courses. For international field staff and HQ staff, OCHA initiated a partnership with OHRM to pilot a global learning management system. The platform will guide staff towards a more tailored set of training options. It will also give management a better tracking system to ensure that priority learning is taking place while measuring OCHA’s return on investments. In 2012, strategic alliances with UN and academic partners provided a more efficient means of expanding the menu of learning services for staff. OCHA also adopted webinars as an innovative, cost-effective approach to delivering programmes to more staff globally.

OCHA is developing a core curriculum with defined learning platforms, setting out induction and in-service foundational learning for major job functions, providing a basis for more a systematic and strategic approach to staff development and learning across OCHA. A strategy and an action plan on national staff capacity development have been developed, using the findings of a needs assessment undertaken in the first half of 2012. Foundational learning programmes for information management officers, public information officers are being developed and the Humanitarian Field Coordination Programme (HFCP) is being enhanced with new learning methods and updated content.

During the year, OCHA staff took advantage of Communities of Practice (CoPs) to complement training and to share new and innovative ways to approach their work and solve problems. CoPs are now active platforms for many administrative officers, HAOs working on access monitoring and reporting, and dedicated staff in information management, ICT and reporting. CoPs encourage professional development and capacity-building in applying new tools, methods and procedures for working more effectively. Other staff members have reported significant support from colleagues, saving time and ensuring that they remain at the forefront of their practice areas.

In 2012, the establishment and alignment of OCHA’s corporate accountability system paid dividends. Through increased information flows between the diverse elements of a comprehensive reporting system and the standardized performance frameworks for country and regional offices, OCHA strengthened the range and quality of its analytical products to inform senior management and partners on performance trends. New monitoring tools were rolled out, including a country office survey and a partner survey to capture the perception of OCHA staff and OCHA’s closest partners on field performance. This translated into a cross-sectional analysis on regional and country office performance at mid-year and will contribute to the organization’s ability to observe and assess performance over time.

The ERF global evaluation provided additional evidence and recommendations to strengthen OCHA’s pooled fund management, which was identified as a top-tier risk during a risk assessment conducted in 2011. OCHA also increased the transparency and accessibility of findings from evaluations and audits through an online tracking database made available to all OCHA staff.

In preparation for the development of the new Strategic Framework 2014-2017, a first internal stock take of OCHA’s progress on its strategic objectives since 2010 has been conducted. This will be complemented by a meta-evaluation in early 2013. Evaluations from former years were also reflected in new policy and guidance for gender and emergency response, and latest guidance found entrance to OCHA’s learning courses, such as induction training and the HFCP. To strengthen the internal learning mechanisms further, OCHA’s strategic planning, evaluation and guidance functions were combined into a new independent section.


Progress against Performance Framework
RESULT 1 A new corporate learning strategy enables OCHA staff to perform current job functions more effectively.
1. OCHA staff access training opportunities that strengthen skills for implementing core OCHA functions.

There are discrepancies between OCHA headquarters staff and OCHA field staff in terms of access to UN Secretariat training programmes and OCHA-managed training programmes to develop core skills. For field-based staff, training costs can be prohibitively expensive, particularly because of travel costs. In 2011, OCHA increased field staff access to training. For 2012-2013, OCHA has increased its field offices’ training budget from 0.5 per cent of staff costs to 1 per cent of staff costs. Headquarters’ training budget for 2012-13 will remain at 0.5 per cent. OCHA is developing training programmes that develop skills and capacities needed to strengthen field effectiveness. Due to travel, national staff members face challenges accessing training opportunities within the UN Secretariat because they are on UNDP contracts.


a) At least one new training module designed, based on the corporate learning strategy.


b) The number of OCHA staff (including national staff) accessing training will increase by 20 per cent over 2011 levels.


c) Implementation rates against OCHA annual training budgets will increase by 25 per cent over 2011 levels.


d) Completion rate for IASC e-learning on gender and humanitarian action increases from 30 to 50 per cent.


a) The Organizational Learning Strategy called for more attention on effective people management, which resulted in OCHA’s expansion of access to programmes in management and leadership development, including special offerings for potential middle managers. FLMS, launched with UNDP in November 2012, gives national staff access to over 2,000 online courses and mandatory UN training. New partnerships were established to increase accessibility and cost effectiveness of learning opportunities, including two distance-learning programmes on writing skills (with UNHCR and WHO) and a partnership established with UNOHCHR to provide a mandatory ethics programme to field offices. OCHA also started an alliance with Cornell University through its e-Cornell certification course in human resources management. OCHA made better use of new learning technologies and offered two webinars: “How to Create Killer PowerPoint Presentations Similar to Apple Inc.” and Harvard University's "Monitoring Humanitarian Crisis in the Digital Age: Crisis Mapping, Crowd sourcing, and Satellite Imagery".


b) Staff participation in learning and development activities in 2012 rose by 20 per cent over 2011. Budgetary expenditure rates increased 20 per cent over 2011, showing positive growth as a learning organization. The completion rate for the mandatory IASC Gender and Humanitarian Action e-learning course steadily increased to 40 per cent.

2. Communities of Practice effectively support OCHA staff to deliver on core functions.

CoPs facilitate the exchange of information and experiences by connecting staff with each other and with what they need to know to better perform their jobs. CoPs are not yet a regular feature of organizational life at OCHA. However, three CoPs have been launched in information management, reporting and transition policy. The expansion of a CoP programme offers a valuable resource to improve organizational decision-making and performance by closing knowledge gaps. To date, an intranet-based toolkit has been developed to provide potential and current CoP leaders/members with information about how to initiate and manage CoPs. Additional investments will be needed to expand the use of CoPs within OCHA, and to ensure they become a dynamic and useful resource for field staff. 


a) OCHA staff can access the necessary tools to identify, launch, maintain and evaluate a CoP within their professional domain. 


b) A network of subject-matter experts within OCHA identified. They will have specialized, in-depth knowledge of specific areas of practice and will share this within CoPs.


Following a broad consultative process, guidelines have been drafted to outline the purpose, membership and operating principles for managing CoPs within OCHA. This is intended to complement existing tools, such as the “CoP Manual” and the online toolkit. Subject-matter experts have been active in the Information Management and Reporting CoPs. These communities encourage regular sharing of ideas across OCHA domains by inviting in-house experts to participate in moderated discussions.  These experts speak on topics including the Transformative Agenda, surge capacity and humanitarian financing. The discussions are moderated by members of the community and allow the community to reflect on how their work practices complement other areas of OCHA.

3. OCHA staff are better able to access relevant, useful and up-to-date corporate-guidance materials and apply them in their day-to-day work.

OCHA field staff do not apply standard corporate guidance with enough consistency when performing their duties. A Guidance Forum on OCHAnet (developed in 2011) now summarizes all guidance and makes it easier to access. However, some OCHA staff may question the quality and relevance of the guidance to their own situations. Available evidence from independent audits indicates that when systematic attempts are made to apply corporate guidance, OCHA can play a more effective role in the field.  


a) OCHA field staff can access up-to-date corporate guidance, which helps them to perform their daily functions.


b) Field staff access and use the OCHA Guidance Forum site. They record their experiences in applying corporate policy instruction (PIs) directly on this site or through a planned CoP.


a) In 2012, 11 new guidance documents were completed and made available to OCHA staff. Three additional PIs on critical aspects of OCHA’s work (emergency response, security and civil-military coordination) were cleared by OCHA’s Senior Management Team (SMT) and are being finalized.


b) Guidance traffic among the highest on all of OCHAnet, figuring within the top five of all OCHAnet page views. Twenty-five per cent of all OCHAnet policy traffic now directed to the Guidance Forum.

RESULT 2 An effective accountability system is in place and used to better communicate organizational performance.
1. OCHA’s accountability system is fully functioning.

a) OCHA has elements of an accountability system in place. These include: (a) standard performance frameworks for ROs and COs, and corporate-level performance frameworks for each strategic objective that will be tracked and reported on twice per year; (b) improved tracking of evaluation and oversight recommendations, which has led to a 40 per cent increase in audit implementation rates since 2010.

b) In 2011, for the first time, the recurrent lessons learned from evaluations and audits were embedded into workplans for 2012-2013. This will allow OCHA to track the extent to which systemic weaknesses are being addressed across the organization. In 2011, OCHA conducted an Enterprise Risk Assessment with the UN Department of Management, and agreed on 10 key risks facing the organization. Mitigation strategies are being developed for each of these as part of 2012-13 planning. As of the end of 2011, new elements of the accountability system are being introduced: Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) and a partnership survey, assessing the level of partner satisfaction with OCHA’s key services. These elements provide a solid evidence base to assess the organization’s performance trends and its success at managing risk. However, the various elements of the accountability system are fragmented, and the information is not yet organized to enable better analysis and reporting.

a) Partnership survey launched by Q2. Survey results help OCHA take stock of its performance midway through its four-year Strategic Framework and inform the revision of 2013 planning.


b) At least three new internal evaluations conducted, with agreed recommendations informing forward planning.


c) An ERM system is established in OCHA. The system enables earlier and better identification of OCHA’s risks in achieving its strategic aims. By end of year, the system will be piloted in at least four field locations.


a) By the end of 2012, OCHA had developed it first partner survey that seeks feedback from OCHA partners on its performance against its performance framework. By early 2013, the survey would be administered to more than 4,000 partners in 24 country offices. The results will be aggregated into a corporate report to identify common strengths and potentials for improvement. The country-specific analyses will help heads of office to address areas of underperformance and are part of the reporting against country offices’ performance frameworks.


b) Internal evaluations of the following work areas were conducted: the Regional Office for West and Central Africa, OCHA’s role in preparedness, OCHA’s role in civil-military relations, IRIN and a global evaluation of Emergency Response Funds. 


c) These evaluations identified and grouped recommendations into three categories: urgent, important and desirable. Management response plans are being developed to consider the findings and integrate the recommendations accepted for action by OCHA senior management into planning. 


d) In 2012, OCHA began implementing some of the fundamental building blocks for risk management, including a draft ERM policy and corporate Risk Register. OCHA is tackling some of its top risks and is testing simple tools and approaches with field offices. Ongoing analysis of the risks facing the organization – both at field and corporate level – is informing the development of the next Strategic Framework by highlighting emerging risks and areas of corporate importance to the organization.

2. OCHA producing high-quality reports on organizational performance.

OCHA collects a large amount of information about its performance and wants to make better use of this to inform senior-level decision-making. In 2010 and 2011, the information from audit-and-evaluation recommendations was used to develop standard PFs for RO and COs. Now they have been developed, it will be important over 2012-13 to ensure that the twice-annual reporting on the agreed results is used to assess OCHA performance and inform OCHA decision makers. It remains a challenge to report on OCHA’s key results and impact. It is expected that the standard PFs will address this problem by focusing on a small number of discrete areas where progress is expected.


a) Reporting at midyear on the standard RO, CO and corporate-level PFs will be analysed against baselines. OCHA management will receive an analysis of performance trends. This, combined with the results of the expected partnership survey (mentioned above), should help OCHA adjust its 2013 planning. 


b) By midyear, a twice-annual report will be provided to management on the extent to which OCHA’s top 10 risks have been managed. The report will also suggest other potential risks, based on an analysis of recent audit-and-evaluation findings. This should help OCHA adjust its 2013 planning.


a) Collection of performance data for improved trends analysis was strengthening during 2012. At the midyear review, OCHA substituted the narrative reporting for COs and ROs with an online self-assessment of offices against selected indicators of PF. The same online self-assessment was administered during the annual reporting and, as a complement to the regular reporting and the partner survey, will show trends in performance across offices. 


b) In 2012, OCHA focused on developing a corporate risk register and finalizing an ERM Policy Instruction. OCHA prepared an analysis of audit-and-evaluation recommendations from the past four years and linked these to OCHA's 10 key risk areas. This analysis also identified other potential risks in the audits and evaluations, which will inform senior managers in developing the Strategic Framework 2014-2017. OCHA will integrate risk management into regular planning and reporting mechanisms rather than producing stand-alone risk reports.