Objective 3.3

Improved organizational learning and development to achieve better results

To provide high-quality service and support to its clients, OCHA must be capable of applying lessons learned and instituting best practices. It must be accountable for continuous improvement to strengthen the effectiveness and impact of each of its core functions. Its staff must be flexible and able to adapt to the dynamic and complex nature of humanitarian action.

OCHA learning rests on four pillars: evaluation; internal policy and guidance development; staff development and training; and strategic planning. These pillars support organizational coherence, better performance, and the development of OCHA staff into competent professionals and leaders in humanitarian coordination.

OCHA has made significant progress between 2010 and 2011 to strengthen organizational learning. It has increased the uptake and absorption of lessons identified through evaluations, audits and performance monitoring. Increasingly, OCHA is translating learning into action through more robust planning, and through evidence-based budgetary and management decision-making processes.

OCHA is placing more emphasis on internal evaluation. Its review of OCHA’s corporate response in Haiti was a first-completed major evaluation. Five others are expected to be completed by the end of 2012: civil-military coordination, preparedness, IRIN, Emergency Response Funds, and the Regional Office in West and Central Africa. Evaluation findings are now subject to formal management review, and agreed actions are tracked and fed into annual workplanning. Over the next two years, OCHA will focus on evaluations that help to assess the implementation of OCHA’s Strategic Framework. Findings will feed into continuous learning and inform the development of the 2014-2017 Strategic Framework in 2013.

In 2011, evaluation findings were used to shape standardized performance frameworks for OCHA’s regional and country offices. The frameworks have helped focus OCHA on long-standing problem areas. Together with newly introduced multi-year country and regional office strategies, the frameworks served as the basis for 2012-2013 field-level work planning. They are expected to help better use of lessons learned in work planning and strengthen performance analysis. OCHA’s internal policy guidance, which aims to bring greater consistency and quality to the delivery of OCHA services, is being further improved, including through the development of performance standards. Efforts are underway to communicate key policies more effectively to OCHA staff and monitor implementation. By the end of 2013, it is expected that OCHA will have a more dynamic system in place for reviewing and updating core corporate-guidance materials. Good practices will be extracted from ongoing Communities of Practice (CoP) discussions, which will then be integrated into corporate-guidance material and shared.

In 2011, OCHA launched CoPs in the domains of information management, reporting and transition. The 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. The CoP programme will be expanded over the next two years. It can offer a valuable resource to improve organizational decision-making and performance by closing knowledge gaps.

OCHA’s Staff Development and Learning Section has been implementing OCHA-specific trainings to develop the basic capacities of OCHA staff to perform their job functions.

In 2012, OCHA will develop and begin implementing an organization-wide learning strategy to better support and reinforce staff learning. The four-year strategy will focus on developing the capacity and skills of OCHA staff to perform their jobs better and improve field effectiveness. The strategy will introduce an improved learning architecture for OCHA that leverages a variety of different learning resources from within and outside the organization.

Result 1: A new corporate learning strategy enables OCHA staff to perform current job functions more effectively.
Indicator 1. OCHA staff access training opportunities that strengthen skills for implementing core OCHA functions.

There are important discrepancies between OCHA staff at headquarters 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 took steps to increase field staff access to training. For 2012-2013, OCHA has increased its field offices’ training budget from .5 per cent of staff costs to 1 per cent of staff costs. Headquarters’ training budget for 2012-13 will remain at .5 per cent. OCHA is also developing training programmes that support the development of skills and capacities needed to strengthen field effectiveness. Due to travel, national staff members face particular challenges accessing training opportunities within the UN Secretariat because they are on UNDP contracts.


(a) At least one new training module designed based on 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.


(a) Fully institutionalise OCHA Learning Management System to significantly increase staff access (particularly field based national staff) to learning opportunities including, OHRM’s centrally coordinated programmes, OCHA courses and other relevant programmes; as well as to better manage, monitor and report on learning activities.

(b) The development of a core OCHA curriculum and defined learning paths for all major job functions, providing a basis for a more systematic and strategic approach to staff development and learning with minimum standards.

(c) Promote corporate knowledge and utilize additional modalities to increase cost effective learning opportunities through, for example, on-the-job learning, and expanded partnerships within the UN System and appropriate external networks.

(d) Training budgets standardized and streamlined to ensure adequate resourcing of programs; 50 per cent of offices incorporating learning plans for the appropriate allocation of resources in support of individual and team development.

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

CoPs in OCHA seek to 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 have not yet become a regular feature of organizational life at OCHA. However, three COPs have been launched in the domains of information management, reporting and transition policy. The expansion of a CoP programme can offer a valuable resource to improve organizational decision-making and performance by closing knowledge gaps. Thus far, 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 effectively expand the use of CoPs within OCHA, and to ensure they become a dynamic and useful resource for field staff.


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

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


(a) OCHA’s intranet supports the creation of collaboration spaces and knowledge sharing.

(b) Staff directory is enhanced through the “My Profile” function to facilitate access to staff, staff projects, skills and expertise.

(c) Good practices and innovations from across the field and HQ are captured and disseminated.

Indicator 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 currently apply standard corporate guidance in the performance of their duties with enough consistency.  A new Guidance Forum on OCHAnet (developed in 2011) has summarized all current guidance and made it easier to access. However, some OCHA staff may be questioning the quality and relevance of the guidance to their own situations. Available evidence from independent audits and evaluations 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 have access to a set of fully 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 PIs directly on this site or through one of the planned CoPs.


(a) Guidance development is more systematically informed by lessons and good practices from evaluations and audits, as well as by OCHA’s knowledge networks.

(b) Performance standards developed and integrated into relevant guidance documents.

(c) OCHA guidance and learning from evaluations are packaged and fed into training or individual learning initiatives.

(d) OCHA has begun translating official guidance into other working languages used in OCHA field offices.

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

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 two times 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.

In 2011, for the first time, the recurrent lessons learned from evaluations and audits were embedded into work plans 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 and a partnership survey, assessing the level of partner satisfaction with OCHA’s key services. Taken together, these various 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 currently fragmented, and the information is not yet organized to enable better analysis and reporting.


(a) Partnership survey launched by Q2. Survey results assist OCHA in taking 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 enterprise risk management system is established in OCHA. The system enables earlier and better identification of the risks OCHA faces in achieving its strategic aims. By end of year, the system will be piloted in at least four field locations.


The various elements of the accountability system are each, in their own right, fully functioning. The information generated by each helps to provide a more holistic and evidence-based picture of OCHA performance. This information and the analysis generated inform the development of the 2014-2017 Strategic Framework.

(a) OCHA’s audit-and-evaluation database made accessible to all OCHA staff for review, analysis and guidance development.

(b) Policy Instruction on Management Response and Follow-up to Evaluations updated to include provisions on individual accountability of relevant directors.

(c) Audits and evaluations inform the development of OCHA’s 2014-2017 Strategic Framework.

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

SPU collects a lot of information about OCHA performance and wants to make better use of this information to inform senior-level decision making. In 2010-2011, the information on audit and evaluation recommendations was used to develop standard performance frameworks for RO and COs. Now that standard PFs 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. For the moment, it remains a challenge to report on OCHA’s key results and impact. It is expected that the standard PFs will help to 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 to adjust its 2013 planning.

(b) By midyear, a 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 that may have arisen, based on an analysis of recent audit and evaluation findings. This should help OCHA adjust its 2013 planning. This report will be produced twice annually.


(a) Performance and risk reports will be produced (as above). The analysis will feed into the development of OCHA’s Strategic Framework for 2014-2017.

(b) Annual review of OCHA’s learning priorities based on strategic synthesis of its performance in meeting its challenges and what is on the horizon (identified from trends emerging from evaluations, audits, reviews, etc.).