Collaborating in Crises: Anthropologists and Humanitarian Organizations putting listening and empathy into practice

by Rebecca Mantel PhD, Sociocultural Anthropology and Julia Hanby MA, Humanitarian Assistance Specialist, emBOLDen Alliances

As we write this, nearly 65.3 million individuals are forcibly displaced worldwide. Thirty-four thousand people are displaced every single day. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), these are the highest levels of displacement in human history, and these numbers have been increasingly exponentially.[1] In 2008, the number stood at 45 million individuals. Current levels of humanitarian need and complexities of response are at an unprecedented high, necessitating more informed, efficient, resourceful, and durable responses to crises.

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) 2016 in Turkey was certainly unprecedented in its scope and intention, and yet the outcomes and agreements from the WHS are not the endpoints, but rather a turning point for deliberately improved and profoundly revamped humanitarian work.  In order for the reforms and progress to become reality and in order to rise to meet current challenges, we must collaborate across institutions and organizations as never before and embody change at every level of our behavior, approach, and methodology.


One major takeaway from the consultations in advance of the WHS was a common recognition of the importance of putting crisis-affected persons at the center of the humanitarian response, recognizing them as “the primary agents” and “driving force” of humanitarian response.”  Read on here

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From Driver to Manager: Lessons in Listening, Acting, and Collaborating

(an early release of our September First Friday)


Ayouba had been working for many years as a Driver for a foreigner living in Niger. During a period of time when his employer was away, Ayouba was hired by the Director of the nearby obstetric fistula hospital to assist with construction of a new building. emBOLDen Alliances (EA) Team Members were also there working shoulder-to-shoulder with the West African Staff to improve the hospital’s Operations and Logistics. While Ayouba was involved in the construction side of the hospital, EA’s Operations and Logistics Specialist Bill Rohs couldn’t help but notice the keen interest and commitment Ayouba showed.

Bill began involving Ayouba in various aspects of hospital Operations and Logistics, and realized that Ayouba had skills and talents that far surpassed those of his role as a Driver. Bill was impressed by his ability to solve problems quickly and thoroughly – all with a smile and that “can-do” attitude that reminded him of only the best Logisticians. Diving deeper into conversations together….click here to read on.

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