In 2022, the Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG) celebrated 10 years of influencing and creating change in the international humanitarian sector to provide better outcomes for those affected by crisis and disaster. 

The group works alongside governments, local and international NGOs, the United Nations, universities, the private sector and regional inter-governmental bodies to deliver services that enhance and support their partners’ work. The Humanitarian Advisory Group does this through research, policy development, training and facilitation, technical advice and other services.  

The complex humanitarian sector relies on trusting, informed and active relationships to contribute to positive and long-lasting change. That’s why the Humanitarian Advisory Group set up a partnership with BehaviourWorks Australia to benefit from the insights of behavioural science. 

Humanitarian Advisory Group Director, Beth Eggleston, explains, “The findings from our research are often not surprising, we know the pain points and what needs to change. We have the evidence but knowledge, while important, is not enough. We also need to think about how to change behaviour. What are the actions that we want people to take?” 

BehaviourWorks Australia’s Dr Kun Zhao is working onsite with the team to:

  • build the team’s capacity to create change in the humanitarian system by applying behavioural science
  • provide behavioural science advice and support
  • collaborate on projects that have a behavioural science focus. 

One of the projects that they’re working on together is ‘Greening the system’. Beth explains, “When you’re undertaking a crisis or emergency response, how do you ensure you’re not causing environmental destruction while you’re in the process of saving lives?” 

“We’d love to see the environmental impacts of the humanitarian response being vastly reduced across the system. We’re working towards a net zero response. In order to achieve this, we need to draw on behavioural science approaches.” 

Through the partnership, they will build skills across the HAG team as well as for international partners and researchers across their projects in the Indo-Pacific Region. 

Behavioural science may still be new to the humanitarian sector but, at the Humanitarian Advisory Group, there is already a strong recognition of the behavioural drivers to change. “We were previously aware of behaviour science but we weren’t experts. BehaviourWorks Australia is a like-minded organisation and a good fit for our team and the work that we do” says Beth. 

Kun adds, “And the advantage of the embedded model means I can learn more about the challenges in the humanitarian systems. Understanding the context means that we can better understand how to shift the behaviour.”

BehaviourWorks Australia will bring knowledge together with methods and frameworks. “There is a lot of appetite in our organisation for this behaviour change knowledge and we’ve been yearning for this structure and approach. I’m fascinated to see what works and how it plays out”, says Beth. 

“Already, it’s exciting to identify behaviour change challenges where our ‘Method’ fits. I’ll be interested to see which behavioural approaches are going to be more appropriate in different contexts.”, says Kun.

“We’re also interested in how we can apply the learnings from countries that have so much more experience in responding to emergencies than Australia. There’s a lot that we’ve been learning about the empowerment of communities and a whole range of different issues like diversity and inclusion, as well as the environmental piece”, says Beth.  

“Then we’ll see how to connect with community leaders here and use the models of behaviour science to embed some of those learnings so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel”, adds Beth.

At BehaviourWorks Australia, we’re privileged to be a cog that helps the Humanitarian Advisory Group make lives better for people and the planet. 

The challenge:
Creating change in the international humanitarian sector to provide better outcomes for those affected by crisis and disaster
The Humanitarian Advisory Group

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