This is the About section of the Humanitarian Library, where you can discover the Library’s rationale, mission, history and added value. If you wish to find out how to use it or need support to carry out a specific action, see the Help Section.
As a humanitarian, why would you want to share knowledge?
As a user-oriented resource, the Humanitarian Library it is designed to be a leading platform for both sharing and searching for field-relevant documents. The Library is as useful as our global community of local actors makes it. The more relevant documents are shared, the more the Library will be of use overall. The more documents have feedback from users, the more others can refer to the most pertinent resources.
Sources included in the Library's document base get higher distribution by being easier to find. Additionally, the Library supports humanitarian stakeholders in sharing and accessing knowledge useful to implementing humanitarian programming.
We're fortunate, in the humanitarian community, to all be working for the same goals. As such, we understand the importance of good information and knowledge sharing to help facilitate the field of practice, and ultimately achieve more in the field. The Humanitarian Library is the manifestation of this ideal. If you agree and have documents you think would be useful for your colleagues and also others in the field, this is the best place to disseminate them.
Fortunately, the majority of humanitarian publications can be disseminated freely, as long as no profits are derived. Only such publications should be shared through the Library, and their Rights should be acknowledged fully when uploading, using the functionality described.
What is the Humanitarian Library?
The Humanitarian Library is the only inter-agency, inter-sector, crowd-sourced and community-moderated platform in the humanitarian space.
It was launched in late 2013, so its document base is a reflection of user adoption since then. As the Library was built upon their earlier sectoral platform ‘Shelter Library’, supported by DFID, technical content includes publications from 2005. Development of the concept was undertaken by Shelter Centre, a Geneva-based NGO focused on supporting a global humanitarian community of practice who work to address the transitional settlement and reconstruction needs of populations affected by conflicts and natural disasters. Funding for the development of the platform was provided by USAID.
What is our mission?
How does the Library intend to contribute to the mapping of the humanitarian space?
Its inter-agency, inter-sector, crowd sourced and community-moderated character entails that the Humanitarian Library links back to many other invaluable knowledge platforms in the humanitarian field:
- Libraries by IASC cluster: the Cluster Approach provides a better coordination and bridging of gaps within the humanitarian sphere. In line with this, each Cluster has its own resource base, such as the Global Shelter Cluster’s Resource Platform .
- Libraries by agency: a considerable share of humanitarian agencies and actors include their own library services. That is the case of UNICEF Library or UNHCR Library. In line with this, the UN does not currently intend to develop an inter-agency, inter-sector knowledge base. This is why we coordinated with UNOCHA to develop the Humanitarian Library.
- Libraries by topic: some humanitarian knowledge management initiatives are organised by topic, such as PreventionWeb, a knowledge platform collating resources on disaster risk reduction.
- Libraries by type: humanitarian knowledge has also been classified by type, i.e., by which type of action can be conducted with the said resources. Thus, ALNAP’s HELP Library collates resources from its partners on Humanitarian Evaluation, Learning and Performance.
- Libraries by initiative: a further way to structure knowledge within the humanitarian field is by initiative. Each initiative generates relative knowledge to it. For instance, IOM has generated its own Library on Women in Displacement.
- Knowledge by CSOs and communities: knowledge cannot be separated from the people to which it applies. Comprehensive knowledge management should account for all stakeholders, among which CSOs and communities are a vital and central. A wonderful CSO empowering refugees through increased access and improved use of information and communication technology (ICT), is CTEN-Uganda.
- Local knowledge: It is the local agencies who have the most potential to fully grasp the realities and needs of populations affected by humanitarian crises. A wonderful example of these is the consultancy firm Good Earth, who creates knowledge of environmentally-friendly development and architecture.
- Governmental knowledge: national policies, initiatives and efforts might also constitute tremendous information-bases, useful to the humanitarian field. For instance, a very insightful example is the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Competence Center (SHACC), which collates knowledge on all phases of humanitarian project cycles.
The Humanitarian Library is not intended to duplicate existing platforms, but rather to complement and support them. By linking to other useful libraries, both these libraries and their contents achieve greater distribution by being easier to find.
What is the difference between knowledge and information management?
Knowledge Management (KM) concerns lessons learned, whether in the form of guidelines, case studies, standards, policy or training materials.
Information is useful at a specific time, however knowledge is timeless.
Making the difference between knowledge and information is important to carry out research or to operate a knowledge management system. Information means structured, organised and processed data about someone or something (i.e., newspapers, television, books, minutes, agendas); whereas knowledge refers to the acquaintance and awareness around a particular topic, gathered through learning, perceiving, experiencing or discovering (i.e., reports, guidelines, case studies).
The combination of information, experience and intuition yields knowledge, by means of which inferences, conclusions and insights might be developed, thereby assisting in decision making and operations.
The global humanitarian community has developed a vast body of both information and knowledge over the years, captured in countless reports, videos, guidelines, and other documentation. Consequently, the humanitarian space has developed both information and knowledge management systems. Nevertheless, the United Nations did not and does not currently intend to develop an inter-agency, inter-sector knowledge base. This is why we coordinated with UNOCHA to develop the Humanitarian Library, the only inter-agency, inter-sector, crowd-sourced and community-moderated platform in the humanitarian space.
The Humanitarian Library was developed by Shelter Centre in coordination with UN/OCHA to dovetail a knowledge management resource with their existing information management platforms.
What is the added value of the Library?
- Designed to dovetail a knowledge management platform with existing OCHA information management platforms.
- Acts as a useful repository in addition to the specialist libraries of individual humanitarian agencies, enabling them to reach further audiences and advertise their efforts.
- Supports ongoing responses and humanitarian practitioners’ day-to-day needs, through real-time uploads by subject-matter experts
- Localisation is supported by enabling field staff, local government and those affected to upload, share and collate knowledge relevant to their localities, communities and activities.
- Localised knowledge can include every phase in the disaster cycle, from emergencies to recovery, to form one part of resilience.
- Open to humanitarians, governments and CSOs, with opportunities later to include academics and the private sector.
- Users can share their knowledge, in support of operations by uploading and collating their resources (crowd-sourcing).
- Specialist and cross-cutting topics are supported by making them easier to find and placing them next to other relevant publications.
- Enables knowledge of projects or pilots who do not have a home to reach wider audiences.
- Strengthens ties among practitioners, internationally and inter-sectorally.
- Supports the creation of Channels & Collections as personal spaces for agencies as well as individuals.
- Categorises knowledge by sector, following the Cluster Approach, being compatible with existing humanitarian lexicons.
- Categorises knowledge also by Areas of Responsibility, following tags used by major humanitarian agencies.
- Reinforces linkages between different themes and sectors.
- Links knowledge to topic-related webinars, events, capacity building and innovations.
- Supports trainings with Collections of references and materials for each course or session.
- Maps the humanitarian space: inter-agency, inter-sector, cross-cutting across Areas of Responsibility, making resources easier to find.
- Allows users to upload resources once, to then classify it into different Collections and/or Channels.
- Celebrates higher-valued resources by displaying them higher in search results.
- Condenses knowledge, always linking back to the publishing agency.
- Provides a descriptive summary of all resources, streamlining the research process.
- Makes possible for users to login via their OCHA Humanitarian ID.
What is our history?
These initial endeavors were developed with support from USAID / OFDA, starting in 2003, building upon earlier investments in knowledge management by DFID and ECHO.
Given the added value of the Shelter Library and the limits of its sectoral approach, it was decided to enhance it further by expanding its scope, which led to the creation of the intersectoral Humanitarian Library in 2013.
The United Nations did not and does not currently intend to develop an inter-agency, inter-sector knowledge base. This is why we coordinated with UN/OCHA to develop the Humanitarian Library. Thereby, this present Library was developed by Shelter Centre in coordination with UN/OCHA to dovetail a knowledge management resource with their existing information management platforms.
The Humanitarian Library was first launched in Beta in 2013. Thereby, after constructive feedback and corresponding development, it was launched from Beta in October 2018. This was achieved partly due to project collaborations by UNOPS and OFDA. During the duration of the Beta version (2013-2018), the Humanitarian Library explored the humanitarian state of affairs in Pakistan and carried out some pilot projects in line with its mission to support humanitarian practitioners and operations. In addition, it kept in contact with UN/OCHA and IASC Clusters (namely, CCCM, Protection, Shelter and WASH), discussing knowledge management as well as how to best serve the humanitarian community. The communication channel established with UN/OCHA also yielded the possibility of login into the Humanitarian Library services using UN/OCHA’s Humanitarian ID.
What is our impact so far?
In addition, the Library has achieved the following:
- The Humanitarian Library is free to use for all. All humanitarian stakeholders can login to share what works, using their Humanitarian ID, or by requesting an account.
- Thousands of resources already uploaded on all sectors and from hundreds of agencies world-wide working in the humanitarian field, each linking back to the publishing organisations, including:
- donors and IFIs, such as DFID, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), USAID/OFDA and World Bank;
- IASC clusters, such as CCCM, Early Recovery, Protection, Shelter and WASH;
- UN bodies, such as IOM, UNDP, UNHCR and UNOPS;
- The Red Cross Movement;
- INGOs, such as Oxfam and Save the Children;
- Think-tanks, such as IMPACT initiatives and Chatham House;
- Civil Society Organisations;
- Contributions by hundreds of people from hundreds of different agencies, varying in field of activity and sector.
- Contributions by over two hundred volunteers from all around the world.
- Resources uploaded have been collected into channels and collections by sector of activity and theme. This effort facilitates the use of the Library, by making searches more efficient.
- Specific, and often unexplored, activities are supported and integrated by providing spaces for their dissemination (e.g., Channel on Post Conflict Engineering, Collections on Women in Displacement (IOM), Transitional Shelter, Women’s Participation in Internally Displaced People Camps (IOM & WRC)
- Donor support to the Humanitarian Library’s architecture by USAID / OFDA and DFID.