Corporate Humanitarian Collaboration: Making The Leap From “Should” To Action

I was recently interviewed for an article about me and my work with Alliance4Impact and Impact17. I am often asked to explain what I do and this piece summarises it very well. Feel free to share it within your circles if you have connections who may find it interesting or useful…  

Humanitarian action requires just that: action.

In many companies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and in the United Nations, there is acknowledgement at senior levels that they should get involved in collaborative projects to help communities in crisis, but the “how” can be too complex to navigate without the right expert knowledge and facilitation to guide them.

Andy Andrea, Executive Director of Alliance4Impact, works to support these companies and organisations towards common goals with humanitarian impact and brings them together with UN Agencies on various projects for the benefit of struggling communities worldwide.

With more than 25 years’ experience of collaboration in humanitarian and development related fields, Andy is an advocate for improved humanitarian emergency preparedness and response through cross-sector collaboration. He has a fundamental belief in the ownership of solutions by people directly affected and the power of collective action for mutual benefit.

Here he talks about his work and how he has been leading the engagement of the private sector in emergency humanitarian action the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What does Alliance4Impact do and why is it important?  

Alliance4Impact puts the ownership of people’s futures back into their hands. We facilitate collaboration between humanitarian organisations, private companies and governments to take action and build more resilient societies that can look after themselves.

There is a lot of great work done by international humanitarian organisations such as UNICEF, World Food Programme, Oxfam, Save the Children etc, but the fact they have to exist reflects the failure of society to look after itself. My role and my focus are to support people to achieve societal objectives of common interest, and to localize that as much as possible – empowering people at a local level to become communities that can support themselves.

For example, in Europe or North America it is extremely rare for countries to request international humanitarian aid when there is a crisis because the societies are so resilient. They already work across sectors to prepare for and respond to crises, and to rebuild in a sustainable way afterwards. However, international assistance is often necessary in poorer countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The only way we can achieve progress is through collaboration. There have been calls for collaboration of this kind from within the United Nations, the European Union and senior levels within individual governments and private companies, but little evidence of action.

There are many reasons that these projects often do not reach the ‘action’ stage. Ad hoc leadership and poor project management play a part, as do out-dated and inefficient approaches, and simply a lack of commitment because of a lack of understanding of the mutual benefits. Bilateral collaborations are normally dominated by one of the partners, which is not effective. When there are more than two parties it becomes even more complicated to manage. That is why it is useful to have an independent facilitator, and that’s where A4I comes in.

My job is to facilitate that process. It’s essential to move intentions from the “should” stage to actually doing something and through to completion. If it was being done within an organisation you might call it project management. But when it involves a number of different players it includes shuttle diplomacy, facilitation and mediation as well. You need an independent facilitator to manage all the necessary stakeholders involved and keep things moving in the right direction.

What’s your background and how did you come to be doing this kind of work?

In some respects, I have been doing this from the very beginning of my career. In the early 1990s I worked in a parliamentary consultancy lobbying the British government and EU on behalf of groups of companies. What I learned during that time formed the foundations of my career and I am proud to now be using that knowledge as a force for good.

From then up until today, I have been involved in a huge number of projects all centred around communication and facilitation in the areas of humanitarian action and CSR. Whilst working for ActionAid, I brought in a communications strategy using email for the first time and launched the aid & development sector’s first internet based collaborative communications platform in 1993.

After that I created new partnerships to design and launch ReliefWeb, the international humanitarian response system’s first ever web-based information management tool, and jointly launched the Geneva Web Group. I also became part of the team that launched what has become the world’s leading independent armed conflict mediation organisation, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue based in Geneva, where I was Director of Communications for 12 years.

I was Head of Global Governance and Head of Government and Public Affairs for three years at the World Economic Forum and was responsible for IGWELs, the highest-level multi-sector meetings in Davos.

At the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, I led the Private Sector Section and was responsible for the unprecedented involvement of the private sector in the World Humanitarian Summit, its contribution to the Agenda for Humanity, and for launching the Connecting Business initiative, a global multi stakeholder collaboration to build local resilience and respond to humanitarian crises.

To better understand the rational of companies I launched “The Business Case: A study of private sector engagement in humanitarian action” with the help of companies such as Philanthropy Advisors and Vantage Partners, and for “Combining capabilities: How public private partnerships are making a difference in humanitarian action” in collaboration with DP DHL.

As well as being Executive Director of Alliance4Impact, I am also Co-Founder and Executive Director of Impact17.Net, Board Member of the Martin Ennals Foundation, and Special Advisor to the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation and to the new CERN social enterprise called GluoNNet.

Fast forward to now. What does your day-to-day look like? 

It’s a lot of networking, brokering relationships, facilitating work and projects, drip-feeding key messages, and advocating for this kind of approach.

On a daily basis, I am enabling companies and international organisations to look at people’s needs in humanitarian crisis situations and work out a plan of action to help. These situations usually involve the same kinds of basic needs: food, shelter, protection, water, sanitation, etc. The question I ask is “How can these people be helped to look after themselves, prepare for these situations in advance, so that crises are not continually repeated… and why is that important to you?”

The same problems often keep coming up again. Crises tend to happen in similar areas and regions. I look to the future and think how can we work together to help this vulnerable community prepare for the next time, to ensure they are ready and so it doesn’t hit them so badly? Is there a way we can avoid them having to call for international assistance again and again?

I am a consultant in traditional terms, but I am also a project manager. People come to me and ask for my help when they know what I do and have a situation they need my support to address. Other times I come up with projects, pitch those projects, and get others involved in them.

I operate at the local level but mainly at a global level. There are some projects that by their nature, mean I never meet the people who are affected by and involved in a crisis because I am trying to affect systemic transformation at a higher level that pushes in that direction. In such projects, my role is to change the behaviour of international organisations and multinational companies, so that they are helping people at a local level as a consequence of making changes several steps further along the chain.

Could you give an example of some of this work?

In 2018 I convinced several UN Agencies and large charities to collaborate in a project called “Leave No-one Behind: Partnering For Impact” in the Sustainable Impact Hub in Davos. For this project, we encouraged greater engagement with companies in Davos to reach the most impoverished, excluded, disadvantaged people and those at risk of violence and discrimination and to try to ensure they can make their voices heard. I created, launched, managed, fundraised for and coordinated this initiative, and brought in 28 multinational companies in 2019 to collaborate and help the most vulnerable people in a way that helped those people look after themselves. All the organisations involved were so pleased with the outcome that they asked me to do the same again.

We will be re-launching the Sustainable Impact Hub in Davos during the World Economic Forum 2020 Annual Meeting. World Economic Forum participants and the general public are invited to drop in to discuss, learn about and advance partnerships with organizations working together. Visitors can also explore interactive exhibitions and virtual reality experiences, informative videos, and live broadcast discussions on the most pressing issues for collaboration.

I’m also proud to have supported the creation of what could be a massive boost to global humanitarian action. I had formed the idea of an independent private sector owned alliance of multinational companies that could bring their experiences and vast resources to bear on humanitarian challenges. In 2019, at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, and in front of the heads of 5 of the largest operational UN Agencies, they committed to delivering practical support to the United Nations in its efforts to help the most vulnerable people affected by humanitarian crises. The group agreed to launch an Alliance, facilitated by the Secretary General’s Humanitarian Envoy, that would begin to collaborate immediately, and to bring in other partners as needed to address priority humanitarian challenges.

What’s next for you? What are your plans in 2019?

My goal remains to support NGOs and companies move from talking about the fact that they ‘should’ collaborate to helping them actually collaborate and to achieving what they set out to. There is a mutual benefit for them in doing so, but they sometimes need help to find that rationale and to focus their activities on something useful. That’s where I come in, and what I do is vital for the sustainability of these projects.

Interventions to help vulnerable people and any collaboration must deliver something to all those that are involved, or else it’s impact is weak and unsustainable. In some cases, it may mean a direct and immediate return on investment and in other cases it might mean the protection of infrastructure or supply chains. It may even be a longer-term objective, such as an investment in the opening up of new markets. The point is it must be sustainable.

As well as acting as a consultant by responding to requests and pushing projects, I am also developing a framework that supports collaboration to be available as an off-the-shelf model. This is a big project that will help others to collaborate more effectively on humanitarian action by identifying key milestones.

For instance, let’s say we have a group who wish to support people in Indonesia to be able to provide their own care for emergency situations in a crisis. To do this, they need to build mobile health clinics in Indonesia so they can be staffed, equipped and ready to be deployed all over the country. We would need to identify who the stakeholders are and bring them together, and then help them get to a point where mobile health clinics are built and serviced in Jakarta rather than being shipped in, and so that it works as an investment in the local economy.

Along that process, you would have interventions. As part of a facilitation framework I would provide digital tools, training, advisory services, etc for the stakeholders involved. My co-founders and I call this company Impact17. Number 17 of the SDGs is about partnerships, hence the name of the company. That’s a project I’ll be working on in 2019 alongside many others!

How can people learn more about you and get in touch?

The best place to get in touch and read the latest updates from me is via my LinkedIn Profile. I am also available on email at I would be particularly interested to hear from any companies or organisations that want to explore how humanitarian action might be directly beneficial to them, and who might wish to get involved in one of these projects in the future.

Private sector steps up in Davos to address priority humanitarian challenges

New global private sector alliance launched to address priority humanitarian challenges

Being in Davos during the World Economic Forum Annual meeting always leaves one with a memorable moment. This was my eighth year working to promote collaboration on global risks or humanitarian action and my 2019 moment was easily the best.

Through my company Alliance4Impact, I am proud to have supported the creation and implementation of what could be a massive boost to humanitarian action across the world, the Agenda for Humanity and the Sustainable Development Goals. I had formed an idea for when I rejoined the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) under the then leadership of Baroness Valerie Amos. Her support and encouragement in 2014 kept me energised and focussed until now. Even back then we realised how difficult it would be to make it happen, but also how important a contribution the initiative could be.

This year, a group of CEOs from multinational companies attending the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos agreed to collaborate with each other in a new and unique initiative. They committed to deliver practical support for the United Nations in its efforts to help the most vulnerable people affected by humanitarian crises. The collective action of this group, and their networks could have an immensely positive and long-term impact.

The group agreed to launch an Alliance, that would begin to collaborate immediately, and to bring in other partners as needed to address priority humanitarian challenges. They also agreed to formally establish the Global Humanitarian Action Executive Alliance (GHAEA) in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2019.

The alliance, currently includes the senior executives of Ericsson, GlaxoSmithKline, the GSMA, Henry Schein, Mastercard,, Qatar Financial Centre, UPS Foundation and Willis Towers Watson.

The CEOs met with heads of the United Nations the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UNICEF, UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in an unprecedented move to explore collaborative models for more effective, principled private sector engagement in emergency preparedness and response and to effectively engage collective expertise, knowledge and resources.

Although the informal Alliance is owned by its members, it will continuously work hand in hand in support of the UN Agencies to ensure that needs of the most vulnerable people are met in a timely, effective and principled manner.

The meeting was convened and chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy, Dr. Ahmed Al Meraikhi with support from the State of Qatar and my company Alliance4Impact.

Dr. Al Meraikhi said: “We are all in this together. The 2030 Agenda, with its 17 SDGs, is universal and it calls for action to ensure no one is left behind. This means mobilizing all resources – technology development, financial resources, capacity building – and dynamic multi-stakeholder partnerships to deliver effectiveness and impact. The Global Humanitarian Action Executive Alliance shows the commitment from the private sector and the UN to come together and address the 135million in need of lifesaving assistance.”

The humanitarian world is beginning to truly recognise that the private sector is a fundamental component of local and international communities, and that it has a major stake in the impact of humanitarian crises. This is an excellent example of how people from different sectors can come together to address needs of common interest. The dedication and experience of these companies can only add value to the important work of humanitarian organisations, and contribute to societies resilience.

I am truly excited to see the impact the Alliance members will deliver. There is no doubt that they have the experience, expertise, enthusiasm, and resources to make a significant difference. I also look forward to being a part of that future in whatever way I can help.

Unprecedented cross-sector collaboration in Davos on SDGs & Humanitarian action

Twenty-seven private sector, UN and international organizations are joining forces to champion and showcase collaboration for global good in Davos from 22 to 25 January 2019.

The group is coming together in the Sustainable Impact Hub under the common cause “Leave No One Behind: Partnering for impact” during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019. Their aim is to influence decision-makers attending the Davos meeting from all sectors of society with the joint message that “collaboration is essential to create a better world, and that none of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be met unless met for all”.

“We are all in this together.” said Dr Al-Meraikhi, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy. “The 2030 Agenda, with its 17 SDGs, is universal and it calls for action to ensure no one is left behind. This means mobilising all resources – technology development, financial resources, capacity building – and dynamic multi-stakeholder partnerships to deliver effectiveness and impact.”

The 2019 Davos Annual Meeting theme, “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, provides an excellent opportunity to influence that ‘architecture’ for a better future.

“While many business initiatives towards the 17 Global Goals have been encouraging, we urgently need more companies to get involved,” said Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “We need to scale up faster and we need to reach tipping points that will turn corporate sustainability from a nice idea into a practical, mainstream reality for businesses everywhere.”

“ is honoured to be a part of the Sustainable Impact Hub in Davos this year and showcase the ways that the UN and NGOs are utilizing technology to achieve their missions,” said Rob Acker, CEO, “Global collaboration and public-private partnerships are critical to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals and we look forward to being a part of this activation.”

The organisations will demonstrate the value of collaboration and explore with visitors to the Hub how new and sustainable opportunities can make a meaningful difference.

Changing humanitarian priorities and needs of vulnerable people can no longer be addressed effectively by humanitarian actors alone. The Agenda for Humanity and the SDGs already recognize the value of private sector action and partnerships in helping address global challenges, while several United Nations General Assembly resolutions have highlighted the importance of humanitarian organisations working in partnership with businesses to achieve the 17 Global Goals.

“If we do not make innovation really deliver in crises situations, we will leave people behind and not achieve the SDGs. We must all – companies and humanitarians, the UN and small start-ups – come together to tackle complex problems through genuine, long-term partnerships.” said Rahul Chandran, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation (GAHI) “It’s hard work. But it will deliver results if we can do it with respect to the people we serve.”

Live 360 Degree Debates between public and private sector leaders will also be broadcast during the Annual Meeting, focusing on: how collaboration can address priority challenges for refugees and migrants, such as trafficking; empowering young people; and ensuring education, skills and employment for the most vulnerable. There will be attempts to better scale innovation and technology for humanitarian good and to better understand and motivate cross-sector partnerships; and opportunities for and challenges to innovative humanitarian financing. Furthermore, there will be new and interactive experiences for visitors to learn more about the theme.

“Responding to growing humanitarian challenges and ensuring no one is left behind as envisioned by the SDGs needs encouragement and the promotion of public-private partnerships in innovative collaborations. The Sustainable Impact Hub in Davos is an important venue for exploring dynamic collaboration among major stakeholders.” said Dr Al-Meraikhi.

“Eurovision Services is proud to partner with the Sustainable Impact Hub to bring the topics discussed in Davos to the attention of the global audience. For this event we will provide remote production and distribute live streams to all partners of this initiative to share on their respective web platforms and social media channels.” said Marco Tinnirello, CEO of Eurovision Services” We are committed to support the humanitarian collaboration and bring our experience in helping international organisations to maximise the reach of their content using professional broadcast and media solutions.”


  • The Sustainable Impact Hub will be open from 9am to 6.30pm, 21–25 January 2019, at 72 Promenade, Davos Platz, Switzerland.
  • The 2019 collaborating partners include:

Elhra, Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation (GAHI), IFRC, IOM, OCHA, ODI, SDG Lab, The Connecting Business initiative, UNDP, UN Global Compact, UN Foundation, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO

  • The initiative is made possible through the support of

CvB Davos, Devex, European Broadcasting Union, Eurovision Services, GluoNNet, GSM Association, Mastercard, Philanthropy Advisors, Salesforce, UN Secretary General’s Humanitarian Envoy, Western Union, World Economic Forum

  • 22 Humanitarian and private sector organizations first successfully collaborated in the Sustainable Impact Hub in Davos in January 2018.
  • The Sustainable Impact Hub is coordinated and organized by Alliance4Impact
  • #sihdavos19
  • #LeaveNoOneBehind
  • #wef19

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Is there a business case for humanitarian action?

Companies say there is a clear rationale for helping people in need and for partnering with humanitarian organizations to do so.

There is certainly a case for changing the ways things have been done in the past if the needs of people affected by humanitarian crises are to be met. The old ways just cannot keep up. Humanitarian needs are constantly increasing and humanitarian organisations are overwhelmed. Governments are donating more and more – but the gap between supply and demand continues to increase.

The new Business Case Study launched today, produced in a collaboration between OCHA, Vantage Partners and Philanthropy Advisors, asks why companies get involved. What’s in it for them? It seems, from their perspective, that companies are engaging in humanitarian action because they are motivated by a sense of moral and ethical responsibility. They also say it can also create immediate business opportunities and long-term benefits.

The private sector is a fundamental component of communities affected by humanitarian crisis. It is there before, during and after an emergency. It employs staff, who have families and friends that could all be directly affected. It is dependent as much on the local social and political infrastructure as the economic, which are all affected by humanitarian crises when they occur. It is therefore an important stakeholder in effective emergency preparation and response. Those people interviewed say that partnerships with aid groups can open opportunities for accessing and testing new markets; reduce business risk and mitigating loss; build relationships and influence with other businesses, international organizations and governments; and improve business assets such as company reputation and staff skills. The faster and more effective the response, the better it is for business.

The Sustainable Development Goals, the Agenda for Humanity and the New Way of Working all recognize the value of private sector engagement on humanitarian challenges and encourage cross sector collaboration. They even go some way to recognizing that engagement needs to be sustainable – that businesses must get something out of it, and it seems they do.

But there is still much work to be done. More companies need to get involved, and humanitarian organisations must treat businesses as real partners. The understanding of the private sector by humanitarian organisations, and visa versa, also needs to improve. This qualitative study needs the balance that only a rigorous quantitative assessment of the return on investment can provide. Businesses may also benefit from simple tools to help them to engage and to collaborate in humanitarian action in a principled, efficient, and effective way. Any volunteers?

In the meantime, lets recognize business interest in addressing humanitarian challenges, and create ways for all sectors of society to collaborate in the interests of those people directly affected by humanitarian crises.