Member profile: Edge Effect


In 2021, the H2H Network was pleased to welcome Edge Effect as an H2H member and to celebrate how Edge Effect encompasses the H2H concept.

Edge Effect is a specialist diverse SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics) humanitarian and development organisation that supports people with diverse SOGIESC (aka LGBTIQ+ people) to access their economic, social, and cultural rights with safety and dignity. Edge Effect does this by building a broader, deeper, and more accessible evidence base to support humanitarian and development actors to engage safely and effectively with people with diverse SOGIESC through training and organisational development, program design and implementation with humanitarian and development, and diverse SOGIESC civil society organisations.

Disaster managers do not, at present, consider the needs and capacities of LGBT people in their disaster planning, or identify them as a specific audience for preparedness advice.

This sentence caught Emily Dwyer’s attention in the 2015 edition of the Disaster Risk Reduction Good Practice Review. It led to Emily (COO) and Lana Woolf (CEO) starting the organisation Edge Effect with the goal of making diverse SOGIESC inclusivity a norm in the aid system.

Since the beginning, Lana and Emily have been at the forefront of this nascent area of inclusion within the humanitarian system. This includes identifying the often-harmful existing policy and process that contributes to the systemic discrimination of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions, and sex characteristics in disaster risk reduction, disaster response, and disaster recovery.

Why should people with diverse SOGIESC be part of inclusion efforts in humanitarian (and development) sector programs? A better question is: why would any humanitarian (or development) sector program exclude people with diverse SOGIESC?

In an interview with the CEO, Lana Woolf, she explains the need for an action-orientated approach taken by aid organisations. There is now sufficient evidence of the marginalisation of people with diverse SOGIESC in emergency settings that diverse SOGIESC inclusion should be a standard component across programs. Organisations need to start by looking internally at their policies and ensuring that when they begin to focus on diverse SOGIESC inclusion, it is not just adding LGBTIQ+ at the end of a long list of vulnerable groups, Lana says.

It is often encouraged to ensure no harm to the LGBTIQ+ communities in the practice of the humanitarian system. However, we have to remember that doing nothing is also causing harm.

As an example, Lana brings up humanitarian Sex Disaggregated Data - the basis of rapid needs assessments, which assumes that sex and gender are the same thing and doesn’t take sexuality into account as a quantifiable marginalisation factor. As a result, systemic exclusion happens from people’s first contact with aid workers doing rapid needs assessments that use binary, cisnormativity and endosexist data collection methods. This includes allocation of emergency shelters based on heteronormative assumptions of what a family looks like, binary gender lines for food and water distribution, and hygiene kits for women and girls leaving out everyone else who menstruates.

Lana elaborated that although there has been insufficient evidence of the rights, needs, and strengths of people with diverse SOGIESC, this is shifting with the work of Edge Effect. There is now more knowledge that shows that people with diverse SOGIESC must be included in aid programming. Today, Edge Effect has grown to help the humanitarian system become more LGBTIQ+ inclusive through participatory research, program design, program implementation, program evaluation, policy and practice development, and training. This includes the 42 Degrees Library, which provides an accessible interface to the evidence base for why humanitarian and development programs need to address diverse SOGIESC inclusion.

Like many of the H2H Members, Edge Effect has the potential to be connected to major shifts in the humanitarian sector, despite being small. One reason for Edge Effect joining the H2H Network was that they noticed a hierarchy within the humanitarian sector as a small team working with larger organisations. As a community of many small actors, the H2H Network hopes to provide a platform outside the rigidity of established organisational structures, just as the name “Edge Effect” is a term from ecology studies, referring to the presence of greater species diversity at the boundaries of different ecosystems.

Please help spread Edge Effect’s work, publications and research to improve the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in the humanitarian sector and transform the thinking on what people and society can be.