Member profile: HelpAge International

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H2H in action: HelpAge International profile

H2H Network member HelpAge International was set up in 1983 to provide a strong network in support of older people worldwide. They bring together 158 members, standing up for the rights of older people and sharing one common goal: "creating a fairer world for older people so they can live safe, healthy and dignified lives" (HelpAge International). As a humanitarian-to-humanitarian (H2H) actor, Help Age is dedicated to working and advocating for better inclusion of crisis affected older people in humanitarian action. We asked HelpAge to tell us about their work, the opportunities that membership to the H2H Network bring them, their partnership with local actors and other H2H organizations, and how they contribute to making the H2H Network stronger and better in making humanitarian response more effective worldwide.

Today there are approximately 1 billion people over 60. This number is growing fast and will make up more than 20% of the global population by 2050. (HelpAge International) Yet limited attention is given to older people, especially in crisis contexts. HelpAge's report from 2020 outlines that "although some efforts are being made to support older people, overall, the humanitarian system is failing by the standards it has set itself" ('If not now, when? Keeping promises to older people affected by humanitarian crises, HelpAge International, 2020). Supporting the humanitarian-development nexus, HelpAge is making considerable efforts to improve social protection in developing countries.

HelpAge brings a unique profile to the H2H Network, being at once a humanitarian-to-humanitarian (H2H) technical expert, frontline responder, and policy specialist, striving for change in humanitarian action through advocacy and bringing together like-minded actors with the same goal. HelpAge supports and collaborates with a broad range of humanitarian actors around inclusive data and evidence collection, striving for age, as a disability factor, to be included across all functional areas of humanitarian action. "We work closely with various international organizations, NGOs, INGOs, as well as the Global Protection Cluster and make sure to be represented in diverse coordination groups to raise our voice and support conversations about issues that intersect with the case of older people. […] If we want to conform to the principle of 'not harm with aid,' we've got to be aware of the issues of older people and people with disabilities and consider those for humanitarian planning" (Samuel Wood, Head of Humanitarian, HelpAge International).

HelpAge led the development of the minimum standards for age- and disability-inclusive humanitarian responses; they're part of the Sphere Humanitarian Standards Partnership alongside other H2H Network members, such as CaLP and LEGS, and they are also working for a UN Convention on older people. Being part of the H2H Network provides HelpAge with the opportunity to expand existing collaborations with H2H organizations and influence, other network members, by emphasizing data about older people, a good understanding of contexts, and help them apply a more 'inclusive lens' to evidence collection. "One of the main advantages of being part of the H2H Network is that it gives us the chance to collaborate on different levels with groups we are working on creating standards that cut across sectors. Also, we have the opportunity to continue to enhance awareness of those standards and make sure that other actors really understand their spirit and can adopt them appropriately in their programmes […] The H2H Network is very much a convener and thought leader who seeks to apply the right methods to research and evidencing impacts. Being part of this ecosystem resonates well with our values and helps learning" (Samuel Wood, Head of Humanitarian, HelpAge International).

In the diverse ecosystem of H2H organizations, HelpAge provides data and technical support to H2H actors, complementing and strengthening H2H services to improve response-specific emergencies. A unique way to influence the broader humanitarian response is via their older people-focused needs assessment and rapid needs assessment support with various organizations, including prominent international actors and UN organizations. "A potential way of supporting H2H Network members working with data collection in the context of an H2H funded service package is via inclusion assessments. Many H2H organizations have already incorporated specific questions and conduct assessments tailored to older people's needs, but some of them are about to learn how to do so. HelpAge is open for this type of collaboration and joint assessment initiatives" (Samuel Wood, Head of Humanitarian, HelpAge International).

HelpAge is "striving to engage in a significant way with localization. […] In practice, it means that we're shifting much more to working with civil society organizations, doing less direct implementation, and more working with local organizations. We're looking at ways that we can make those partnerships more equitable" (Samuel Wood, Head of Humanitarian, HelpAge International). HelpAge, like other H2H organizations, also faces challenges around measuring impact. Their monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (MEAL) processes are incorporated into their activities and they work with network partners or country offices to gather information to assess impact. "Over the years, we've been developing what we call a 'vulnerability assessment form' that we have been recently using to get a better picture of what the situation is for older people in a specific location where a partner or network member is going to implement a project. We have included a tool in the assessment that allows us to go back later and see if there have been any changes in the situation of affected communities that could be attributed to the activities. (Dr. Marion Staunton, Humanitarian Inclusion & MHPSS Manager, HelpAge International).

HelpAge is making an impact via working closely with affected communities and supporting other organizations to develop their policies and processes. "We are mentoring local responders on how to be age-inclusive during the whole chain of their processes from gathering data through proposal writing to programme design and implementation. We also support international organizations at their initial stage of gathering data for older people during rapid needs assessments. It isn't easy to measure because we'd have to track every single program across many-many organizations and presences. Still, these activities make an impact both on the country and global level as they strengthen our linkages around the world and give us a greater reach for supporting older people" (Maeve O'Sullivan, Humanitarian Programme Coordinator, HelpAge).

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