Frontline work in humanitarian crises
Covid-19 was a turning point. This project will look at changes in aid systems, examine them from a specialist and organisational standpoint and develop a management mindset for humanitarian crises in general.
The research project will adopt an approach that is both theoretical and implementation-driven. It will focus on the players who worked directly with the affected people during the pandemic and who were unable to draw on organisational routines or professional action plans by virtue of the unique nature of the situation (health policy’s dominance over all other policy areas). By understanding this frontline work, the researchers hope to find innovative approaches to enabling ad hoc cooperation between institutions with differing rationalities in the context of a serious humanitarian crisis.
The pandemic is closely linked to a social crisis. The people already affected by exclusion processes prior to the pandemic were joined by groups whose already tenuous connections with state social security networks were not sufficient to process, let alone overcome, the consequences of the pandemic (particularly undocumented migrants, sex workers, domestic employees or the working poor).
The aim is to investigate how state and non-state aid reached marginalised groups during the pandemic and to see what (new) tasks non-state players assumed to relieve the burden on the welfare state. Findings from the pandemic will be abstracted to other crises, not only to identify useful approaches for the future, but also to highlight existing gaps in support.
Since the pandemic, there have been demands for structural reforms that put in place an approach integrating all relevant players to a greater extent. The focus is on a multi-level governance mindset that relates state and non-state operating practices and decision processes to each other. Given Switzerland’s federal system, such mindsets should be encouraged at regional level, where structures typically involve numerous actors with agency at many different levels.
In collaboration with three regions – Basel, Lausanne and Lugano –, Switzerland's key relief organisations and a large number of local and regional aid organisations, approaches will be developed to help ensure successful, tangible cooperation during any future crisis.
Frontline work in humanitarian disasters: Bridging state and non-state rationalities towards region-based, multi-layered crisis management