How humanitarian workers use the Sphere Handbook

14 September 2016 | Sphere Project

Sphere Handbook usage survey infographicDownload an infographic with the main survey findings.

Over 2,800 users in 149 countries shared their views on the Sphere Handbook. Nine out of ten say the Handbook is useful in their daily work.

In April 2016, the Sphere Project office invited humanitarians to take an online survey on their use of the Sphere Handbook. With the usual caveat (*) that applies to this type of survey, the results indicate the large outreach of the Sphere community of practitioners and a high level of satisfaction among them.

Over 2,800 users in 149 countries responded to the survey. More than 40% of them work in countries with ongoing humanitarian crises or situations of concern. Those working in Syria and surrounding countries accounted for 10% of the responses.

While nine out of ten users find the Handbook extremely or very useful, six out of ten are ready to contribute to the upcoming Handbook revision.

Three quarters of the responses are from users who worked with the Handbook within the last six months, which suggests both relevance and freshness of insights.

The responses suggest that users typically work with several chapters of the Handbook, among which the most popular seems to be "Water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion". Standards and indicators are used the most, while guidance notes and key actions come in second place.

As was expected, the Handbook is mostly used in humanitarian response, but also to a large extent in preparedness and least in recovery. Most people use it to guide needs assessment as well as other aid delivery-related purposes like programme design and monitoring and evaluation. Capacity-building runs a close second. Other uses are policy development, negotiation, advocacy and research.

The responses suggest that the Handbook plays an important role for new practitioners as they enter the sector. Nearly a third of the responses are from people with less than five years of experience and more than half from people with less than ten years.

A diverse user base includes people working for international NGOs, national and local NGOs, Red Cross / Red Crescent societies, government, civil defence and other national service providers, as well as UN and intergovernmental agencies.

These findings will inform the upcoming review and revision of the Sphere Handbook, to start in 2017, and so will help adapt Sphere to evolving needs for a growing range of users. The fourth edition of the Handbook will be published in 2018.

(*) As the users who responded the survey did so voluntarily, the data gathered cannot be taken as statistically representative of the whole population of users of the Handbook or of the whole humanitarian community. It nonetheless offers a good indication of the Handbook usage by committed Sphere practitioners.

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