The Sphere Story, a video documentary

30 June 2015 | Sphere Project

The Sphere Story, a documentary

Just released, The Sphere Story is a three-part video documentary on the origins, dissemination and impact of Sphere principles and standards. It also looks at the challenges and opportunities for improving the quality and accountability of humanitarian response today, complementing other Sphere films such as Humanitarian standards in context.

"The Sphere story is not only about developing humanitarian standards," says Sphere Project Director Christine Knudsen, "it is also about forging a common humanitarian identity, building a shared commitment to putting people affected by disaster or conflict at the centre of emergency response, and working across organisational boundaries and mandates for better quality and accountability."

The three-part video documentary, with each episode lasting 10-12 minutes, explores the drivers of the Sphere Project, the challenges in developing a common vision, and the impact that people experienced already in the early days, all from the perspective of the actors themselves.

"As a landmark initiative of the humanitarian community, the Sphere story deserves to be told and shared with the widest possible public," Knudsen says, "so we are very pleased to be able to offer this documentary to the Sphere community worldwide."

The documentary complements existing Sphere films like Introducing the Sphere Handbook, which describes the contents and structure of the latest edition of the Handbook and Humanitarian standards in context, which offers an in-depth view of how Sphere and its companion standards are being applied in different regional contexts.

What's in the box

How did the Sphere standards come into being? How were they disseminated? What were the main reactions when they were first published? What has been their impact? What are the current challenges and opportunities for improving humanitarian response?

These were some of the questions put to 11 people who played crucial roles at different stages of the Sphere Project's development:

  • Peter Walker and Nicholas Stockton, the two co-initiators; 
  • Susan Purdin and Nan Buzard, the first two managers; 
  • Rebecca Larson, a member of the first management committee; 
  • Margareta Wahlström, a contributor to the first edition of the Sphere Handbook; 
  • Rafael Vilasanjuan, General Secretary of Doctors Without Borders between 1999-2005; 
  • Véronique de Geoffroy, a member of the French think tank Groupe URD; 
  • José Patrocínio from Angola and Maynor Cerón from Honduras, both humanitarian field practitioners involved in the early stages of the project; and
  • John Borton, the team leader of the humanitarian branch of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda.

The documentary is available in English, Arabic, French and Spanish. High-resolution copies for screening at workshops and courses are available from the Sphere office.

More than a documentary

The 11 interviews were recorded in four languages and five countries. They were carefully edited with a view to spotlighting key moments of Sphere's evolution and to making the documentary easily viewable.

Given the richness of the material, the full-length interviews will be made available in the near future. They share not only memories, but also valuable insights into key issues the humanitarian community continues to face today. Interested viewers will learn about some of the issues the documentary was not able to accommodate.

The full-length interviews will be made available only in their original languages over the coming weeks or months. If you would like to be notified when they are ready, you may want to subscribe to the Sphere Project YouTube channel or to the Sphere monthly electronic newsletter.

Watch The Sphere Story now!

The Sphere Story in other language versions: 

I. Mavericks
How the Sphere standards came into being
(Arabic, French, Spanish)

II. Groundbreakers
How the Sphere standards were disseminated
(Arabic, French, Spanish)

III. Game changers
A movement that transformed the humanitarian system
(Arabic, French, Spanish)

Print this page

Get Sphere's monthly newsletter

Not sure? Check past issues