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DisasterReady: Online Learning for Aid Workers

16 January 2020

By Emmanuelle Lacroix, Partnership Development Manager, Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation

As a humanitarian professional, I have witnessed first-hand the countless challenges faced by aid workers in the field. They work tirelessly to provide hope, resources, and relief in some of the direst man-made and natural disasters around the globe. Yet many aid workers only receive a basic level of training when joining a non-governmental organisation (NGO), with ongoing development still grounded in a combination of on-the-ground experience, in-person learning, and one-on-one mentoring.

Now more than ever, humanitarians need professional development and support. Given constraints and challenges faced by both international and local NGOs, many humanitarians - particularly in besieged and hard to reach areas – have limited access to classroom-based training. Remote learning is essential for humanitarians around the world.

In 2013, the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation established DisasterReady.org to address this challenge with a simple but powerful mission: bring the most current, impactful online learning resources to humanitarian and development workers wherever they work, whenever they need it, at zero cost.

Organisations such as the International Red Cross, the UN, and other humanitarian organisations have made tremendous progress in establishing best practices and improving coordination within the sector. With the growing complexity of assistance work, DisasterReady.org enables individuals at all levels of the relief organisation to prepare themselves for their next assignment; wherever they are, whenever they need access to this essential information.

I first came across DisasterReady when I was working at the CHS Alliance (People In Aid at the time). I immediately began taking free courses for my own personal development. Soon, I started recommending it as a wonderful source of life-long-learning for many of our member agencies and their staff and volunteers - and anyone interested in joining the humanitarian and development sector.

Four years ago, I was given the opportunity to join the DisasterReady team and I have seen the growth of our library, our audience and most importantly our role in strengthening the sector’s most vital resource: our workforce.

As often with a transformational idea, the concept of DisasterReady was originally met with a healthy dose of scepticism: NGOs would not share their learning resources, aid workers would not take training online, we’ll never be able to reach learners in remote locations. And yet…today, more than 150,000 active learners from 195 countries access DisasterReady to build critical skills using our more than 1,000 training titles in four languages (in addition to our English library, learners can access resources in Arabic, French and Spanish). We’ve also expanded our focus to offer targeted learning paths and certifications to give these same volunteers and staff the opportunity to build a sustainable career in the sector.

We will continue to do so because access to education remains an ongoing challenge and knowledge is still the key to building an effective and resilient workforce.

Learn more about DisasterReady and their impact on the humanitarian aid and development sector in this newly published impact report card.