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How to use Sphere standards throughout the humanitarian programme cycle

The Sphere Handbook’s blend of ethical, rights-based approach and technical standards makes it one of the best-known and respected reference documents in the humanitarian sector.

Its usefulness in assessing situations and needs; for writing project proposals; and as a framework for presenting project outcomes to donors is readily apparent. But the Handbook offers much more than this. It is a rich source of information, from the establishment of a new humanitarian entity through the whole humanitarian programme cycle to organisational and sector-wide growth and learning.

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This is because it combines a rigorous focus on the rights of affected populations with accountable organisational practices as defined in the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) and the vast technical expertise captured in the Minimum Standards.

In five separate but complementary chapters, this new resource suggests approaches for applying Sphere standards:

Chapter 1: Context explains how to contextualise humanitarian standards, that is, how to consider the information they provide in your context and adapt indicators by setting appropriate targets. A thorough understanding of how to do this is essential for anyone using or planning to use humanitarian standards.

Widely used tools such as indicator tracking tables demonstrate that contextualisation is not difficult or far-fetched, but a normal thing to do. If the context requires, you should have the courage to set baselines and targets that may feel like they are below or well above the threshold required to achieve the standard. This chapter argues that this constitutes meaningful contextualisation and is an essential part of adopting the Sphere approach.

Chapters 2, 3 and 5

Chapter 2: Assessment, Chapter 3: Monitoring and Chapter 4: Evaluation are updates of earlier unpacked guides, Sphere for Assessments and Sphere for Monitoring and Evaluation. These chapters walk you through how to use Sphere standards, including the CHS, in these phases.

Sphere content is relevant regardless of how your organisation defines programme cycle phases.

Working with the same few key indicators throughout the programme cycle is a useful way to track a programme’s evolution over time.

Chapter 5: Learning offers practical guidance on how Sphere principles, standards and indicators can support active organisational and response-wide learning, reflection and sharing.

Download the Sphere in Context and for Assessment, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning guide.

Browse the complete set of unpacked guides.

If you would like to print copies of this document, please contact communications@spherestandards.org to request the print-quality file.

If you would like to translate this guide, please contact communications@spherestandards.org.