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Internship Report


Academic year: 2023

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Joint Master's Programme in International Humanitarian Action (NOHA)

Third Semester

Internship report

Student: D.J. (Diego Javier) Espinoza Lavado

Student Number: 5012473

Home University: University of Groningen Host University: University of Deusto Work placement supervisor: R.W.K. (Werner) Distler Host organisation: Dutch Relief Alliance


Utrechtseweg 12 3811 NB Amersfoort The Netherlands T: +31 (0)33 464 3444 E: office@dutchrelief.org Placement supervisor: Arjen Joosse

Period of placement: 01 September 2022 – 31 January 2023




1. Introduction

... 3

2. Looking for an Internship

... 3

3. Preparation and Expectations prior to the Placement

... 3

4. The Work Placement Host Organisation

... 3

5. Tasks, Activities and Workload during the Work Placement

... 4

6. Supervision by Host Organisation

... 5

7. Conditions of Stay during the Work Placement

... 6

8. Post-Placement Reflections:

... 6

9. Future Prospects and Career Goals

... 7

10. Conclusion

... 8



1. Introduction

I decided to apply to the Dutch Relief Alliance because I was looking for doing my internship in the Netherlands, which is the country where my family and I have a residence permits.

Staying in the Netherlands was the most efficient alternative in terms of bureaucratic procedures.

2. Looking for an Internship

During my second semester of the NOHA program at the University of Deusto in Spain, I was already looking for a full-time job, so I could validate that experience in lieu of the internship.

Unfortunately, after going through written assessments and interviews, the selection processes for international positions were taking longer than expected, so I decided to apply for an internship. In July 2022 I wrote to the NOHA coordinator explaining my situation and she shared with me this internship opportunity at the Dutch Relief Alliance. I applied immediately on August 1st, and a week later I received an invitation for an interview, which consisted of an online meeting with the Chair, Vice Chair and the Program Support Officer.

It lasted 30 minutes and was a very open conversation to see if expectations from both sides matched properly. It seemed to be the case, because I received a confirmation message the day after the interview and started duties on September 1st.

3. Preparation and Expectations prior to the Placement

It was explained in the interview that this was an internship to support with basic tasks:

schedule meetings, minutes taking and administrative tasks. Nevertheless, there were also freedom for the intern to participate in additional tasks of his/her interest. Hence, my expectation was to quickly fulfill the basic duties and proactively support other tasks related to the protracted and acute crises joint responses.

4. The Work Placement Host Organisation

The Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA) is a coalition of 14 NGOs, which are registered in the Netherlands and have an office and a team in this country. This alliance works building inter- NGOs teams to respond to protracted crises and acute crises through joint responses, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs1.

Besides their joint responses, this coalition is also a space to share and learn among Dutch NGOs, for this purpose it has several teams divided in working groups and task forces. For further details see figure 1.

1 For further information see https://dutchrelief.org/



Figure 1. Dutch Relief Alliance Organization

Prepared by the author

5. Tasks, Activities and Workload during the Work Placement

I was in charge of providing support to the early warning working group, the finance working group and the Innovation Officer. I also performed other duties supporting the Board of Directors (BoD) on ad hoc basis.

Early Warning Working Group

This working group is in charge of examining risks and contexts of potential crisis, and of sending the alert to the DRA as soon as possible in order to decide if the alliance should respond or not. If the decision is to respond, then the DRA activates an acute crisis joint response (ACJR). During my time supporting this group I worked on a weekly risk monitoring report, which is an attempt to have a wider view on risks globally that might become potential crisis to respond to.


▪ Develop a weekly risk monitoring report from sources such as ACAPS and IPC-CH (food security).

▪ Support the review of the acute crisis mechanism (ACM) criteria and analyze on what the outcomes would be if the new criteria were applied to previous ACM activation requests.

▪ Taking meeting minutes.




In the las 5 years, the DRA has funded innovation projects with different approaches, sometimes promoting locally developed projects and sometimes supporting ‘ready to scale’

projects. At the moment the objective is to support those projects that addresses problems in the protracted crisis joint responses (PCJR), problems which must have been defined through a challenge mapping process. For this purpose there is an ongoing open call to allocate 1.8 million EUR. I participated in meetings for projects closure, and meetings with innovations specialists from the Response Innovation Lab (RIL).


▪ Develop the TORs for the Open Call: 1.8 million USD to support innovation projects within PCJRs.

▪ Develop the TORs for the Innovation Champions group.

▪ Participate in closure meetings of last year’s projects.

Finance Working Group:

There was not much to do for this working group, for which I only had to draft two meeting minutes.

Board of Directors (Ad hoc support)

In addition to the regular tasks for the working groups, I provided direct support to the Board of Directors, making the most of my previous experience in planning and budget. In addition, I acted as a Program Support Officer while the responsible of this function was on leave.


▪ Act as Program Support Officer (ad interim) from mid-October to mid-November.

▪ Support the analysis based on RACI matrix to define responsibilities between protracted crisis joint responses leaders in the Netherlands and coordinators in the field.

▪ General logistical support during the learning exchange meeting.

▪ Develop an analysis on sources and recipients of humanitarian funds globally, providing information regarding its distribution among UN, Red Cross and Red Crescent, NGOs and others.

▪ Develop a comparative analysis on processes and timeframes for DRA and UN humanitarian responses.

6. Supervision by Host Organisation

My supervisor was Arjen Joosse, who was the Vice-Chair of the DRA until December 2022 and became the DRA Chair in January 2023. We had a 30 minutes meeting every week to review progress, pending tasks and workload status. The internship supervision was very positive and there are no concerns to share on this matter.



7. Conditions of Stay during the Work Placement

I performed my duties mainly on-line (remotely) at home, and had an on-site day of work in a different NGO office every week. I received a laptop and e-mail account from the host organization Tearfund Netherlands.

There was an allowance of 120 EUR / month for interns, and transportation expenses for those on-site work days were reimbursed. On-site work days took place in different NGO’s offices in Amersfoort, Utrecht, Amsterdam, but mostly in The Hague.

In general, the internship allowance was an advantage in comparison with most of the internship opportunities (which do not pay any allowance at all) but it is insufficient to cover basic expenses such as housing, food, health insurance, among others.

8. Post-Placement Reflections:

First of all, it is important to be aware that the DRA is a recent endeavour of a group of Dutch NGOs initiated in 2015 to better coordinate their responses to emergencies, improve their effectiveness by sharing knowledge and jointly influence on the European humanitarian fora.

Coordinate 14 NGOs is not a simple task, hence it is expected to find out that a lot of discussion is going on regarding different topics such as: How to decide which crisis DRA should respond to? How to raise funds, in addition to those from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without colliding with individual NGO’s fundraising activities? How to efficiently allocate these funds among partners? How to promote equal partnerships with local organizations?... and the list goes on. Thus, I consider that this ongoing organisational development process influence the way the learning process has taken place.

Learning Process, Challenges and Expectations

My expectations for the internship were clear from the very beginning, it was stated in the recruitment interview that the DRA needed support with basic tasks, but it was up to the intern to go further and propose topics to the working groups as well as to the Board of Directors. I did follow the idea of being supportive beyond working groups and by doing so I found some interesting opportunities for learning throughout this period.

I have been able to hear experiences shared by seasoned humanitarian experts while I was participating in meetings, learning from discussions and ideas from those experts in the early warning working group and the partners meeting was an important part of gaining some insights about this sector. One of the most relevant moments for reflection took place during the learning week, which was an excellent opportunity to talk directly to joint responses coordinators, who were normally working in the frontlines. Listen to them talking about topics such as accountability to affected population (AAP), localization and triple nexus was a way to find out how what I normally read in academic papers works, or not, in the practice on the ground.

Another important learning opportunity came from the fact that as a DRA intern I was able to meet many humanitarian professionals from different NGOs, and I found this was great chance to start building a professional network to contact to for further career or research endeavors. It is also, of valuable that the DRA was supported not by just one intern but three



of us for the same period, and I believe that this provide me with the chance to share with other interns, support each other and have discussions about professional career aspirations.

Lastly, the most important part of the internship experience for me, was the opportunity to see my supervisor as a role model. I strongly believe that his way of working and professionalism, supported by his structured problem solving mindset makes him a great leader, who were available for all those seeking guidance. I think that these are the skills required to successfully lead teams in the humanitarian sector, and I had the chance to learn by listening carefully to his advice.

On the other hand, among the challenges of this internship, were the fact that working groups and task forces had a very dissimilar pace. Some of them were absolutely focused and others don’t and sometimes I noticed that progress was very slow. However this may be the consequence that the DRA is not an organization per se but a forum, this means that most of the people involved dedicate only a small portion of their worktime to the DRA while working full time for their own roles in each of the NGOs.

Other challenge was that there was not a pre-defined distribution of interns capacity among the working groups. This made it difficult for interns to decide who will be responsible for what. For example, during my internship period, the other two interns were very interested in participating in the localization working group and ended up sharing responsibilities, which is was not the most efficient way to deal with tasks.

To conclude, the most important challenge was the fact that the internship role was almost totally disconnected from the core of the humanitarian action as interns were not able to learn or participate somehow on the joint responses.

Connection with my Degree

This internship has given me the chance to gain a general idea of how NGOs work, find out about their funding sources, and to understand that INGOs sees UN as ‘competition’. I have also come to realize the value of coordination structures and constantly updated guidelines;

this is something that, from my experience working in an UN Country Office, I used to take for granted, and sometimes even though of it as a burden.

It provided me with an opportunity to follow up on the latest discussions on relevant topics in humanitarian action linked to the Grand Bargain commitments, such as localization and equal partnership, and current trends such as the gender transformative approach.

On more practical matters, I learned about new sources of information for decision-making such as ACAPS or the IPC-CH, and how the DRA activated the acute crisis joint response for the floods in Pakistan. Lastly, I had the chance to listen about innovations in humanitarian action being applied in the field.

9. Future Prospects and Career Goals

This internship provided me with an initial network with other humanitarian professionals in the Netherlands, many of them former NOHA students. However, I do not foresee career opportunities in this alliance neither in any of the NGOs in the short term because most of the job opportunities requires to have a work permit, which I do not have.



10. Conclusion

I see this as a good internship experience, it is important to note that given the conditions at the moment it may only fit for those who have another source of income and are living nearby the Randstad. Otherwise I would suggest to the DRA to pay an allowance of at least 1000 EUR per month to fit the minimum expenses for students.

In summary, on the positive side of the internship there are is flexibility, wide range of contacts within NGOs in the Netherlands, and the opportunity to receive advice from seasoned humanitarian professionals. On the negative side, mainly the lack of contact (directly and indirectly) with operations in the field. As the main difficulty, note that most of the NGOs do not process work permits, so no further career development after the internship in any of them is possible without this permit. And finally, note that opportunities for learning are up to the student’s curiosity and willingness to be involved in some of the many discussions, initiatives and projects that are taking place in the DRA.

Advice for future interns:

Personally, I believe that the core of the DRA is the joint responses in the field. As an intern, you will probably not be able to learn directly from these operations, nevertheless I encourage you to participate in every meeting in which those working in the frontlines are part of. One of these opportunities is the learning exchange event, in which field coordinators and local partners are the key participants. If you have the chance to be an active participant of those activities that would be great, but even if you are there as listener only, you will gain some enlightening takeaways for your learning process.

You can expect a respectful environment in which everybody is committed to make progress as an alliance despite the additional efforts that this requires at personal and organizational level. In general, it can be said that the alliance is a horizontal organization in which everyone’s voice is heard. Be aware that only a few colleagues, such as the Chair or the Program Support Officer are dedicated to the DRA 100% while most of the DRA team and working group chairs distribute their time between the DRA and their own NGO workload, hence it is better to establish clear deliverables, timeframe and feedback meetings with working group chairs. A lot of people is involved and turnover is high so the working group participants is constantly changing.

▪ Look for working on a small projects and not only on tasks, in this way you might find the internship more challenging and rewarding.

▪ Establish clear deliveries and a timeframes with the working group chairs at the very beginning of the internship.

▪ If you are thinking on writing your thesis related to the DRA, you should have this conversation immediately with your supervisor so that it makes it possible to arrange and align your research interest with DRA needs.



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