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A remarkable feature of the response to the humanitarian needs of the 1.5 million plus refugees and irregular migrants that have arrived in Europe since early 2015 has been the significant role played by volunteers and grassroots groups. This panel will explore the phenomenon of ‘volunteer humanitarians’ in Europe, assess its significance and consider its potential longer term implications for the humanitarian sector.
Among the questions to be explored are:
• How can the contribution of volunteer humanitarians and grassroots groups be measured and assessed so as to more readily facilitate comparison with the contribution of established humanitarian actors?
• To what extent can (and should) volunteer humanitarians be considered part of the localisation agenda?
• What generalisations can be made about the working relationships that have evolved between established humanitarian agencies and volunteers and grassroots groups? Have the grassroots groups been embraced or shunned? Are there examples of established agencies funding volunteers and grassroots groups? Are there good practice cases of productive relationships that might be built on in the future?
• To what extent do volunteer humanitarians and grassroots groups undermine or pose a threat to the sustainability of the business model of established humanitarian NGOs?
• How can (and should) grassroots groups improve their procedures so as to ensure adequate safeguarding and standards of performance?
• Is it possible to identify when and how the maturation of a grassroots group and its development (if it so wishes) into a small NGO begins to stifle the very qualities of flexibility and freedom that are an acknowledged quality of many grassroots groups?