Request for Research Proposal – Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from the local partner perspective

Request for Proposal

EISF is seeking to hire a research consultant or team of research consultants to carry out research for its forthcoming publication on Partnerships and Security Risk Management: from the local partner perspective.



The European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) is an independent network of security focal points who represent aid organisations operating internationally. EISF is committed to improving the safety and security of operations and staff, strengthening humanitarian security risk management to allow greater access to, and impact for, crisis-affected populations.

EISF’s vision is to be a global reference point for good practice, collective knowledge and current challenges in security risk management for humanitarian agencies.

Knowledge exchange, coupled with structured analysis and reflection, research and external advocacy will enable EISF to continue to challenge the international community and humanitarian agencies to incorporate security into all organisational activities, in order to achieve greater access and impact in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.



In line with changing security conditions in many operational contexts, the last two decades have witnessed a significant shift in the approach adopted by most international aid agencies towards security risk management. As a result of greater insecurity and limited access, many aid agencies are increasingly relying on local and national non-governmental organisations (L/NNGOs) for the implementation of programmes in high-risk contexts. In the same measure, localisation of aid for sustainability and empowerment is contributing to a greater reliance on local partners to implement aid programmes globally.

 This increased reliance and more prominent role of L/NNGOs in the delivery of humanitarian and development programmes has resulted in a mutual risk transfer between international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) and L/NNGOs through simply entering into a partnership. However, this partnership has not always translated into better security risk management for local actors. INGOs are transferring risk down the line, but are they transferring the capacity required to manage the particular risks faced by local partners in a manner that addresses L/NNGOs’ needs and risk culture?

In general, there is a disconnect between INGOs’ approaches and understanding of security risk management, and that of their local partners. Partially, this is a product of a lack of understanding of the particular risks L/NNGOs encounter in delivering aid and a failure to understand the traditional mitigating measures they may employ. Although INGOs have started to recognise that their risk profile differs from the risk profile of their local partners, and also that both have differing capacities to manage risk, INGOs and their partners have not found a mutual language yet.

EISF is commissioning new research into this topic to address these challenges and build upon a number of previous projects and papers. In December 2012, the EISF published ‘Security management and capacity development: international agencies working with local partners’. This briefing paper provided the first step towards a wider debate on partnerships with local organisations and security risk management. The paper aimed to clear some of the confusion around the responsibilities that INGOs hold towards local partners, and had two objectives:

  1. To provide a better understanding of issues related to security and any interconnected responsibility of international NGOs (INGOs) towards supporting the security of their local partners; and
  2. To provide insights into approaches that can be used by INGOs to improve support to their local partners in terms of security risk management.

The publication focused on the challenges and questions that INGOs may have when supporting local partners in managing security risks, as well as on the legal and ethical responsibilities that INGOs may incur. The decision to focus the paper on the INGO perspective was deliberate, leaving the partner’s perspective for a future project.

In February 2015, EISF conducted field research in Pakistan for a preliminary analysis of local partners’ attitudes towards security risk, their understanding of security risk management, and their knowledge gaps. EISF conducted semi-structured interviews with 22 people from 17 different organisations (8 INGOs, 9 NNGOs) and 1 coordination body (Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, PHF). EISF also took part in the bi-weekly security meeting of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum and in a workshop with local partners organised by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). From this preliminary research and analysis, EISF identified a wide disconnect between INGOs’ approaches and understanding of security risk management, and that of local partners. Based on the interviews conducted both in Pakistan and with EISF members, EISF concluded that without bridging this gap first, any future attempt by INGOs to build the security risk management capacity of local partners will likely be fruitless and short-lived.

In March 2019, Humanitarian Outcomes and Interaction published a report ‘NGOs & Risk: Managing Uncertainty in Local-International Partnerships’, which provided insight into the complexities of managing risk in local-international partnerships. 



The purpose of this research is to achieve more effective partnerships between local/national NGOs (L/NNGOs) and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) by investigating local partners’ understanding of and needs for managing security risks in order to provide recommendations and guidance for both INGOs and L/NNGOs on how L/NNGOs can improve their capacity to effectively manage security risks. Looking at both the management capacity of the partners as well as what operational tools are required.


  1. Aims and Objectives


To learn and present the most effective ways for international aid organisations to engage in security discussions, coordination, arrangements and capacity building in order to effectively support local and national partner organisation’s capacity to identify and manage security risks, in accordance with the needs identified by local rather than international organisations.


  1. To understand how local partners understand and perceive security risk, including their perception of the approach taken by INGOs, and L/NNGOs attitudes towards risk transfer.
  2. To investigate the security risk management capabilities and practices of local and national aid organisations that implement projects in partnership with INGOs.
  3. To identify ways in which INGOs can best support their local partners to manage security risks in a sustainable manner and in line with the existing needs, capacities and practices of L/NNGOs.

Target Audience:

The target audience is staff that have partner management and relationship responsibilities including security advisors, human resources staff, senior management as well as general project/programme managers within international, national and local humanitarian and development organisations.

This project will be divided into two phases and respective outputs:


  1. Phase I: Research Paper

The research paper will aim to collect data on L/NNGO needs and understanding of security risk, including challenges INGOs and L/NNGOs face in addressing security risk in partnership arrangements at both the operational and senior leadership levels.

As part of this new project, EISF aims to understand local partners’ attitudes to security risk management, including organisational culture, the threats, their vulnerabilities and traditional mitigation measures, as well as identify L/NNGOs’ knowledge gaps and the factors that can drive organisational change.

The research will include an exploration of the different themes that impact partnership arrangements and the management of security risk (particularly in relation to NGO staff, assets and programme implementation). These themes include: the localisation agenda; external and internal threats; the interrelation between perception, humanitarian principles and risk; outsourcing of risk; risk transfer; the humanitarian-development nexus; and diversity in individual and organisational risk profiles.

The research paper should also look at the relationship between L/NNGOs and their international partners around security risk management functions; the different perspectives and perceptions on the same issues by the INGO / LNNGO partners; the challenges L/NNGOs may have in raising their concerns on security issues to their international partners; different capacity building approaches and methodologies; funding allocation in relation to security risk management; etc.

The paper will build upon existing EISF and other publications, in particular, the following:


  1. Phase II: Guide and tools

The findings of the Phase I research paper will be used to develop a practical guide and tools for both INGOs and L/NNGOs on ways to improve approaches to managing security risks within partnership arrangements. In line with previous EISF guides, this document will provide practical guidelines for INGOs and L/NNGOs on how to support security risk management within local-international partnerships.

The guide will link to existing EISF guides and identify where components may be relevant to L/NNGOs or can be modified to support capacity development for them, for example:

The guide will follow the same style as previous EISF guides, in particular, the following:


  1. Methodology:
  • A literature review and analysis of documentation to better understand relevant themes and current security risk management practices and guidance within local-international partnership arrangements.
  • A survey of international, national and local aid workers on needs, concerns and understandings of security risks and security risk management within partnership arrangements.
  • Semi-structured key informant interviews and focus group discussions with L/NNGO staff members that are in partnership arrangements with one or more international aid organisations.
  • Semi-structured key informant interviews and focus group discussions with INGO staff that are in partnership arrangements with one or more of the L/NNGOs interviewed.
  • Semi-structured key informant interviews with humanitarian and/or security coordination bodies operating in the specific contexts that work with the L/NNGOs and/or INGO communities.

Data will be gathered from three case studies, which will involve field visits to three countries. These case studies will be agreed between the researcher(s) and EISF after a comprehensive literature review, survey and exploratory discussions. The case studies should reflect the different contexts within which aid partnerships exist, such as remote management of projects, complex disasters, high crime and natural disaster contexts. The case studies will come from each of the following regions: Asia, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. Possible case studies include Gaza, Iraq, Jordan, Somalia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mexico, Colombia.

The research paper developed will serve as a foundation on which to produce an EISF guide and capacity building events on security risk management in partnership.

EISF will establish a peer review group composed of 5-7 experts to comment on drafts produced.


Phase 1: Research paper

April-May 2019

  • Identification of researcher(s)
  • Identification of EISF peer review group
  • Development of Terms of Reference, detailed project outline and budget

June-July 2019

  • Background research and literature review
  • Selection of case studies

August-November 2019

  • Dissemination of survey
  • Key informant interviews
  • Fieldwork in three selected locations (case studies)

November 2019-April 2020

  • Writing and delivery of drafts of the research paper to EISF
  • EISF review and feedback on drafts received
  • Finalisation of the research paper
  • Dissemination of research paper

Phase II: Guide and tools (upon successful completion and EISF approval of Phase I outputs)

February-June 2020

  • Approval of Phase I work by EISF
  • Approval by EISF to commence Phase II of the project
  • Writing and delivery of the first draft of the guide and tools

June-September 2020

  • EISF review and feedback on drafts of guide and tools received
  • Finalisation of guide and tools
  • Dissemination of guide and tools at the EISF Forum



Scope of Work:

The research proposal submitted for consideration by EISF will be used to finalise the scope of work. It is expected that this research will involve a literature review as well as a survey, interviews and focus group discussions with key stakeholders. The initial stages of the research will be conducted remotely, at a location of the researcher team’s choosing, followed by field visits to three separate contexts. Field visits will be facilitated by EISF.


Phase I:

  • Literature review
  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Survey
  • All notes and information gathered to inform the writing of the research paper, including notes from interviews and focus group discussions
  • Full research paper (40-60 pages)

Phase II:

  • Guide (40-60 pages)
  • Tools



Applicants should demonstrate that they have:

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field.
  • Experience of policy-oriented research aimed at policy-makers and practitioners.
  • Experience working within the humanitarian and/or international development sector.
  • Subject-matter expertise in security risk management.
  • Subject matter expertise in partnership arrangements within the humanitarian or development sector.
  • Proven track record in designing and implementing social science research.
  • Experience in research dissemination towards practitioner communities.
  • Interest in the research topic.
  • Strong English writing and speaking skills.
  • Spanish and/or French language skills a bonus.



Research Duration: April 2019 – September 2020

If you are interested in submitting a research proposal for this project, please submit the following documents to express your interest:

  • Cover letter stating interest and qualifications (1 page)
  • CV(s) of proposed research team members, and/or introduction of institute, company and primary investigators
  • Links to 1 or 2 sample research work products
  • Full proposal based on the guidance regarding the focus of this research provided above (please include a budget which also covers rough estimates of fieldwork in three locations)

Please send your application submission to Adelicia Fairbanks ( no later than May 10th, 2019.

Submit proposals to

EISF Research Advisor