Sarvodaya Stewardship Towards a Crisis Response SOP

Posted on October 19, 2016  /  3 Comments

The two-day workshop (Oct 17 & 18, 2016) in Moratuwa, invited Sarvodaya members from Batticaloa, Colombo, Gampaha, and Kegalle Districts. These participants have first-hand experience responding to the 2016 Western floods & landslide and the 2015 Northeast floods, in Sri Lanka. The objective was to share their tacit knowledge on taking a holistic and practical approach to responding to crises. Then give them the tools to analyze the experience to develop the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) themselves.


To that end, we applied community engagement social practices methods for analyzing the knowledge to realize the design parameters for developing the Sarvodaya Disaster Response SOP. The workshop also emphasized on applying stewardship techniques to identify natural community leaders capable of engaging the community in developing their SOPs. Then exposing them the tools to repeat the process engaging their own communities.

Day-One exercises were designed for the District members to collectively establish and rank the priority operations, identify the prevailing problems, and map the required elements for overcoming those gaps

Day-Two exercises distributed the district members to formulate by their area of operational interest. The teams, first, develop user stories to identify the actors, goals, and workflows. Thereafter, outline operational steps for each of the priority areas to produce the first skeleton draft of the SOP.

SLIDES: The Sarvodaya SOP Development Guide

Priority Operations

The four District teams and the National team (5 teams total) identified several operations. The set of operations were consolidated into eight priority operations and later they were ranked:

  • spider_diagramSarvodaya Emergency Response Team (SERT)
  • Shelters
  • Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)
  • Food Security
  • Emergency Operation Center (EOC)
  • Hazard Information Hub (HIH)
  • Logistics
  • Fundraising

The teams agreed that developing an SOP for shelter management was the least priority. People would seek shelter in Schools, Religious Establishments, and Government established special shelters. Sarvodaya would provided WASH and Food related services to those Shelters. They agreed that, in this phase, Shelter management would not be in the SOP.

The HIH, an institution that was once operational after the 2004 Tsunami but was downsized, once again emerged as a cross-cutting operation necessary to support all other operations. The Social Program Coordinator would be responsible for managing the District HIH operations. A National EOC, at the Sarvodaya Headquarters, would also activate to support the District EOCs. The District HIH would be the information link to the National EOC. The HIH operations are a key element for decision-support.


The WASH operations were mostly related to coordinating the demand and supply of water. For such the operating procedures would identify the requirements and coordinate the supply of WASH services; more so than building capacity within Sarvodaya to provide those services. A typical SERT team would have  members trained in WASH practices; especially with quality and control. Therefore, the WASH SOP will be sub component of the SERT SOP.

It was decided that Logistics would become part of the EOC operations. Naturally, Sarovdaya has a pool of vehicles and drivers. They are managed by the District Centers. The EOC also has knowledge of the aid collections centers. Therefore, the EOC will handle the logistics of collection, delivery, and distribution. The distribution would make use of the SERT and other operating Organizations in the area, if required.

Ultimately, the teams decided on five key operations: SERT, Food, EOC, HIH, and Fundraising.

Key Issues and Solutions

problem_treeThe problem tree is a way of realizing the prevailing gaps. The teams identified root courses. Funding was a key issue. It cuts across all operations effecting their ability to respond at the time of need. Sarvodaya Secretariat is investigating the feasibility of maintaining a disaster fund.

In addition to that, the Fundraising operation will activate during a crisis. They will be mainly a task for the Sarvodaya Headquarters. The DEOCs will supply the information. The HIH SERT in the field will be trained to provide categorical information as well as media relevant content to support the “short term fundraising” operation.

Training was another issue the teams discussed. It was highlighted that First Aid and SAR teams, for example, must be certified and recognized by the Government of Sri Lanka as capable before they will be permitted to engage. There are statuary requirements for professionalism. Training is another element that cuts across all operations.

So far, the teams have identified several training and accreditation requirements:

  • media & marketing (fundraising)
  • first aid
  • search and rescue (water & land)
  • emergency medicate technician
  • Incident Command and Control (EOC)
  • WASH quality management

First Draft

The team members decided to limit the scope of the SOP to support the operations for the first three days of the event. If there was any need for the operations to serve beyond the first three days, then that would default to the District and National EOC to plan and execute those supplementary activities or projects, with the assistance of external funding.

User stories are a way of understanding the actors, processes, and flows. The teams considered a real situation to develop a story as to who (whih Sarvodaya member) did what activity, how (the methods), when (e.g. the times: 1st hr, 24 hours, 3 days) and where (the locations). The use case diagram highlighted the actors and their goals. Finally, the teams outlined the procedures each of the operational teams: EOC, SERT, Food, HIH, and Fundraining should carry out.

These operational steps were categorized by Ready, Set, Go, and Finish processes. To ready the all the operations, they, repeatedly, mentioned the need to maintain a resource information system. It would be a database developed by the Sarvodaya Communities, District Centers, and the Head Office. HIH might consider supporting the infrastructure and applications for managing such a resource database. The intent is to use it to identify available response resources at the time of a crisis.

Next Steps

  • The trained Sarvodaya team will carryout the same exercises in the four Districts involving other Sarvodaya members in those areas. Each iteration will serve as inputs to revising the first draft of the SOP.
  • It was recommended that Sarvodaya include certain activities for developing the SOP in the monthly Sarvodaya District meetings.


  1. Nice work Nuwan. Pleased to see that the techniques were useful in this context.

  2. Very interesting work Nuwan.

  3. Congratulations Nuwan, looks like a great workshop.