The report highlights findings from our research and recommendations from the pilot of the Bridge Builder Model for humanitarian organisations and donors seeking ways to increase localisation in humanitarian response. This is a two-way, capacity-sharing model aimed at bringing together local faith actors (LFAs) and international humanitarian actors to increase understanding, trust, coordination and collaboration.

The model was developed by the Bridging the Gap Consortium (Tearfund UK, Tearfund Belgium, Tearfund in South Sudan, RedR UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Islamic Relief in South Sudan, the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities [JLI] and the University of Leeds) and piloted in 2018–2019 in South Sudan.

The overarching goal of the model is for a more effective and timely humanitarian response that best supports those affected by humanitarian crises, in part by integrating LFAs into the response. The model responds to gaps in localisation, where international humanitarian actors have not built partnerships with LFAs and efforts often run in parallel rather than being coordinated. The model provides capacity strengthening for both LFAs and international humanitarian actors, supported by a number of other activities such as small grants and mentoring for the LFAs, and networking workshops for the international humanitarian actors and LFAs.


Key Findings:

  • Aid agencies, local faith leaders and communities share their skills and knowledge, humanitarian response can be more effective. 
  • Faith leaders and communities in South Sudan are ready, willing and able to engage with the wider humanitarian system.
  • International humanitarian workers and agencies have much to learn from local faith leaders and communities, who have vast experience and understanding of their local context. International humanitarian responders should examine and remove the barriers that have stopped them from partnering with local faith leaders and communities previously.
  • Equipping local faith leaders and communities with humanitarian skills training will mean they are better placed to participate in decision making and more successful when applying for funding.
  • In-depth learning opportunities over a longer period are more effective, especially if funding is also provided to enable local faith leaders and communities to put what they are learning into practice. 
  • The replicable two-way ‘Bridge Builder’ model trialled in this research would enable widespread collaboration between local faith leaders and other humanitarian responders. 


Suggested Citation: Wilkinson, O, Tomalin, E, Logo, K, Wani Laki, A, De Wolf, F (2020) Bridge Builders: strengthening the role of local faith actors in humanitarian response in South Sudan, Islamic Relief, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local Communities, RedR UK, Tearfund, Tearfund Belgium, University of Leeds.


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