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Keywords:

  • Sphere;
  • standards;
  • institutional change;
  • policy development

This paper tells the story of the initiation and first year of Sphere. It traces the history of how the project was started and its relationship to other major events of that time, principally the multi-donor Rwanda evaluation. The paper describes how the basic structure of the Sphere standards was agreed upon and discusses why some sectors were eventually left out of the standards. Tensions and public disagreements between the agencies that created Sphere are discussed, along with the manner in which the chosen working processes contributed to the successful publication of the Sphere standards. We show how the process of policy formulation, which led up to the publication of the first edition of the Sphere standards, was as dependent upon the ability of the project team to work opportunistically as it was upon the application of agency principles. Finally the paper reflects upon the success of Sphere and lessons that can be learned from this early Sphere process.