Community-rooted innovation labs launched in four countries to prepare for disasters

Source: Wed, 8 Nov 2017 10:57 AM
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The last of four new innovation labs that seek to help local communities find fresh ways to prepare for disasters has been launched in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The purpose of this lab and those in Jordan, Kenya and the Philippines is to help find and grow scalable solutions for disaster emergency preparedness around the world, and to advance the humanitarian innovation sector by redefining and demonstrating how to undertake innovation processes in collaboration with affected communities.

The four countries were selected due to their vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters ranging from floods, typhoons, drought, earthquakes and armed conflict. These disasters cost lives and cause wide displacement and economic loss every year.

Innovations produced by the labs could range from developing better building materials that are more resistant to flooding or earthquakes or easier to transport when reconstruction is needed, to new communications systems for communities to use in a crisis. New technology might be used to improve planning and crisis response systems within an affected country.

DEPP Innovation Programme Manager Neil Townsend said: “This programme is truly innovative. It is a real chance to support locally-driven change within the humanitarian system and to channel meaningful support to the people most affected by disasters. The labs will provide the mechanism to support lots of new projects across several countries, some of which will have the potential to take to scale and lead to system-wide change. We are excited to work with the organisations selected to manage the labs as they have close connections with communities affected by disasters, and are able to harness their creativity, ideas and solutions.”

The innovation labs are part of a £10 million programme funded by DFID through UK Aid, managed by the CDAC and Start networks and ending in March 2019.


The Safer Communities Innovation Lab in Bangladesh to improve impact on built environment

The Bangladesh lab will examine and improve the direct impact of the built environment on emergencies, so important in communities facing natural disasters, and seeks to support ideas that build safer communities. The Bangladesh lab works in the country's largest slum of Korail and is led by the Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, a community hospital and medical college, with a consortium of partners[i]. The local community is expected to take the lead in implementing the ideas. The lab was launched on 17 October 2017.

Dhaka Community Hospital Trust chairman Prof. Dr. Quazi Quamuruzzaman said: “The lab will run out of a community that is globally known for its vulnerability. This is a completely new idea in disaster preparedness and risk reduction in South Asia. We believe that [the region] has immense capacities, which need to be tapped into in an organised way, recognised, and developed. We hope these scouted innovations will not only help the local community but will also be replicable and scalable to solve similar problems elsewhere.”


The TUKLAS Lab in the Philippines

The Philippines TUKLAS Lab will identify innovative ideas and entrepreneurs across the country, to nurture, test and scale promising innovations.  Managed by Plan International, the TUKLAS consortium[ii] will establish four regional labs in the most disaster affected areas, keeping the priorities of the community at their core and encouraging ideas that meet the needs of vulnerable groups. The lab will give small grants to proposals selected in collaboration with community members. Proposals can be submitted now until the 30 November 2017.

Plan International Philippines country director Dennis O’Brien said: “The Start Network and DFID should be commended for investing in community-level innovations for disaster preparedness. Disasters have become more frequent and severe, and it is the poor Filipino communities that bear the brunt. Communities here also always the first responders. Making sure that the innovative ideas come from these communities is very relevant and will make them better able to prepare for and respond to disasters.”


AIM Innovation Labs in Kenya

Adeso, iHub and Mastercard Labs are partnering in Kenya to strengthen rural communities’ resilience to recurring drought – to enable them to prepare, respond and recover. The AIM consortium will use a human-centred approach to innovation by working hand in hand with local communities in the counties of Marsabit and Garissa. These labs will improve links between local stakeholders and access to digital financial services.

Adeso Kenya country director Mohamed Ali Sharif said: “We’re very excited to be working with disaster-prone communities in Kenya using a different approach on how they can better prepare for disasters. Often innovators in these communities have great ideas on how to deal with their community’s issues and may have even tried to test these ideas out but may not have the right space or particular resources to sustain or realize these ideas in the way they intended. We hope that these innovation labs will give these innovators the space and added resources to contribute to their community resilience.”


Mahali Lab in Jordan

Mahali Lab, run by International Rescue Committee[iii], will identify and solve challenges posed by long-term displacement of people, caused primarily by the war in Syria. A series of “design challenges” will be launched to enable communities to propose potential solutions to problems faced by vulnerable communities throughout Jordan.  The theme of each challenge will be determined through consultation with Syrian refugees, leaders within host communities, and community-based organisations.  A community review board will select a small number of projects to receive specialised support to fully develop their solutions. The IRC will invest in and support the most promising projects.

International Rescue Committee community innovation coordinator Lillie Rosen said: “The most exciting thing about this initiative is seeing people from the community come together and realise that they have the power to be active problem solvers and that we’re able to support them. We are creating a process and a platform that reflects their needs. For many, this is the first time they have this kind of space.”


For further information

Bangladesh Lab: Md. Golam Mostofa, Director, Project & Research, Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, Tel: +88-02- 9351190-1, +88-02- 8314887

Philippines Lab: Alessandra D’Almo – Media and Communications Officer, Plan International UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 3217 0276

Kenya Lab: Mohamed Ali Sharief, Country Director, Adeso, +254 704828655

Jordan Lab: Eva Kaplan, Regional Innovation Director, International Rescue Committee,

Innovation Programme:

Neil Townsend, Innovation Manager, Start Network, Tel: +44 (0) 20 3763 1082

Meg Sattler, Innovations Advisor / Community Engagement, CDAC Network



[i] Consortium partners in Bangladesh include SEEDS Technical Services; University of New South Wales; Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED); and the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network, a civil society network of 56 national NGOs from across the Asian region.

[ii] The TUKLAS Labs (tuklas means “discover” in Tagalog and the acronym TUKLAS Tungo sa Kahandaan ng Pilipinas means “Towards Preparedness in the Philippines”). Consortium partners in this lab include Citizens’ Disaster Response Center, Action Against Hunger and Care. More information is on the TUKLAS Facebook page.

[iii] The Mahali Lab is managed by the Airbel Center, the innovation unit at the IRC. More information is on and Medium.

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