REGISTER NOW: Accidental and intentional humanitarian innovation: valuing what’s there. A CDAC Network event on 7 May 2019, London

Source: Fri, 5 Apr 2019 12:08 PM
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Have we overcomplicated humanitarian innovation? Are we too quick to overlook and dismiss localised solutions and coping mechanisms? How can innovation meet the rapidly evolving demands of a response from a local leadership perspective?

Join us on 7 May 2019 in London as we bring together humanitarian innovators, business leaders and civil society pioneers to discuss the future of humanitarian innovation and how it can and should be an opportunity to promote community-led action.

Venue: Thomson Reuters Foundation
Address: 30 S Colonnade, Canary Wharf, London E14 5EP
Registration: 13.30hrs, 7 MAY 2019

Register now (deadline for registration CoB  Friday May 3): 

Read the background briefing paper

Please note that if you are a CDAC Network member and have already registered for the Annual General Assembly, you do not need to register here. Any questions, email 


Background: Humanitarian innovation, a growing area of practice, is effecting rapid change in the design and delivery of services and throwing up new challenges and risks in the ways people affected by disasters interact with aid providers. A stronger focus on involving the end user is giving rise to more collective, equitable and collaborative approaches to aid across disciplines. 

However, the power to decide what constitutes innovation ultimately rests with the funder (NGO, UN, Government, other) and can be out of step or at odds with what is within reach of people living in disaster situations. Often defined on a vertical scale from top-down to bottom-up, humanitarian innovation is an area where the same hierarchical systems are taking root, placing restrictions on the leadership, input and expertise of people affected by disaster. This is reinforcing disconnection and hampering global commitments to increase people’s participation in the aid they receive.

In recent years, new partnerships formed between diverse actors are driving more adaptive responses to humanitarian crises. But, with strong emphasis on solution or product, spinoff innovations in systems and behaviour change or smaller, localised innovations get overlooked. Valuable insight into creating joined-up, longer-term localised approaches to tackling complex humanitarian crises and recurring disasters is going to waste.

From a communication and community engagement perspective, innovation is an inherent way of working. It is necessary to understand and capture innovation on a sliding scale as constantly moving between the intentional and the accidental. It is about building strong connections within local contexts and valuing and working alongside people there and what is already in place

14.00hrs Opening by event facilitator: Laura Walker-McDonald, Senior Director of Insights and Impact, Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and CDAC board trustee

14.05 – 14.20hrs Keynote address: Antonio Zappulla, CEO Thomson Reuters Foundation

14.20 – 15.45hrs Session 1: Humanitarian technology: Prioritising the human in human-centred design
Increasingly, technology is used to strengthen people’s ability to act before disaster strikes, put in place measures to reduce harm and develop longer-term solutions in high-risk environments. People’s ability to connect, communicate and share information in disasters is central to their survival. But with a growing emphasis on solutions, the context, experience and needs of the end user are still often neglected. Clear communication and continual dialogue with the user is fundamental to the sustainability of technology in humanitarian contexts. So what needs to be in place to ensure technology is considered through the lens of the user? What needs to happen before that end user is seen as a critical partner for the development of technology?

Moderator: Christina Bennett, Head of Programmes, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI
Abhik Sen, Head of Innovation, Commonwealth Secretariat
Bernhard Kowatsch, Head of the Innovation Accelerator, World Food Programme (WFP)
Norwegian Humanitarian Innovation Platform, Ole Kristoffer Bjelland, Innovation Coordinator, Norwegian Red Cross  

15.45 – 16.00 Private Sector Spotlight: Inmarsat (Case study: Reducing the impact of natural disasters by using satellite communications in the Philippines, Funded by the UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme).

16.00 – 17.20 Session 2: Innovation takes time, people in disasters can’t wait: backing the user-innovator
Complex challenges do not require complex solutions. Innovation, to be relevant and sustainable, needs to be rooted in the local context. The end user, whose knowledge, expertise and perspectives are vital to making aid more targeted and effective, is all too frequently missing in the innovation process. How can we ensure the end user’s input is valued? How do we afford the user innovator greater authority in humanitarian action?

Moderator: Marina Skuric Prodanovic, Chief, System-wide Approaches and Practices Section at the Coordination Division, UNOCHA.
Sandra van Edig, Country Manager Lebanon, Deutsche Welle Akademie, ‘Creating Campji: Human-Centered Design with Youth in Shatila’
Nick van Praag, Executive Director, Ground Truth Solutions, ‘Process as innovation: building the case for accountability to affected people’.
Inter-Agency Initiative (name TBC). The Humanitarian Education Accelerator, a joint DFID, UNICEF and UNHCR project to help understand how to transform good pilot projects into scalable educational initiatives for refugees and displaced communities worldwide.

17.20-17.30 Closing note

17.35 – 18.30 Reception

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of the CDAC Network. For more information see our Acceptable Use Policy.

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The CDAC Network is a growing platform of more than 30 humanitarian, media development, social innovation, technology, and telecommunication organisations, dedicated to saving lives and making aid more effective through communication, information exchange and community engagement.

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