What We Do Innovation

Innovation is an inevitable force driving progress, helping humanitarians, development professionals and those affected by disaster respond and adapt to increasingly volatile environments and growing threats.

We’re looking to build a more inclusive future and involve people in crisis in the design and delivery of supportive services and systems that see people gain greater control over their lives.

We're seeking to tip the balance and create supportive environments for disaster-affected people to access and participate in humanitarian technology and innovation funds or programmes and ensure people have a say in aid-related decisions and can hold aid providers to account.

We want to put innovation to work better for people affected by humanitarian crises and those accessing assistance and to do this we think their participation is key to identify priorities areas that need tackling and have a say in the solution. We've seen great success in this approach with the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) innovation window we co-led with Start Network funded by UK Aid.  

This two-year programme saw four innovation labs spring into operation among underserved communities at risk of or facing recurrent and protracted crises such as drought, typhoon, flooding and conflict.  The labs supported local, scalable solutions to protect communities living in disaster-prone environments and advance innovation in the sector by involving people in crisis at all stages of the process.

Each lab followed a human- or user-centred design approach. Over 90 groups or individuals progressed through a structured curriculum, accessing specialist expertise in business development, social entrepreneurship and the sectors and markets they were looking to enter. They were afforded opportunities to present to potential future investors or partners. By the end of the programme more than 40% of innovators had secured future support and were up and running or market ready. 

The teams were creative in overcoming challenges in areas such as safeguarding as innovators were invariably not trained humanitarians and required extensive training and tools, which were developed with experts Safe Edge and creating tools and guidance for people to participate in an innovation process and advance their ideas or initiatives, particularly people living and working in crisis environments.

Download and share our free innovation tools and guidance!  

Identifying viable business models in crisis environments in Arabic, Bengali, English and French

Support models for humanitarian innovation 

Community-centred design and humanitarian innovation in Arabic and English

Download safeguarding training tools for people new to humanitarian work

Introducing DEPP Innovation Labs...

Udhvabani, Bangladesh: The lab is focused on examining and improving the built environment in areas most vulnerable to disasters in Bangladesh, particularly Korail - a densely populated, informal settlement area of Dhaka. The lab prioritises and supports local solutions and community leadership. 

Mahali, Jordan: Led by International Rescue Committee’s Airbel Center in Jordan,  Mahali is a community-driven innovation lab focused on fostering community engagement in identifying and solving challenges posed by long-term displacement and supporting people to take forward viable and scalable solutions that benefit refugees and host communities. 

Maarifa Kona, Kenya: Adeso, iHub and Mastercard have created two community spaces in the rural counties of Marsabit and Garissa in northeast Kenya socommunities can explore and develop better innovative mechanisms to build resilience and preparedness in the face of drought. 

TUKLAS, Philippines: The lab seeks to discover and support home-grown solutions to disaster risk reduction and management. It is managed by a consortium of INGOs (Plan, CARE, Action Against Hunger and the Citizens' Disaster Response Center) that have a strong connections with communities across the country. 

CDAC Network puts people's information needs first and creates two-way communication channels between aid providers and affected populations so we can transform humanitarian assistance and reduce suffering collectively. 

Contact: Hannah Murphy, Communication and Community Engagement Advisor, Innovation and Technology Programmes

What they desperately needed was access to local information in a language they understood – could they go home? Where were the local services and who were all these foreigners who said they were coming to help?
Mark Frohardt, Executive Director of Internews Center for Innovation and Learning
I can’t see, so when my radio was destroyed in the cyclone, I felt very isolated. Now that I have a radio, I feel like I can see!
A blind monk in Burma who received a radio after Cyclone Nargis