Strengthening the humanitarian innovation ecosystem: Final report
Ben Ramalingam, Howard Rush, John Bessant, Nick Marshall, Bill Gray, Kurt Hoffman, Simon Bayley, Ian Gray and Kim Warren May 2015
This report comes at a time when the international humanitarian community is facing unprecedented challenges that are growing in scale, scope and complexity. There is a growing awareness of the need for transformational change in what humanitarian actors do and how they do it, to maintain relevance, reputation and impact. This report focuses on the new and growing efforts to achieve such change through humanitarian innovation. Wherever it happens, innovation is about creating value through the application of new ideas. But it seldom occurs purely by chance. The overarching aim of this report is to analyse and assess the ecosystem of actors and factors shaping innovation within the humanitarian sector. The objective was to understand and recommend how best to strengthen and improve the humanitarian innovation ecosystem, so that it might make the best possible contribution to overall humanitarian effectiveness.
Innovation management, innovation ecosystems and humanitarian innovation: Literature review John Bessant, Ben Ramalingam, Howard Rush, Nick Marshall, Kurt Hoffman and Bill Gray May 2014
There is a very extensive literature on innovation management with the earliest papers dating back to around 1910. Given our focus on ecosystem approaches to innovation, the strategy we have taken in this literature review is to move from some basic concepts on innovation management to an understanding of current best practice and then on to new approaches that are emerging in the context of a changing technological and market landscape. The review draws out potential lessons and challenges for the Humanitarian Aid sector drawn from the mainstream literature around innovation management, and particularly the potential for novel approaches that focus on systemic concepts. The challenges identified include the development of a core capacity, the need for ambidexterity, the role of entrepreneurs, the potential for user-led and open innovation, as well as the need to balance risk, reward and reliability within the incentives systems and structures embedded in the sector.
Components of the humanitarian innovation ecosystem: Interview summary Howard Rush, Nick Marshall, Kurt Hoffman, Bill Gray, Ben Ramalingam, and John Bessant June 2014
In this report we generate a qualitative view from an informed sample of individuals who had expert knowledge of the role and nature of innovation and innovation management within the humanitarian aid sector. It was designed to help develop and test the evolving systems framework that will be used in the five in-depth case studies (see below) which examine the ecosystem in specific sub-sectors of the humanitarian innovation ecosystem.
Cash-based Programming (CBP) in the food assistance sector John Bessant May 2015
The purpose of this case study is to explore the pattern of innovation in the food supply and distribution area (ie. not concerned with nutrition). The past decade has seen a major expansion of the cash-based approach for, a move from the fringes to mainstream programmes and an accumulation of experience around issues of how to deploy such innovations at scale. There has also been extensive learning about the very different set of resources (especially skills and capabilities) and the parallel infrastructures needed to operate what is essentially a financial system. Cash programming is now accepted as one of the powerful tools in the portfolio available to humanitarian agencies and policies and procedures are now in place to enable a growing proportion of funding to be channelled in this way. It is also serving as a template for other kinds of humanitarian assistance – for example in shelter, WASH and healthcare.
Shelter Bill Gray and Simon Bayley May 2015
The study presents two overarching and interrelated findings relating to the predominant focus of innovation in contemporary humanitarian shelter. Firstly, that innovation in shelter is today more likely to be concerned with improvements in process than it is about the introduction of new products. And secondly that, because of urbanisation and the increasingly spatial nature of disaster response and recovery, innovation in shelter is increasingly focused more on facilitation than with direct action. This is because, although the humanitarian endeavour’s primary concern is the saving of lives, quality humanitarian shelter programming as presently understood has explicit links to issues such as long-term post-disaster developmental needs and disaster-proofing as well as the interaction of those affected by displacement with their communities, public services and the built environment.
Emergency Disease Responses Ben Ramalingam May 2015
This study seeks to analyse and explain how innovation works in emergency communicable disease responses. It looks at innovations across the range of activities involved in communicable disease responses in emergencies, and seeks to better understand the innovation ecosystem by reviewing both positive examples, where innovations have emerged and been successful, and more challenging examples, where innovations have not happened, or where they have not been successful. By looking across such contrasting examples, the study aims for a rounded picture of innovation in emergency disease responses, highlighting both the strengths and the weaknesses in the system. There have been some notable successes, amongst them the development of new diagnostics for TB, or new approaches to prevention, for disease surveillance, and treatment and management. There have been successful innovations within crisis responses, such as the response to polio outbreaks in Syria. But there are also notable failures including ineffective utilisation of innovations in rapid responses such as Ebola in West Africa, and cholera in Haiti.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Howard Rush and Nick Marshall May 2015
Overall the WASH innovation ecosystem does function in a reasonably coherent way, allowing for the identification of needs to be translated into viable innovations through the targeted allocation of resources. However, there is a tendency for the system to encourage incremental rather than more radical innovations. While such innovation is likely to continue to make an important contribution to continually improving the WASH humanitarian response, it may not be sufficient to meet the increasing demands on the sector from the changing type, intensity, and frequency of disasters. There are also a number of significant barriers to innovation, especially in moving potential innovations into widespread use.
Finance Ian Gray and Kurt Hoffman May 2015
Funding for humanitarian response is lagging behind the rising needs. The current ways of working are becoming outmoded in many ways, adding further strain to the system. This case study examines how products, processes, services and organisations that are seeking to make positive changes are being funded and supported.
In the past five years there has been a growing movement of support for innovation within the sector. In a few donors and a number of implementing agencies and private sector organisations, humanitarian innovation funds have been developed, jobs, teams and labs created, and innovations piloted. These steps have been small, when set against the size of the system, but they have been significant. These initial steps need to be followed with a second wave of financial and non-financial support if the current humanitarian system is to be able to respond to the increasing number of lives and livelihoods that will be impacted by disasters in the coming years and decades.