The humanitarian system has a proven ability to produce innovations, but it does so sporadically and often struggles to take good ideas to scale quickly. The system does not consistently invest in innovation, and humanitarian actors have not always been successful at actively managing innovation processes. Due to this, the number of landmark innovations that have been integrated into the system has been frustratingly low and understanding of best practices for humanitarian innovation remains limited.
Giving more thought to the activities of innovation and how to support them is particularly important given the range of crises for which humanitarian assistance is needed today. Emergencies are more protracted and complex, with more barriers to access to humanitarian assistance and an increasing range of needs (ALNAP, 2015). As the nature of emergencies changes, current paradigms of humanitarian action will be challenged and humanitarians will need to adapt.
For innovation to deliver on its promise, humanitarian managers need to know how to innovate effectively and efficiently for humanitarian purposes. Innovation is a journey humanitarians have travelled numerous times, but it is also one they can learn to travel better and with greater frequency. This report provides a roadmap for successful innovation in humanitarian contexts, based on a year-long study of fifteen projects funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF). It provides the first analysis of its kind of specific project-level innovation processes in the humanitarian system.