The State of the Art
Humanitarians have used the term “innovation” to refer to the role of technology, products and processes from other sectors, new forms of partnership, and the use of the ideas and coping capacities of crisis-affected people. However, as with many emerging ideas, use of the term in the humanitarian system has lacked conceptual clarity, leading to misuse, overuse, and the risk that it may become hollow rhetoric. A better understanding of the potential and purpose of the innovation cycle and an innovation mindset can bring great benefits to the humanitarian system. This paper sets out to develop a common language and framework as a basis for dialogue, debate, and collaboration. The purpose is not to provide a definitive or comprehensive account but to offer ideas and examples to inspire further discussion. Each section of the paper highlights an aspect of the concept: 1) the rise of humanitarian innovation and the innovation ecosystem; 2) the unique challenges of humanitarian innovation; 3) the innovation cycle in practice; 4) the role of crisis-affected people; and 5) advancing the debate.
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