The Humanitarian Genome (HG): Generating Organizational Wisdom

Organisation: University of Groningen

Partners: Emergency Capacity Building Project (ECB), Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD)

Location: Netherlands

Type of grant: Core – diffusion

Status: Completed

  • Binary code on a surface of a planet


The HG contains a search engine that rapidly processes and analyzes existing aid experiences so that valid context specific information can be extracted easily.The HG thus bridges the gap between available evaluative data and its intended users. It enhances the use of evaluative data and extends monitoring options for program performance, impacts and processes. The HG is a social area that dynamically learns: it offers a community of practice, where users can share info, regulate the system’s content and control their level of interaction with the HG. In this way, the HG helps to strengthen emergency responses through better-utilized knowledge when managing and designing aid projects, researching performance or impact, or enhancing accountability.

Challenge(s) addressed:

Main challenge addressed:

Humanitarian M&E data is relentlessly underutilized

Specifically addressing the following challenges:

  • Sheer amount of data – the Humanitarian Genome can contain an unlimited amount of information both formal and informal
  • The difficulties with processing and extracting valid information – built upon rigorously tested methods, the Humanitarian Genome uses both computerised as well as human coding processes as well as its expert users participation to sort its data making it reliable and valid
  • The constant challenge with making relevant info accessible – users may access the Humanitarian Genome at any given moment; retrieve needed and valid information within seconds as well as exchange and share knowledge.

Innovation Factor:

None of the existing tools provides the humanitarian sector quickly with synthesized evaluative information that is tailored to specific search questions and aid contexts. The HG thus goes beyond literal word searches or word counts, complements and combines functions of existing tools, and offers unique capacities for information synthesis and analysis.

The HG solution will dramatically improve cost effectiveness compared to existing practices. ECB representatives estimated that analysing 10 reports for a Meta review takes 30 days of full time work for data collection, selection, judging relevance and final analysis. The HG will facilitate a much wider, reliable and tailor made search producing relevant data within seconds, leaving the user time to concentrate on the final analysis. It is estimated that this reduces time and costs by 60%.

Added Value:

We estimate to minimally reach 15% of total humanitarian staff in 10 years (41,100). The HG aims to reach about 25% of these 41,100 in 3 years and half of this target group in 5 years. We estimate each direct beneficiary to affect minimally 100 aid recipients, amounting to over 4 million indirect beneficiaries.

Innovation Phases Description: Diffusion

Key Deliverables / Impact:

The HG’s direct impact is in its outputs, in the form of brief extracts, retrieved from the HG data, tailored to the wishes of our direct beneficiaries. The HG thus will lead to enhanced use of data plus better and more options to monitor program performance, impacts and processes in the sector. As such, the HG will contribute to improved evidence-based programming.

Indirectly, the HG’s social impact is to assist in making future humanitarian interventions more efficient, effective and impactful by providing key lessons about successful shelter structures, ways to protect vulnerable populations, livelihood recovery strategies, etc. In this way, the HG can accelerate learning and boost the sector’s accountability and transparency. Finally, the academic, statistical and ICT work behind the HG contributes to innovative advancement.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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