Humanitarian innovation theories, processes, and structures have been developed in pockets throughout the sector. This work rarely involves those who understand the needs of people affected by crises, and who are developing, testing and managing innovation on the ground. Consequently, many humanitarian responders lack the capacity or skills to manage innovation effectively and responsibly.
Conducting research in humanitarian contexts can be challenging because of potential volatility and insecurity. Securing ethical approval is critical, and standard research methodologies may need to be adapted to fit the context.
“The sector still lacks granular, practice-based insights on what works, what doesn’t, and why, in terms of how innovation is carried out in practice” - Literature Review informing the Humanitarian Innovation Guide.
Humanitarian researchers and responders are generally not equipped with the skills to advocate for the uptake of their findings with influencers and decision-makers.
Our goal is for research and innovation findings to inform humanitarian policy and practice, via clear pathways to impact and scale.
Our experience, both as the first humanitarian innovation fund (our HIF programme) and the only mechanism solely funding public health research in humanitarian crises (our R2HC programme), has shown that innovating and researching in humanitarian settings requires particular skillsets and responsible approaches.
We support research and innovation teams in identifying who they want their findings to influence, and helping them develop strategic engagement plans. Once their studies and projects are complete, we work together to make sure the findings are shared with the right people – those looking for evidence of the most effective and appropriate interventions, for example.
We have developed a bank of innovation management tools and expertise to inform and guide the humanitarian community. Our Humanitarian Innovation Guide, produced in 2018, is the first-ever guide to practical methods, tools and approaches for the effective, ethical and responsible management of humanitarian innovation. Between its launch in June 2018 and December 2018, it had over 2,000 users viewing over 13,000 pages.
Drawing on the Humanitarian Innovation Guide’s content, we’ve delivered capacity building workshops on innovation management to UN agency staff, local and national non-governmental organisations, government departments and private sector actors in Lebanon, Nepal and the Philippines. These were run in partnership with UNHCR Innovation Service, World Vision’s Nepal Innovation Lab and the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network (ADRRN) respectively.
“I have used the same and similar tools in the industry but not in the humanitarian context. It was great to apply these tools to a specific project and adapt my previous knowledge to a sector that I am new to.”
Brynmor John, Field Ready. Nepal workshop.
Our Research Ethics Tool stimulates discussion about ethical issues that might arise when conducting health research in humanitarian crises. It encourages researchers at design, implementation and post-research stages to identify, reflect on and plan for the impact their studies may have.
We began developing our Research Impact Toolkit (RIT) in 2018 in response to requests from grantees for additional support on how to deliver stronger impact through their research. We commissioned ODI to adapt their ROMA tool into a RIT specifically targeting our R2HC humanitarian health research partnerships. The RIT provides grantees with a strategic approach to research impact planning and has enabled us to further develop and strengthen our own approach to advancing the global public health evidence base. We’ll be delivering workshops with our grantees in 2019 to roll out this tool.
"Research and innovation should always be undertaken within a responsible and ethical framework." - our guiding principle #3
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