Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

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Panellists discussed questions of equity in the humanitarian research and innovation sector. Credit: Elrha

Elrha recently convened a hybrid event at the 2023 Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks, bringing together experts in the humanitarian sector to discuss key results from a multi-level global consultation with actors and funders as part of our Global Prioritisation Exercise (GPE) for humanitarian research and innovation system (HRI).

The event focused on a core set of findings that have emerged from the consultation which raise important questions around the equity of the current HRI landscape. Across all consultations we have identified a recognition of disparity in the attention and funding of research and innovation across different humanitarian contexts and populations. Those consulted identified the key drivers for this to be political interests, donor-related policies, media influence, and access constraints among others. As a result, the consultation presents a strong case that funding for HRI is not being targeted in a strategic way towards priority needs.

The consultation presents a strong case that funding for humanitarian research and innovation is not being targeted in a strategic way towards priority needs.

The panellists, including experts from USAID, Sphere, ODI, and Deakin University, shared their insights on how to address this issue and improve the performance of research and innovation in response to needs within the humanitarian system.

Here are our key takeaways and recommendations from this important discussion:

A need for a more inclusive and localised priority setting process

It is crucial to integrate, local actors, those affected by humanitarian crises, and diaspora actors into decision-making processes to ensure more sustainable and relevant research and innovation solutions. Local actors should be included in the development of calls for proposals from funders, as they have a better understanding of high-priority issues in their context. Institutional bias towards established humanitarian actors should also be addressed, and funding should be directed towards local innovators and researchers who can create the most long-term sustainable impact.

Re-examine the role of the UN Clusters

The role of the UN clusters needs to be reassessed within the humanitarian system. These groups could play a core leadership function for research and innovation in their sectors by undertaking gap analyses and contextualising their work, supporting, and directing R&I to respond to the most pressing needs and avoid neglecting ongoing crises and needs as new ones unfold. Clusters should also support innovation pathways by identifying innovation opportunities and demand within their areas of work.

Improve the quality of data on needs, priorities, funding coverage, and impact

There is a need to make tracking of funding and coverage of HRI activities and needs more reliable, cheap, and routine. This can improve accountability, enable coordination, and help the humanitarian system understand its progress and performance. Data on impact is necessary to enable funders to target their HRI resources to the most pressing humanitarian challenges.

Explore and establish private sector partnerships

Private sector partnerships would offer another finance stream for research and innovation in the humanitarian system, contributing to longer-term and more flexible funding for innovators and humanitarian responders. Private sector partnerships could also strengthen efforts to localise HRI by placing in-country actors and entrepreneurs in decision-making positions. Private sector actors can also contribute their knowledge and expertise to enhance the effectiveness of the humanitarian system.

Find out more

You can read a detailed summary of the discussion here and watch the event recording here.

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