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Credit: ALNAP

Launched on 7 September, the 2022 edition of the State of the Humanitarian System (SOHS) report, an independent study, compiles the most recent statistics on the scale, scope, and performance of the humanitarian system. For the first time, the SOHS report includes a section on humanitarian innovation highlighting how innovation has contributed to the humanitarian system performance. This is a great step in recognising where innovation has improved humanitarian outcomes for communities affected by crisis.

Research and innovation are our greatest assets

At a time when global challenges and humanitarian crises are growing rapidly, there is an urgent need for the humanitarian system to be more agile and adaptable to respond to crises and new challenges as they emerge. According to the report, the global figures of people in need (including humanitarian response plans, flash appeals and other UN coordinated appeals) rose by over 87% between 2018 and 2021, and peaked in 2020. In this context, research and innovation are great assets to leverage to understand the needs of the humanitarian system and propose efficient responses to its challenges.

Credit ALNAP

Sectors that consistently invest in research and innovation are more productive and adaptive than those that do not. Over recent years, the humanitarian innovation architecture has rapidly evolved. The SOHS report highlights a range of initiatives that have emerged to support and fund humanitarian innovation, such as the launch of several innovation funds, the establishment of ‘humanitarian to humanitarian’ (H2H) Network and many regional and national innovation hubs.

There has been a clear and significant increase in attention and activity on innovation in the humanitarian system. However, despite a growing range of funding mechanisms and actors, the overarching ecosystem for innovation remains underdeveloped. The SOHS report demonstrates the need for providing an ecosystem of support for innovation, not only by focusing on funding, but also by enabling partnerships, improving coordination, and developing new joined-up approaches to support innovators.

Understanding the value of investment in research and innovation

With the lack of solid evidence about the value for money, return on investment, and most importantly, the impact of humanitarian innovation spending on humanitarian outcomes, it is difficult for donors and actors to make the case for allocating more resources and longer-term funding to strengthen the role of innovation in supporting the humanitarian response.

Elrha’s Global Prioritisation Exercise (GPE), through its forthcoming Global Mapping Report, is responding to many of these challenges by increasing our knowledge about the value of humanitarian research and innovation investment. It is also creating better visibility for the various research and innovation actors, activities, and investments in the humanitarian system. This knowledge is vital to guide our future investment strategies and decision-making process in the humanitarian research and innovation ecosystem.

Now more than ever, the humanitarian system needs to become more agile, coordinated, and strategic in the way it invests in innovation to help achieve its ultimate objective of improving the way it identifies, mitigates, and responds to crises and serves populations in need.


Read the full SOHS report.

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