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

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Thanks to support from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, we have started building standards for sharing data among the groups involved in crisis response. The Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) initiative is a year-long effort with three major goals:

  • develop an initial set of simple standards for humanitarian data;
  • pilot those standards in three countries (Colombia, Kenya, and Yemen); and
  • set up a means for sustaining that work beyond 2014.

Data standards matter: they allow information to flow to different destinations (e.g. reports, databases, web sites) with less time wasted on manual retyping or copy/pasting; they make it easier to form a timely and accurate big picture of what’s happening during a crisis, with fewer cases of omission or double counting; and they allow the humanitarian community to share processes and software tools.

More-detailed background information about HXL and our approach is available in the document Developing humanitarian data standards: an introduction and plan for 2014.

Working Group

A core working group leads the HXL effort, with representation from the ICT4Peace Foundation, the International Council of Volunteer Agencies, the International Organization for Migration, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Save the Children, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNICEF, USAID, the World Bank, and the World Food Programme.

The working group is focussing on two types of data during 2014: Humanitarian Profile (how many people have been hurt or displaced by a crisis), and 3W (who is doing what where).  Several types of supporting data will also be required, particularly geographical data.

Invitation to participate

We are discussing the standards work on a public mailing list, sends e-mail), and we invite everyone interested to join and participate.  You can subscribe by sending an email message to sends e-mail), or by visiting the group’s main page at!forum/hxlproject (where you can find archives of past discussions). We will also post updates to this blog every month over 2014.

A standard can succeed only if it is technically sound and addresses the real-world needs and abilities of the people who will benefit from it.  We invite you to participate and make your voice part of the HXL conversation, wherever you live, and whatever your skills and experience.

The HXL team

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