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

A global organisation that finds solutions to complex humanitarian problems through research and innovation..
Our purpose is clear: we work in partnership with a global community of humanitarian actors, researchers and innovators to improve the quality of humanitarian action and deliver better outcomes for people affected by crises.
We empower the humanitarian community. Find out how we can support you...


  • Current data for planning and decision support is hard to find during a crisis.
  • Data becomes fragmented and isolated in individual partners’ systems.
  • Prior attempts that focused on building centralised databases or standardised forms have had limited success.


This is primarily a process innovation for relief coordination and support services, involving a new, decentralised, consensus-based approach for collecting and sharing data across a network of humanitarian partners.

Innovation Phases Description:

  • Form a working group to lead the standards effort, with broader outreach to all members of the humanitarian community through mailing lists and other collaboration channels.
  • Deploy a technical team to prototype and implement the agreed standards and technical infrastructure in up to two small-scale field pilots.
  • Coordinate these groups (working group, technical team and broader community) as they work iteratively towards a consensus version 1.0 release of the HXL standards and recommendations.


  • Make better data available to support crisis-response planning and action.
  • Improve efficiency by reducing the manual work of collecting crisis data.
  • Allow each organisation to remain a custodian of its own data.
  • Build a long-lasting open data ecosystem that bridges the disaster-management and development cycles.
  • Open up humanitarian data to a wider group of actors, tapping into the potential of the crowd to support humanitarian response.

Project Resources

Case Study Information Management, Communication & Technology, Innovation Management

Standardising humanitarian data for a better response: The Humanitarian eXchange Language

Report Information Management, Communication & Technology

Final Report: Humanitarian Exchange Language

Latest Updates

The Humanitarian Exchange Language Reaches Alpha

20 Oct 2004

The HXL Working Group is proud to announce the alpha release of theHumanitarian Exchange Language (HXL). Inspired by social-media hashtags, HXL is a simple standard that adds hashtags to spreadsheet headers to make it easier to share and compare humanitarian data.


Introducing HXL hashtags for humanitarian data

20 Aug 2014

The members of the HXL Working Group have focused on stripping layer after layer of complexity from the proposed Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) standard, until we finally asked ourselves whether labelling information in shared data could be as simple as tagging topics is in social media posts.


Starting Work on the Humanitarian Exchange Language Initiative

10 Mar 2014

Thanks to support from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, we have started building standards for sharing data among the groups involved in crisis response.


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