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.
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This learning paper, the third in our Scaling Series, outlines six practical tactics for scaling innovations through adoption by other organisations.

Much research has focused on understanding the challenges to scale innovations in the humanitarian sector. Our Scaling Series of learning papers focuses on helping innovators, the innovation ecosystem, and the wider humanitarian sector to take practical steps to overcome these challenges and increase the frequency of innovations transitioning from proof-of-concept pilots to sustained adoption in humanitarian response. 

The purpose of this paper is to provide a playbook of tactics for innovators who are aiming to scale through enabling other organisations to adopt their innovations. It may also be useful for innovators seeking to scale their innovation to other teams, offices and locations within their organisation that have not been involved in developing or testing the innovation. 

The paper draws on the experiences of teams behind ten innovations, and from existing literature. The innovations are selected from a wide range of sectors, types of organisations (private sector, national non-governmental organisations, humanitarian organisations, start-ups) and geographic reach (national or international).  

The ten innovations involve a range of complexity from the perspective of adoption (level of adaptation required, how easily the innovation fits within the existing system, scope of investment required), and have different degrees of technological focus such as handwashing stations, training toolkits, and app-based solutions). 

“By laying out the tactics identified through our research, we hope to help innovation teams, and the organisations that support them, to prioritise activities that will help to drive adoption and ultimately improve humanitarian outcomes.”

The paper summarises six tactics used across the ten case studies: 

Tactic 1: Determine your long-term role
The role your team plays in delivering an innovation is the foundation for the innovation’s future implementation and business model.  

Tactic 2: Build and use your network
Understand your key actors, their relationships, and how your networks function. 

Tactic 3: Build on what already exists
Sustainable foundations for adoption can be found by embedding your innovation in national or international systems. 

Tactic 4: Make it easy to integrate
Make your innovation as easy as possible for teams to adopt into their existing practices. 

Tactic 5: Work with the entire adopter
Don’t just work with one team, unit, function or department. 

Tactic 6: Move beyond innovation grants
Transitioning to mainstream adoption makes innovation funds harder to secure – establishing a diversified business model is essential. 

The paper also shares a deeper examination of how five of our case study innovations applied different combinations of these tactics to drive uptake of their innovations: Wash’Em, Start Ready, RedRose, DMS-Himalaya, and Mum’s Magic Hands. 

This learning paper was prepared by Abi Taylor, HIF Innovation Manager and Ruth Salmon, HIF Senior Innovation Manager. 

Read more about our Scaling Series

Humanitarian procurement: challenges and opportunities in the adoption of WASH production innovations 

This paper focuses on the demand side for product innovations and the connection between supply and demand, namely procurement. It is based on a review of humanitarian agencies’ catalogues, databases and process documents, supplemented by 31 interviews with humanitarian WASH practitioners, innovators, third party suppliers and manufacturers. 

Read more about this paper.

Impact evidence and beyond: Using evidence to drive adoption of humanitarian innovations 

Innovation literature and practice show time and time again that it is difficult to scale innovations. Even when an innovation is demonstrably impactful, better than the existing solution and good value for money, it does not automatically get adopted or used in mainstream humanitarian programming. This learning paper provides guidance to humanitarian innovators on how to use evidence to enable and drive adoption of innovation. 

Read more about this paper.

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