Skip to content
The Innovation Process

Ethics for Humanitarian Innovation

An image of the cover pages of the background paper, case studies, and toolkit

Ethics for Humanitarian Innovation is a resource designed to help organisations, teams and individuals manage innovation journeys responsibly and successfully.

By working through the tools and real-world case studies, anyone looking to innovate in the humanitarian sector can ensure their values and principles are at the heart of their journey.  The Background Paper serves as a guide to the methodology and evidence that informed the Ethics for Humanitarian Innovation Toolkit design and development.

Ethics for Humanitarian Innovation is not a substitute for a robust ethical strategy or ethical approval process — nor is it a risk management tool. It is an evolving resource to promote values-centric humanitarian innovation. It helps teams embody project and/or organisational values, and embed ethical considerations into the development and implementation of their innovations.

You can use it to:

  • Become more aware of the ethical challenges you may face.
  • Design your project in a way that is more likely to attract ethical approval.
  • Keep ethics front-of-mind during project delivery.
  • Respond to ethical challenges and learn from your experiences.

Resource components

Background paper

Case studies



This project was initiated by Elrha and undertaken by members of the Humanitarian Health Ethics Research Group. The background paper, case studies and toolkit represent the work of an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners with real-world experience of humanitarian practice and humanitarian innovation, including:

Gautham Krishnaraj, PhD candidate, McMaster University (Background paper lead author)
Matthew Hunt, PT PhD, Associate Professor, School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, McGill University
Lisa Schwartz, PhD, Professor, Health Research Methods, Evidence & Impact, McMaster University
Dónal O’Mathúna, PhD, Associate Professor, Ohio State University and Dublin City University (Case studies lead author)
John Pringle, RN PhD, Assistant Professor, Ingram School of Nursing, McGill University
Ali Okhowat, MD, Co-Lead, WHO Innovation Hub
Lydia Kapiriri, MBChB PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Health, McMaster University
Lilia Brahimi, BSc, Intern, Institute of Health and Social Policy, McGill University
Rachel Yantzi, RN, PhD candidate, McMaster University

The background paper, case studies and toolkit were also informed by the thoughtful contributions and insights from the HIF team and HIF-funded innovators. With special thanks to Anna Skeels, Björn Rust and Ian McClelland. We would also like to recognise the contributions of Chris Houston of Grand Challenges Canada and Alice Obrecht of ALNAP.

This work was made possible by funding from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.