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The Innovation Process

The Humanitarian Innovation Guide is based on three organising principles that should inform your innovation journey.

Innovation process

Are you looking for new ways to address humanitarian challenges?

For each stage of the innovation process, we walk you through a series of modules containing activities and exercises for you to complete. The guidance for each stage of the process is orientated towards one or more innovation ‘milestones’ – the key outputs that you need to produce to indicate progression in the innovation process.

Although the Guide follows an innovation process, it is not a prescriptive approach. You do not have to complete every exercise, or even go through every module. We’re simply aiming to provide you with some tools and guidance that will help you to develop your innovation at each stage of the journey.

We know that innovation isn’t a simple, linear process. You may well end up using a tool or methodology that we’ve included in one stage, when you are in another. The key is to use the right tool for the problem or task at hand. You will be the best judge as to when that is and what it is for.

Enabling factors

Do you want to know the proven fundamentals of successful humanitarian innovation?

Whatever type of organisation you work in – whether that’s a well-established international NGO, a government department, a private company or a loose network of volunteers – there are things that will enable or block your innovation efforts.

Based on the HIF-ALNAP More Than Just Luck study (Obrecht and Warner, 2016), and wider innovation research and practice, we provide some useful hints and guidance on how to build and maintain an enabling environment for innovation in your organisation and team. We recommend you read this section if you are trying to create or improve the enabling environment for innovation in your organisation.

The more of these factors you have in place, the more likely you are to develop an innovation that has a positive impact for its users and crisis-affected communities.

Humanitarian parameters

Are you hoping to bring a new idea to the sector? Or are you partnering in a project but have little experience or knowledge of humanitarian aid?

This section maps out key aspects of the humanitarian sector, providing pointers on how the humanitarian system works, how you can navigate it, and what you need to know to ensure a considered and responsible approach.

If you are new to the humanitarian sector and looking to bring in fresh ideas, you can use this section to familiarise yourself with the principles, processes, actors, mechanisms and contexts that make up the humanitarian system and influence humanitarian action.

Throughout the innovation process, we also use this framework to provide timely reminders of the unique features of the humanitarian environment that you will need to consider.