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The Innovation Process
Activity A

Consider how to engage target groups

This primer will help you consider how best to engage different groups in the invention process and how to give them the best chance of working productively together.

The kind of proactive and structured ideation process that we outline in this stage should not be attempted in the early-stages of a crisis response as it is likely to be both impractical and an unwelcome distraction from addressing urgent needs.

It is therefore something that usually happens away from rapid-response environments, either as part of preparedness and reconstruction activities where regular disasters occur (eg, Nepal Innovation Lab), within relatively stable protracted crises (eg, Iraq Response Innovation Lab), and often in international environments remote from the emergency context (eg, THE Port Humanitarian Hackathon).

In each of these environments it is vital to ensure that the voices, opinions and insights of affected communities or target groups are heard during the ideation process. Ultimately, these are the people you are seeking to serve, so it is crucial to listen.

If the process is happening within a recurrent or protracted disaster context, it will be logistically easier to involve members of the community directly, but it still may not be appropriate to involve particularly vulnerable people in these activities, or people who have previously suffered significant distress in a humanitarian crisis.

When deciding whether and how to involve different people and what activities are appropriate, you will need to think about levels of education, exposure to trauma, and other factors that might affect someone’s capability. If people feel uncomfortable or have anxiety, their ability to think creatively is seriously impaired. More importantly, you may run the risk of triggering a negative emotional response if you are discussing potentially traumatic issues and you are not aware of the sensitivities of those involved. It is your responsibility to ensure you have suitable safeguards in place.

Depending on the focus of your activities – for example, whether your problem is regarding potable water in a slow-onset drought environment or gender-based violence in a conflict environment – you will need to make a judgement call on the appropriateness of involving vulnerable people and any potential risks involved. It is important to get input from actors familiar with the context and the local community to guide this decision-making process.

However, wherever you go, even in the worst humanitarian environments, you will find remarkably resilient and entrepreneurial people who are already developing their own ideas and solutions, and who are keen to engage with others to improve them.

In the Search stage we outlined a number of approaches designed specifically to identify those community leaders who might already be involved in inventing new solutions. The Lead User and Positive Deviant methodologies are designed to bring community members into the heart of the invention process.