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The Innovation Process
Activity 5.3 B

Determine whether to stop or continue

This primer will help you to understand different potential routes forward depending on the outcomes of your pilot and the After-Action Review.

At the end of each cycle of your pilot, you will need to make a decision on whether or not you continue. These decision points may also be the result of significant challenges that you face, or certain conclusions reached through your research, and they will be influenced by your success and financial situation, among other factors. Here are five different potential pathways that you might consider, and the reasons you might choose them.


There are occasions that you will need to stop working on your innovation. This can be for a variety of reasons, but particularly if your research shows that your solution does not deliver an improvement, or that your solution is doing harm. More often than not you should also stop if, or when, you find that your solution is performing no better than other comparable solutions.

If you are in one of these circumstances, you should stop developing and implementing your solution. You will need to do so in an ethical way, so that you keep your commitments to all stakeholders and communities you might be working with. You should also write up your experiences so that others can learn from your project and better avoid any problems you may have encountered.


‘Mothballing’ is when you stop using something but keep it in good condition so that it can easily be taken up again. If your innovation is successful but is not going to be continued in the immediate future, it will need to be mothballed.

This might be due to a lack of continued investment, or it might be because your innovation is designed for use in a particular set of irregular circumstances, for example, a rare disease outbreak, or a particular phase of the disaster management cycle. In order to mothball your innovation effectively, you should follow three steps:

  1. Ensure that you have codified the innovation in a way that is usable by others and document any lessons that you have learned.
  2. Put the resources required to ‘re-activate’ the innovation in an accessible place (physically or digitally).
  3. Nominate a ‘product owner’ who is responsible for re-activating the innovation if the opportunity or need arises.

Hand over

The aim of any humanitarian innovation should be to reduce the impact of humanitarian crises on the people affected. This means that there is a strong case to hand over a successful innovation to other people if you cannot continue to develop and implement it.

There are many reasons why this might happen; it could be due to changes in your organisation’s priorities or overarching strategy, or it could be that the next stage requires more resources, know-how or operational presence than you can offer.

In these cases, you should go through the same steps as mothballing, while also looking for a potential partner who might take on your innovation. It is unlikely to be sufficient just to post details of the project online; you will need to carry out a targeted search as soon as you know that a hand over may be required.


You may find that your solution is having an impact but that the problem is a bounded one, ie, it is only really relevant for the group or context you are already targeting. If so, you may only want to continue implementing your innovation at its current level.

If this is the case, you should still use the Scale stage of this guide as it provides useful guidance on sustainability as well as scale. It is also worth ensuring that you promote your work and disseminate learning so that if there are others who could use it or adapt it, they are able to find out about it. This is critical for increasing the adoption of successful innovations.


If the evidence you have generated shows that your solution delivers impact, and particularly if this impact is better or at a lower cost than other existing solutions, you will probably want to scale your impact. This will require you to invest a lot more time, money, energy and organisational resources into the next stage of the journey. To do this, you will need to work through the Scale stage of this guide.