Design your project, learn in real time, and iterate your plan
Humanitarian programming is often, though not always, characterised by urgent time frames and a lack of time or resources for exploration. This can easily undermine reflection, learning and adjustment. According to ALNAP (2018), the systems used – both externally with donors and internally – “have evolved in ways that restrict the range of options that humanitarians have at their disposal in a dynamic environment.”
In situations where there is significant uncertainty – an inherent feature of innovation pilots – a robust project management approach needs to fulfil several additional requirements. It must:
- Enable regular feedback from users and target groups in ways that allow for rapid learning and iteration.
- Allow the project team to rapidly review findings, discuss implications and take action to respond to changes on the ground or feedback from users and target groups.
- Support the tracking and documentation of key decisions and the reasons why they were taken and capture all relevant learning.
In comparison to log frame-based project management approaches commonly used in the humanitarian sector, an innovation pilot requires much greater flexibility so that changes can be made according to the evidence that presents itself. The Project Management workstream consists of a collection of tools and methods that are provided to help you implement an innovation pilot in a flexible and responsive way.
In the following sections we take you through a process of assessing the feasibility of your pilot and operational requirements, utilising agile management tools, putting in place necessary feedback mechanisms, and laying the foundations for sustainability and scale.
Although it’s important to consider sustainability and scale from the start of the innovation journey, many innovators put these thoughts aside during the pilot to focus on whether the solution works. With limited time and budget it is often impossible to do everything, but at the end of this workstream we encourage you to return to the Social Business Model Canvas and to codify your solution.