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The Innovation Process
Module 5.3

Project Management

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:

  1. Enable regular feedback from users and target groups in ways that allow for rapid learning and iteration.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


5.1 A Assess project feasibility
This activity will help assess your learning objectives and potential contextual and resource constraints that might impact results.
5.3 B Assess operational requirements
This activity aims to ensure that your project delivery, research budgets and plans are feasible, based on the operations capacity you have available to you.
5.3 C Utilise agile management methods
This activity will help you establish the basis for a successful pilot, develop a theory of change and ways to identify and test assumptions, and manage tasks in an agile way.
5.3 D Establish feedback and review mechanisms
This activity will help you put in place the systems that will enable you to gather appropriate information, learn in real-time and ensure accountability to users and target groups.
5.3 E Test your business model
This activity will help you assess the feasibility of the business and revenue model you have in place and decide whether you need to explore alternatives.
5.3 F Codify your solution
This activity will help you codify the products, processes, routines and standards that form core components of your innovation.