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The Innovation Process
Activity 1.2 A

Understanding the ‘Knowledge Areas’

We base our understanding of a problem by developing three Knowledge Areas that are relevant to the problem:

Knowledge about the problem

Information on the nature, scope and complexity of the problem. For example, if you are trying to improve health outcomes for marginalised populations after a natural disaster, you’ll need to know about the factors that improve or worsen health conditions for your target demographic, the relevant sectors that this issue pertains to, and you’ll need to understand the operational factors that augment or constrain the ability of humanitarian and other relevant actors to provide health assistance.

Knowledge about the specific context in question

Information about the context and operational environment in which the problem exists. What do you know about the political, economic, demographic, technical, and sociocultural systems involved? What do you know about the stakeholders or actors involved (eg, government, armed actor groups, UN agencies, community-based organisations (CBOs) and NGOs, municipal service providers, or politically, ethnically, or religiously affiliated communities)? What do you know about security conditions and other relevant factors that might drive opportunities or constrain potential actions?

Knowledge about past efforts and current efforts to address the problem

Information on existing solutions and ways of addressing the problem. Which, if any, organisations, government institutions or private sector actors are currently trying to address the problem? What solutions are they using? What other actors are involved in this problem? What roles do they play? What tools, methods, and practices are used to carry out tasks and activities associated with the delivery of programmes or services to address this problem? How are the affected communities involved? What works, and what doesn’t seem to be working?

Assessing past efforts or existing services also includes information about the specific kinds of users and target groups to be served, and the particular needs they encounter, and that must be resolved or addressed. While many different kinds of users can likely benefit from the products and services that characterise innovative solutions, setting out to be useful to everyone can lead to a lack of focus, and therefore deliver a lack of value. Identifying target users and their needs helps clarify, guide and prioritise the selection and generation of other kinds of information.