More than just laboratories - The humanitarian innovation agenda and four decisive challenges confronting the sector

Gerard Finnigan, Otto Farkas


This paper frames humanitarian innovation as a series of critical challenges for the sector to confront, overcome and advance. The first relates to the meaning of innovation itself and the way in which the sector interprets and applies the action of innovating. The second challenge concerns the changing nature of humanitarian assistance. This paper posits, that current humanitarian policy and practice forged by historical events, is losing efficacy not because of poor design or implementation, but rather, because of the change in nature, environment and context in which humanitarian assistance is required. The third challenge concerns the effect and influence of the donor funding community. The growth and volume in major donor funding is acting both as “push and pull” variants across the sector. The final challenge presented is described as a structural challenge. Unless the industry resolves the practice of “top down” innovation, experimentation and trial and the donor silo effect, then real transformational change will be continue to elude the sector to the cost of the most vulnerable people.

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