• Nick Bozhilov

Innovation lessons from the humanitarian sector

Innovation has always been an important part of every organisation's vocabulary, but many get it wrong. There are some inspiring lessons the humanitarian sector can teach private companies in their pursued to innovation.

1. Collaborative innovation:

In the NGO sector money are an important factor so many organisations cannot allow themselves to spend millions on innovation hubs. Instead, what they do is collaborate. 'Companies can work together and produce value for one another,' says Randolph Kent, director at Humanitarian Futures. The problem is every firm looks at its own self in the mirror and this slows down innovation.

If we take this lesson and apply it to the private sector, firms could work together where needed to combat problems. This is important for small and medium companies that do not have the budgets of big corporation and want to find a way to stay relevant.

"There is a need for system change to deliver pluralistic innovation."

2. Old methods won't work:

Many things have been tried out during the years. There is a reason why well-tested ways of working are always applied, but there needs to be a shift in the mindset. "There is a need for system change to deliver pluralistic innovation," comments Rahul Chandran, executive director at Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation.

According to Chandran companies need to embrace the lack of knowledge and rethink how they work.

3. Innovate according to the environment:

Very often many companies try out something and when it works they just copy-paste it to another location. By doing so they take out the ability to be flexible. Different locations have different needs and people react differently to innovation and change. 'I will not insist for you to do what I do from the top,' says Kent. There needs to be integration to existing systems, so people do not feel left out.

If people do not go along with it and are not passionate about it, even the best solution will fail.

4. Get people involved:

In the humanitarian sector the importance of getting everyone involved in what is happening is great. If people do not go along with it and are not passionate about it, even the best solution will fail. This is also true for the private sector. Every stakeholder needs to be involved in some way, because change is stressful. Good communication is key because when too many people do their own thing innovation is slowed down. At the same time, it is not necessary for everyone to have their voice in the table. Organisations should be careful as often the loudest are those that get the attention.

#humanitarian #innovation

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