Innovations Case Studies
ALNAP's new Innovations Case Studies series showcases innovative solutions to problems faced in humanitarian responses. They are intended to act as a shared information tool for use by humanitarian actors in their continuing efforts to capture and spread innovations more effectively across the sector.
Drawing on the best available case study approaches from outside the humanitarian sector, each Case Study focuses on a specific innovation in humanitarian response, and outlines the process through which the innovation was developed, from the initial recognition of a problem, through to practical implementation and scale-up. The Case Studies also present evidence from evaluations and research, and provide useful contacts and key documents.
The first five case studies are available below, and a further five are in development. Many of these draw from the innovations showcased at the Innovations Fair at the November 2009 conference. Over the coming months and years, ALNAP will be expanding its library of Case Studies, examing a wide range of processes that have led to improvements in humanitarian response.
If you have worked on such processes and are interested in producing an Innovations Case Study, please contact ALNAP's Research and Innovations Officer, Kim Scriven.
- Case Study No. 1 - Concern Worldwide
Cash Transfers through Mobile Phones: An Innovative Emergency Response in Kenya
Kenya was the first country in the world to use mobile phones for cash transfers; through a service called M-PESA, developed by Safaricom Limited. Concern Worldwide has pioneered the use of M-PESA for emergency cash transfers in Kenya. This paper highlights Concern’s experience, which shows that despite initial software and logistical challenges, mobile phone technology offers a unique and empowering approach to efficiently deliver assistance to the most vulnerable people living in insecure and remote rural areas. Experience also shows that cash transfers are a better option than food distributions in areas where adequate supplies of food are locally available. In addition, the partnership between Concern and Safaricom demonstrates that the private sector has significant and unique abilities to enhance the effectiveness of emergency response, and more importantly they can do so while maintaining their core business principles. The case study also demonstrates how technology can empower poor, marginalised and vulnerable people.
The Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards: Improving the Quality of Emergency Response through Livelihoods-based Standards
Humanitarian interventions have historically focused on saving lives rather than livelihoods, and key livestock assets can be overlooked in the urgency of response. The Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS) project aims to increase the quality of emergency response by promoting minimum standards for livestock-based interventions. The Standards follow the format of the Sphere handbook, including minimum standards, key indicators and guidance notes. They cover a range of livestock-based interventions - destocking, feed, water, veterinary services and restocking – as well as support and guidance on livelihoods-based needs assessment and identification of appropriate, timely and feasible emergency responses. As with SPHERE, LEGS was developed using a broad consultation process involving practitioners and policy makers from around the world.
LEGS contributes to bridging the gap between disaster response and long-term development by highlighting the importance of saving not just lives but also livelihoods through support to key livelihood assets, both during and after an emergency.
- Case Study No. 3 - World Vision
Last Mile Mobile Solutions: Technology and Partnering for Social Innovation
World Vision and its Information Technology (IT) partners have developed innovative software for use on robust mobile computers to meet an unmet need in humanitarian applications.The Last Mile Mobile Solutions (LMMS) initiative focuses on field-based data collection, management and analysis processes in an effort to eliminate duplication, streamline business variations, and remove complexity. Results from the food-programming domain verified substantial benefits including a reduction in the time to generate key reports by 60% and a reduction in beneficiary pre-processing and verification times at aid distributions by approximately 75%.
These positive outcomes have led to overwhelming support from within World Vision and our partners for the expansion of these innovations. As such, LMMS is now at the start of a 60-month expansion drive across all World Vision food-programming activities. This case study describes the innovation process and demonstrates how technology and effective partnering with the private sector can foster opportunities for significant social innovation.
Supporting community-based emergency response at scale: innovations in the wake of Cyclone Nargis
This case study describes how appropriate support for local civil-society interventions following a rapid-onset emergency can enable very fast and responsive relief at a scale commensurate with needs. After the impact of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, local civil-society efforts were found to have greater penetration and much lower costs than conventional direct implementation by international agencies.
A brief period of what might be described as ‘creative chaos’ after the cyclone eased the normal organisational constraints to risk taking, enabling a number of innovations in the process of aid delivery. In particular, field teams:
- developed new methodologies for rapid funding and monitoring of proposals submitted by local civil-society organisations (CSOs), at scale
- designed and delivered options for capacity development relevant to disaster response and subsequent recovery
- introduced ‘do-less-harm’ initiatives, to try to minimise the negative side-effects of rapid grant disbursal
- established mechanisms and structures for communication and linkages between mainstream international responses and local civil-society initiatives.
- Case Study No. 5 - Shelter Centre
Transitional shelter: understanding shelter from the emergency through reconstruction and beyond
Transitional Shelter is a pioneering approach to the provision of shelter in emergency response, recovery and reconstruction. People who are made homeless because of disaster or conflict need somewhere to live while they rebuild their houses, or find alternative accommodation. Shelter and reconstruction therefore happen in parallel, rather than consecutively. The approach of transitional shelter acknowledges that reconstruction takes usually between two and five years, but that a tent only lasts around one year.
The transitional shelters themselves are simple re-locatable structures that offer appropriate and flexible shelter over the period of reconstruction. Afterwards, the shelters are upgraded, reused, sold or recycled. The approach is not another phase of response: rather, it involves building and upgrading incrementally, from materials that offer immediate shelter such as plastic sheeting or sustainable local materials. Most transitional shelters use predominantly local materials, familiar to those affected, thereby contributing to the local and regional economies.
Since 2005, agencies and governments worldwide have used the transitional-shelter approach to accommodate millions of people affected by both conflicts and disasters, from Kenya to Indonesia. This Innovation Case Study highlights the development of the transitional-shelter approach, using recent examples from several implementing agencies.
- Case Study No. 6 - Groupe URD
The Observatory of Aid Practice in Chad
This case study examines an innovative learning process making measurable improvements in the quality of humanitarian assistance, delivered in Chad. It highlights how the Observatory has worked to overcome challenges to collective learning to support innovative thinking and innovation capture at field level. This means that evaluation does not only result in incremental improvements, but may also result in completely new practice.
The Observatory provides ongoing support to institutions so that recommendations can be developed into realistic plans for action and effect change and the central innovation lies in the Observatory’s continual presence in-country.
- Case Study No. 7 - ACF International
The Pastoralist Survey Method (PSM) and its application in Mali and Ethiopia
The guidelines for conducting anthropometric nutrition assessments among sedentary populations are inappropriate for pastoralists.
The Pastoralist Survey Method (PSM) comprises two phases. The qualitative phase draws on key informants to develop an understanding of identifiable groups of households moving together with their livestock (troupes), and of how they are socially or geographically organised (organising factors). The quantitative phase resembles a two-stage cluster design comparing information drawn from different sources and based on different methods to validate the qualitative data.