How do great ideas scale? Learning from scaling successes in humanitarian innovation.

Publication language
Date published
01 Nov 2021
Research, reports and studies
Cash-based transfers (CBT), GIS & mapping, Innovation

Scaling innovations in the humanitarian sector is notoriously difficult, and existing research highlights the many barriers and challenges to scaling humanitarian innovations. This study sought to fill an important gap in the literature by identifying and outlining key lessons from humanitarian innovations that have successfully scaled. The research focused on five case studies of innovations that have, each in their own way, fostered new ways of working within the humanitarian sector. We explore the drivers of their success, the strategies deployed by innovators, and the lessons learned along the way. In doing so, we offer learning points for donors and innovators seeking to scale innovations in the humanitarian sector and to foster a more supportive ecosystem for scaling innovation.

The research was commissioned and funded by Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge, but focused on identifying lessons learned from innovations beyond its portfolio.

The five case studies include:

1. Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP), a member network organisation that promotes the use of cash and voucher assistance in the humanitarian sector

2. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), a global team of volunteer crisis mappers who use OpenStreetMap to provide information that is used to inform disaster response

3. Micronutrient Powders, called ‘Sprinkles’, developed to combat childhood malnutrition

4. Telemedicine, an online platform through which doctors can access medical advice from a network of specialists, scaled within Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and

5. Wave, a mobile money business using smartphone technology.