Supporting Innovation in Humanitarian Organisations - ALNAP workshop report

Date published
11 Jul 2011
Conference, training & meeting documents

The need to pay increased attention to the promotion of innovations in humanitarian action has been recognised across the system in recent years. The nature of humanitarian assistance is such that agencies must focus on immediate efforts to extend assistance to populations in need, but this should not be seen as an argument for risk aversion or conservatism. Instead, agencies should be actively seeking-out new approaches and ways of working that increase their operational performance.

The ALNAP membership and secretariat have been at the forefront of efforts to promote innovation; undertaking research into innovations in international humanitarian action: building a collection of case studies and; working to promote mechanisms to encourage and facilitate innovation in the humanitarian system, the latter resulting in the establishment of the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, in partnership with ELRHA..

Despite developments in thinking around innovation, and the creation of practical structures to support innovations in operational settings, there is recognition that turning the will to promote innovative thinking into action and changed practice is still a challenge. This is perhaps particularly true for large humanitarian organisations, facing many of the same barriers to innovation as private corporations, but without the commensurate Research and Development (R&D) budgets or incentive systems. 


The overall objective of the workshop was to bring the ALNAP membership together to encourage systematic thinking about innovation management, and begin to explore practical ways to encourage innovation in humanitarian organisations. It aimed to do this by presenting ALNAP’s research to date, establishing shared concepts and language, and through
the piloting of tools and exercises to explore practical thinking about aligning the necessary resources, capacities and relationships for innovations to progress in humanitarian organisations.