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Reflections on Innovations in International Humanitarian Action. Aude Dieudé Tuesday June 17, 2014 Terre des hommes Lausanne, Switzerland. Definitions of Innovation.
International Humanitarian Action
Tuesday June 17, 2014
Terre des hommes Lausanne, Switzerland
Source: Ben Ramalingam, Kim Scriven and Conor Foley. The Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance for Humanitarian Action (ALNAP): 8th review of humanitarian action, “Chapter 3: Innovations in international humanitarian action”, 2009. 1-88
«Innovations are dynamicprocesseswhich focus on the creation and implementation of new or improvedproducts and services, processes, positions and paradigms. Successful innovations are thosethatresult in improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, quality or social outcomes/ impacts.» (27)
«Moreover, innovationprocesses are not isolatedfrom the world, but are embedded in and shaped by the capabilities of the actors in and around a givensector, the relationshipbetweenthem, and wider social, economic and politicalcontexts. Thesefactorsplay a crucial role in enabling or inhibiting innovation processes and in shaping the resulting changes.» (27)
Hugo Slim: leading scholar in humanitarian studies with particular expertise in humanitarian ethics, the protection of civilians, conflict resolution, and business ethics.
«As the system moves towards [consolidation], it must stillurgently encourage innovation and entrepreneurialismwherebyhumanitarianagenciescanmake new discoveries and risk new approaches (...)» (11)
«[humanitarianagencies] need to prioritise innovation and risk-taking in humanitarianpolitics and practice. If, in the next five years, the humanitarian system has onlyconsolidated, itwill have failed to takeadvantage of new ideas and will not have adapted to new opportunities.» (11)
Presentation of the four main forms of innovations:
1. The innovation of Products or Services: introduces or improves the specificproducts or services creating a change in what the organizationcanoffer.
2. The innovation of Processes: provides changes in how a productiscreated or delivered.
3. The innovation of Positioning: helps to define or redefine the positioning of products, organisations or sectorscreating a change in the context and way in which a product or processisapplied.
4. The innovation of Paradigms: contributesto define or redefinethe dominant paradigms of an organisation or sectorcreating changes in the underlying mental and business models.
Presentation of the three main forms of innovations:
1. Transactional innovations are driven by needs and are implemented in an often ad hoc fashionbased on highlyspecific and short-termcontexts.
2. Incremental innovations are scalableimprovements made to existingprocesses in order to improveefficiency and effectiveness. Theycangeneratedramaticimprovements in key performance indicatorssuch as time and timeliness.
3. Transformational (or radical) innovations are long-term, strategic innovations intended to createprofound transformation of organisational or industryprocesses. They are enabling and embodying new ways of working.
Innovation processes are often a combination of serendipity, collaborations, exchanges of ideas, diverse forms of supports and variousadditionalelements. Eventhoughmost of thesecircumstancescan not beplanned, they are the result of a precise organisation, whichhelps to define, refine and personalize the innovativeprojectthroughout the following stages:
1. Recognition of a specificproblem or challenge, whichisgoing to give the opportunity to find one or several solutions to adressthis issue.
2. Invention of one or several solution(s) or idea(s), which are going to help address the problem, overcome the challenge or takeadvantage of the opportunity .
3. Development of the innovation, whichaims at creatingpractical plans and guidelines for products, services, processes or new organisationalmodels.
4. Implementation of the innovation, whichisgoing to give the opportunity to producereal instances of changed practice in operational settings, oftenusing pilots and subsequentlyscaling up.
5. Diffusion of the innovation, whichallows to ensureitswider adoption for benefitsoutside the original setting.
A collaborative and constructive approachis essential throughout the stages of the innovation processesas itcanoftenrequire close partnershipswithbeneficiaries, differentNGOs, international organizations, researchers, universities, the privatesector and additionalhumanitarianorganizations.
A nuanced and refinedunderstanding of the specificcontextwhere the innovation isgoing to take place is key to anticipateanypotentialpolitical, economic, or social tensions. This awarenessallows for instance to overcomeanyparticularcode, rule, practice or customs that has to berespected in the specific country, and whichcanultimatelyfoster or prevent the implementation of the innovation concretelyspeaking.
Making sure to takemeasuredrisks and to benefitfrom the strong support of staff members on the field, at the headquarterlevel, from the researchers and anyinternal and external participants, who are going to make a significantdifferencethroughout the stages of the innovation process.
Create incentives to encourage a culture of innovation both at the headquarter and at the field levels in order to develop the mechanisms facilitating innovation,
Play a proactive role in identifying the relevant partnerships, space and collaboration to gather people who are eager and motivated to get engaged in implementing innovation,
Share information in an efficient way within the organization and among different organizations in order to better assess and compare in details the specific context, risks, and reasons why previous initiatives have failed or succeeded in the past,
Work in teams with both internal and external collaborators in order to mutually learn from each other and facilitate innovation thanks to the skills and talents of these new partners,
Meet regularly with the different actors to assess and confirm whether the innovation processes are going in the right direction or not in order to readjust the team’s work accordingly,
Clearly communicate with the donors and actively engage the board of directors in the innovation process in order to foster and support concretely speaking the innovation projects,
Create and preserve a safe space for experimenting and implementing the innovation processes for the humanitarian sector keeping in mind ethical considerations,
Persevere and learn constructively from the failures or unsuccessful situations where innovation processes did not translate themselves into practice. Innovation requires to dare changing things, try new approaches and explore different avenues in an organized, collaborative and constructive way before finding the right solution(s) and ways to succeed,
Take this opportunity to put things into perspective with the current ways of working in order to assess if they are better ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the products, services, positioning and paradigms offered until now by the organisation.
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