Innovation in the humanitarian sector: a must for surviving!

flying drone transports the a red suitcase with white cross

In general we associate humanitarian work with the idea of “helping victims to survive catastrophes” but what about the survival of the own sector?. Indeed, we cannot help others if we are not able to help ourselves.

In our latest articles: “Humanitarian sector in crisis: Institutional crisis” (Part I)[1] and “Humanitarian sector in crisis: International regulation”(Part II) [2] we define the main guidelines of our conviction that the humanitarian sector is going trough a in-depth institutional crisis. That is the main reason that desperately needs to be addressed by the boost of an organizational transformation based on innovation and cultural change.

Financial crisis, climate change, migration crisis are all factors that shows an overwhelming reality in which the humanitarian sector is affected to the point that could be driven to an institutional catastrophe. There must be an strategic approach based in adaptation process that face the new challenges with strength, having innovation as their main tool in all layers of the organization.

In general, we associate the word “innovation” with technological development, but it´s also and mainly about change and renew internal pillars. Ideas, behaviors, misconceptions, bias, are all concepts that need to be changed for adapting effectively to a new global and challenging standards that are putting the world upside down. There is no future for the humanitarian aid if there is no innovation inside each organization at cultural and performance level. In practical terms it would be translated on a change of approaches in the field and in the “organizational dome”. To achieve this goal is paramount to innovate and let organisation´s members be flexible for transferring creativity and new thoughts to old-fashioned organizations that are becoming a real threat and put in risk their own survival.

So, human resources, responses in emergencies and fieldwork need a renewed mentality, new approaches and technological advances. The correct combination of all the above elements is what leads to success in resilience if there is an innovative approach. Which is much more than new ideas or be creative, but to an holistic approach on infrastructure and human resources prepared to be in a consistent and permanent process of innovation, and why not… in attitude!.

A complete revolution of erasing what has been considered “normal way of working” and a move forward to the unknown. Maybe some skeptics will say that is a matter of having a better entrepreneurial approach, but is not. Innovation is the only way of overcoming a world in crisis and one of the main pillars to face this threat is by effective aid systems. Humanitarian organizations have become a key pillar to address the alarming increase of emergency responses. Work with local communities means helping them achieve a goal of resilience within a process of adaptation that allows them to be prepared to an uncertain landscape of transformation. Climate change is one of that uncertain landscape and the main reason that humanitarian aid needs to be strong and resilient.More natural disasters are expecting and a complete transformation of food production will drive millions of people into poverty (is expected more than 100 million people by 2030) because of land changes. The humanitarian work around adaptation process will be the main way of survival preventing an increase in migration movements.

Humanitarian organizations are becoming more than “aid assistance” but another central pillar of the whole system that in a global world acquires a greater dimension that needs to encompass with the evolution of the rest of institutions (political, economical, financial, etc.). There is not an added value of the State machinery anymore, but an essential piece that moves the whole national and international “gears” of the planet. Natural disasters are not the exception but the “new normal”, a threaten scenario that will lead the way for the next generations.

I am seeing only one way out: the own transformation of the humanitarian sector by innovation and changes in the fieldwork (emergency responses and in adaptation process).

New challenges, new structures, new approaches of delivering aid.

Humanitarian workers: innovate! its the only way out and your responsibility!




* Flying drone transports First Aid suitcase



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