This research paper aims to explore what has been learned in recent years about support for local innovation at DEPP Labs and other humanitarian sector initiatives. It treats ‘innovation’ as a broad term: something that is new to the user or context, or in its application, and is better at creating social value (more efficient, effective, sustainable or just) than what already exists. Humanitarian innovations are those that specifically address the needs of communities affected by crisis or disaster and the organisations that support them. ‘Local innovations’ are those that arise in the context in which they are used.
This paper aims to address the following questions:
- What approaches and methods can be used to help local innovators in resource-constrained environments to develop viable and sustainable innovations for disaster resilience?
- What are the constraints, strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and methods?
- What evidence is there about the outcomes of different processes
- in low-resource or humanitarian environments (for example, engagement with local innovators, successful pilots,
- successful scaleups)?
- How has the DEPP Labs programme mitigated the weaknesses of the lab models and what has it learned?
This paper is based on a review of relevant literature on labs, non-lab alternatives and grassroots innovation, along with 20 semi-structured interviews with global DEPP Labs staff, DEPP lab managers, innovators involved in the four DEPP labs and senior innovation staff from other organisations that are also implementing labs or alternative innovation methods. These include: Response Innovation Labs (RIL), International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), UNHCR, Unicef, Elrha and the International Rescue Committee’s Airbel Center (IRC Airbel). The research was carried out during June 2019.
The paper begins with a brief discussion of local innovation initiatives within the humanitarian sector. It describes the development of labs and other support mechanisms within the sector and outlines some of the major distinctions between the different initiatives. Chapter 1 examines the different types of support needed by innovators. It outlines six types of standard support, and ends by identifying some additional types of support that may be needed. Chapter 2 looks at how to better support local innovation within a humanitarian context. It identifies and unpacks five key considerations for organisations supporting local innovation to ensure that they maximise the impact of their support. The paper ends with conclusions and a discussion of possible future directions for humanitarian innovation.