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Engaging with humanitarian actors to develop a methodology for innovation

A refugee trader selling barbecued skewers of beef on market day at Juro market, Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda © RSC / A Betts / 2013
A refugee trader selling barbecued skewers of beef on market day at Juro market, Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda

The Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) had a dual research and policy engagement mission. It worked not only to engage with a fundamental rethinking of the political economy of the refugee experience, but also to directly inform the work of humanitarian actors. The project’s principal partner was UNHCR, with which HIP negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). HIP contributed directly to the development of a new initiative within the organisation called ‘UNHCR Innovation’, and in return, UNHCR supported the project's research in Uganda, providing logistical support on the ground.

Collaborating with others

The HIP project was involved in numerous concrete forms of collaboration. For example, it supported the development of a new knowledge platform within UNHCR known as ‘UNHCR Ideas’. Dr Alexander Betts also sat on UNHCR’s innovation council, the ‘iCircle’, comprised of key UNHCR partners from the private sector, foundations and academia. Dr Betts facilitated a joint UNHCR–UNDP intergovernmental meeting in Amsterdam, known as the Transitional Solutions Initiative, at the request of the Deputy High Commissioner.

In addition, HIP researchers worked to disseminate their research and ideas to a wider and emerging debate on ‘humanitarian innovation’. In June 2013, HIP convened a side event at the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) humanitarian segment in Geneva, and in September the project's work was presented at the UN Headquarters in New York. HIP researchers also worked closely with OCHA on the development of their humanitarian innovation work. Outside the UN system, this work has been shared with key government and NGO partners, including DFID and the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF). On the ground, they partnered with a US-based social enterprise, Return on Innovation, in the development of a pilot Refugee Innovation Centre. The practical relevance of HIP’s work has been recognised through its nomination and final shortlisting for the 2014 TED Prize.

Our team

Selected publications