Introduction: refugees and innovation
Doing innovation well presents challenges for how we can work better together as organisations and with displaced people, and how we can break down traditional barriers between actors – all while upholding ethical principles and protection standards relating to displacement. Innovation is not the same thing as invention; it need not involve the creation of something novel but often takes the form of adapting something to a different context. It may be incremental (step by step) or disruptive (breaking the mould). It may relate to change in a product, a process or a paradigm. And it may involve technology or it may not. The innovation cycle can be thought of as a four-stage process, although the stages do not need to be linear: 1) defining a problem or identifying an opportunity; 2) finding potential solutions; 3) testing, adapting and implementing a solution; and 4) appropriate scaling up of the solution. The term ‘innovation’ is often poorly understood in humanitarian circles or is viewed sceptically as a buzzword brought in from the private sector. It is often used broadly as an umbrella term to cover the roles of technology, partnership and business. However, more precisely, it can be understood generally as a process for adaptation and improvement.