Humanitarian Innovation: “Move Fast and Break Things…?”

Webinar Series and Presentations

Webinar: Thursday 9th September 2021

HEED in partnership with BBOXX

Humanitarian Innovation: “Move Fast and Break Things…?”

Opening words by Dr Jonathan Nixon (Coventry University)

Panellists: Professor Heaven Crawley (Coventry University), Vahid Jahangiri (International Lifeline Fund) and Joane Kayibanda (Bboxx Kenya)

Chair: Sam Unsworth (Chalmers University).

Summary of event

 When well-practised, innovation can be understood to mean enabling and institutionalising positive changes and practices, not just one-off projects: also creating new value which did not exist previously. In this webinar, panellists emphasised the need to be considered in how we discuss both “humanitarian energy” and “innovation” – even more so when we bring the two terms together, recognising that these communities of practice and academia are typically siloed. These terms can have exclusionary effects and may lead to a particular framing of a particular problem/solution. This could lead to a misplaced emphasis on novelty as a normative agenda, e.g. “new is good”. Innovation activities focused in humanitarian energy settings benefit from local context-driven, but new ideas and ways of doing things have the potential to be useful in areas such as data, information sharing and financing.

3-takeaways from the webinar

  1. A broader understanding of innovation is needed to account for how different people may understand innovation – consider ideas such as value creation and adaptation can be part of innovation and avoid a narrow technological definition.
  2. Innovation can be a useful analytical framework through which to identify poor/unethical intervention design. There are promising opportunities for innovative information sharing and financing models, which have the potential to improve displaced persons access to energy.
  3. A deep understanding of context is essential and is often overlooked – without being deeply embedded in local contexts, innovations are likely to fail and may have negative effects such as loss of trust in communities ‘targeted’ by innovation.


Back to Outputs & publications page