Roundtable

Roundtable: Humanitarian Innovation: Have We Come Full Circle?

Chair: Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert

Participants: Robin Mays, Paul Currion, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, Stuart Campo, Tanja Muller, TBD

The humanitarian field has always innovated and worked to adapt new technology to its own challenges . However, a commonly identified point of departure for the emergence of a humanitarian innovation ecosystem is the publication of the ALNAP study on innovation in international humanitarian action in 2009. Since then, innovation has emerged as a central vehicle for improvement and iteration in the humanitarian sector – and as a door opener for intense engagement with private sector actors.  Quickly attaining the status of a buzzword, the mention of “humanitarian innovation” in donor speeches, policy documents, and media coverage has proliferated, and United Nations (UN) agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and philanthropic foundation and donors have launched labs, funding schemes, and hubs on humanitarian innovation. In practice, ‘humanitarian innovation’ is appropriated by the humanitarian sector as a series of piecemeal projects directed at ‘fixing’ the system, making it better, faster, stronger and more secure.   This roundtable discusses whether we have now come full circle:  what  did we learn? Is it time to abandon the focus on innovation? What is the alternative?