Session description

In the context of growing humanitarian needs and increasingly limited resources, finding innovative solutions to reducing human suffering is critical. However, the humanitarian sector lacks organizational frameworks, resources, and tools dedicated to managing innovation, and innovation strategies are rarely systematically adapted and applied to humanitarianism.

The past few years have seen an influx of initiatives looking at fostering innovation in humanitarian action, including the ICRC-led Global Partnership for Humanitarian Impact and Innovation (GPHI2); the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF); the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford; dedicated innovation units at UNICEF and UNHCR; and private sector initiatives such as the Deloitte Humanitarian Innovation Program. Given the current interest in innovation, it is important that we understand what we mean when we refer to humanitarian innovation, what the current trends are, as well as the challenges to achieving results in fostering innovation in humanitarian action.

The session was followed by a live online consultation event on the draft Principles for Ethical Humanitarian Innovation.

Learning objectives

  • Understand the concept of humanitarian innovation and how it relates to innovation in general.
  • Familiarity with the main basic models for the innovation process.
  • Have a basic knowledge of the main current initiatives concerning humanitarian innovation.
  • Appreciation of the particular challenges related to fostering innovation in humanitarian action.
  • Familiarity with the role of ethics in relation to innovation.


Alexander Betts Alexander Betts Director of the Refugee Studies Centre and Leopold Muller Associate Professor in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, University of Oxford

Event host

Angharad Laing Angharad Laing Executive Director, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Session recording - YouTube (faster loading time)


Session recording - Adobe Connect (higher quality)


Session recording - downloadable audio podcast

Recommended readings

Refugee Studies Centre, Principles for Ethical Humanitarian Innovation, June 2015

Target audience

Humanitarian practitioners as well as others with a professional or general interest in humanitarian action.


PHAP members will have the possibility to undergo a two-part assessment after the session as part of the PHAP Continuous Learning Credits framework.

Part 1: Comprehension check

Part 2: Written reflection

To encourage peer learning among members, selected essay responses will also be published on the website, if approved by the writer. As a member, you can comment on the responses and read other members' comments.

Read the written reflections