Innovation and refugees

September 2014

Innovation around displacement is not new. Yet the imperfections of current approaches are obvious in the challenges that we continue to face. By looking at old problems in new ways and by seeking and fostering innovation itself, new products can be developed, new ways of working can be devised and new modalities and paradigms can emerge to make the lives of displaced people better, more sustainable and less risky. These 11 articles reflect some of the thinking behind humanitarian innovation for displaced people, and some of its current manifestations.

Contents

Alexander Betts

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.

T Alexander Aleinikoff

The purpose of innovation is to make humanitarian work more effective and more reflective. We do innovation to improve human lives by doing things better. Innovation, for UNHCR, is a humanitarian imperative to be carried out with partners.

Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Aparna Surendra

A collaboration between UNHCR, Ennead Architects and Stanford University uses settlement design to promote innovation and further development in the refugee protection model but collaborators initially face a steep learning curve.

Moses Musaazi

Since 2007 a partnership between UNHCR, the Government of Uganda and ‘MakaPads’ inventor Moses Musaazi has helped provide affordable sanitary pads for thousands of refugee girls and women while substantially reducing UNHCR’s expenditure on these essential items.

Alice Bosley

‘UNHCR Ideas’ aims to enable collaborative problem solving and idea generation among an online community.

Faith Nibbs

Conversations with multiple stakeholders in the US help to highlight barriers to economic self-sufficiency for resettled refugees and opportunities for innovative approaches.

Robert Hakiza

In order to make a living, refugees have to be innovative, and refugees in Uganda have contributed tremendously to entrepreneurship and innovation in the country.

Evan Elise Easton-Calabria

It is difficult to speak convincingly of ‘new’ or innovative practices towards refugees, especially in refugee livelihoods assistance, while there remains a significant gap in historical knowledge and institutional memory.

Luciano Calestini

Innovative approaches in Lebanon aim to address, in two very different ways, the particular needs of the most vulnerable among the refugee and host populations.

Erik Abild

Humanitarian actors will have to adapt to a changing world but it will not be easy or straightforward. Operations are changing as a result of innovations which bring many improvements but also throw up challenges.

Kristin Bergtora Sandvik

The continued evolution of the humanitarian innovation concept needs a critical engagement with how this agenda interacts with previous and contemporary attempts to improve humanitarian action.

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