2015 was a hard year to digest. Now every 1 in 122 humans is either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.

But a new year represents the opportunity to set goals and visions of what we hope 2016 will bring. And while New Year’s resolutions are often easy to make and hard to keep, those of us at UNHCR Innovation wanted to go forward with some ideas anyway. We wanted to look at realistic goals for the role of innovation in UNHCR’s work and the humanitarian community. After reviewing comments from the team there’s certainly one general theme: a hope for refugee-centered solutions that provide dignity and focus on the needs of the displaced.

So if there’s one resolution we hope to keep in 2016, it’s to not only to provide effective humanitarian assistance, but to empower and build the capacity of the communities we serve.

These are UNHCR Innovation’s resolutions for the next year:

  1. Hans (Multimedia Associate): I would like to see more of bottom-up innovation, by refugees and by UNHCR staff members: I hope in 2016, we will be able to amplify more bottom-up innovation, whether by refugees or by colleagues at UNHCR, and find it key for meaningful progress of better understanding the challenges and opportunities in the humanitarian field.
  2. Katie (Emergency Lab Manager): I’d like to explore innovations that promote inclusive communication to, with and by refugees in humanitarian settings. These innovations will help ensure that refugees have agency in humanitarian responses, with a better sense of dignity and connectedness and that they are able to hold UNHCR to account. My resolution is to ensure that innovative solutions identify and build on local information and communication capacities and to ensure that refugee voices – including the most marginalized – are identified and amplified through consultation and dialogue.
  3. Adriana (Knowledge Management Consultant): Knowledge Management will enhance team effectiveness through knowledge capture, with the aim of better serving UNHCR in its mission of safeguarding persons of concern. The Innovation team has accumulated a valuable amount of experience through its three years of existence, and 2016 will be the year to build on the existent knowledge and capitalize our assets to work cohesively as a service to UNHCR.
  4. Lauren (Associate Innovation Engagement Officer): I hope 2016 will be a year of increased cooperation across the humanitarian community and displaced populations. By leveraging collaborative problem-solving, we can better understand the needs of refugees while also generating more empowering and effective ideas. The power of collaboration will bring more innovative and efficient solutions for refugees that will not only enhance their dignity, but increase their self-sufficiency.
  5. Emilia (Innovation Fellow Program Manager): I would like to explore opportunities for better connect innovators with each other despite the geographical distance. Innovation rarely happens in isolation – more often it happens when people “bump” into each other. Furthermore, learning from each other would help Innovation Fellows to go through their process. How to best do it when innovators are scattered around the world?
  6. Rebeca (Link Lab Manager): I’d like to strengthen UNHCR operations work in the areas of data, information management and connectivity. This would help to improve the quality of services and access to information designed to meet the needs of forcibly displaced people around the world.
  7. Corinne (Innovation Engagement Officer): In 2016, I’d like to see the humanitarian community put as much emphasis on building up the creative capacity of crisis-affected communities as we do on innovating for and with them.
  8. John (Emergency Lab Technology Officer): I would like 2016 to be the year of collaboration and partnership in the field for UNHCR Innovation. Joining as part of the new Emergency Lab we have greater capacity than ever to build partnerships with a variety of organizations and work together in innovative, agile ways. And these partnerships aren’t without reason. We have seen that lack of coordination between different actors responding in an emergency can have direct harm on refugees: conflicting information is provided, feedback collected doesn’t get shared, gaps exist between services and the overall experience for a refugee becomes incoherent. Through collaboration and partnership, we can reverse this to ensure these gaps don’t exist. We need to work together as humanitarian responders to share overall responsibility for refugees’ experience of the humanitarian system, and ensure that it is straightforward, easy to navigate, and that we’re not making their lives more difficult. Innovation is a vital part of this approach as it requires flexibility and adaptability, as we realize that to work together; we can’t always retain control of what happens.
  9. Jackie (Learn Lab Manager): Building from the inclusion of Refugees into SDG4, we will explore innovative approaches for ensuring the inclusion of refugees into national education systems – collaborating with governments and ministries of education to foster programs of quality and that are physical, social, and cognitively accessible to displaced communities.
  10. Sam (Energy Lab Manager): I’d like to see innovation at UNHCR do less better. That is to consolidate what we do and how we do it. I would love to see a concrete example of the process of innovation come out of refugee driven needs that leads to a solution that has a direct and positive impact on refugees without any external forcing. This would include significant buy-in and cost sharing from the field as well as extensive and transparent documentation.
  11. Dina (Office Manager): In the New Year, I’d like to work alongside my colleagues at UNHCR to unlock the enormous opportunity for innovation that remains hidden, and sometimes constrained, in the nuts-and-bolts of daily administration and operations.

What resolutions do you have for the role of humanitarian innovation? Tell us in the comments below.



Photo credit: UNHCR/Simon Lubuku

We’re always looking for great stories, ideas, and opinions on innovations that are led by or create  impact for refugees. If you have one to share with us send us an email at [email protected]

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