The Innovation Service’s Strategic Communications work serves as a necessary service to not only help UNHCR colleagues see themselves as innovators but to assist UNHCR’s workforce to embrace innovation as a methodology for applying creative thinking to complex problems.
UNHCR’s Innovation Service’s overall communications goal, therefore, aims to make innovation more visible, accessible, and actionable for UNHCR colleagues.
The Innovation Service also aims to harness strategic communications and design as avenues to create new norms and perspectives, to challenge traditional communication approaches, and drive culture change within the organization that can support better approaches to supporting displaced communities.
The vision of UNHCR’s Innovation Service is to create an enabling environment for innovation to flourish within UNHCR—to equip staff with the knowledge, resources, and skills they need to use innovation as a tool to solve challenges. This requires the Innovation Service to move beyond raising awareness of innovation and focus on helping our colleagues find new and better ways of working with displaced communities. This requires the Innovation Service to use intentional, deliberate, meaningful, and action-oriented communication.
To support this mission, UNHCR’s Innovation Service’s Strategic Communication work encompasses five high-level pillars that include:
- Pillar one / Narrative Change: Influence immediate language, frames, and narratives to make innovation more accessible for UNHCR colleagues;
- Pillar two / Storytelling: Source, guide, place and amplify stories on innovation and complexity in UNHCR;
- Pillar three / Culture change: Reconstructing and influencing worldviews, beliefs and values in UNHCR that promote a culture open to innovation and creativity;
- Pillar four / Visioning: Coordinate and shape future visions and scenarios through storytelling and creative collaborations that promote long-term decision-making and culture change in UNHCR;
- Pillar five / Collaboration: Support UNHCR to better understand how storytelling, narrative change and language can influence a culture of innovation through internal and external collaborative projects, learning and training opportunities, tools and guidance.
Explorations and experiments
The Innovations Service is currently testing a portfolio of approaches to understand how to better communicate, influence, and inspire creative approaches to the challenges facing UNHCR and displaced communities.
The problem of effectively communicating in the face of abstraction is no stranger to people working on issues such as innovation, migration, and justice, and it presents a huge barrier to getting buy-in and support for new ideas. The Innovation Service has undertaken research and experimentation into understanding how we might better communicate the complexity of our work through lenses such as climate displacement, the use of metaphors and visual communication, and community-led storytelling.
Unsung: A Speculative Design and Storytelling Experiment
Project Unsung combines narrative foresight, world-building, and storytelling to create new visions and alternatives for the future of UNHCR’s work. The artifacts produced through mediums such as essays, science fiction, poetry, design or art, challenge dominant narratives and assumptions in the innovation and humanitarian space, inspire strategic thinking on prominent or emerging global issues, and engage key audiences through imaginative and transportive creative output.
Public Interest Communications
The Innovation Service works alongside the Center for Public Interest Communications to see how social, behavioral and cognitive science can assist UNHCR in building a better understanding of humanitarian innovation and move beyond raising awareness to an action-oriented framework. Many of the Innovation Service’s current communications experiments and interventions undertaken are currently supported through this partnership and can be explored through our publication The Arc.
Storytelling in the Wild
Storytelling in the Wild is a collaborative project with the Center for Public Interest Communications to understand how telling stories across informal and natural settings within an organization can influence culture change and promote creative and innovative ways of working. Storytelling in the Wild Guide – A Guide for Culture-Shifting will be launched in the coming months as a critical resource for UNHCR and others in the humanitarian sector interested in using storytelling to shape culture.
Building Support for Your Ideas
Often, our potential to make change is driven as much by our ability to get others to support new ideas as our ability to identify the right path. At UNHCR, we witness how difficult it can be for colleagues and communities around the world to build support for creative endeavors. Getting an idea past the gates of middle management can be a crusade. In light of this challenge, we’ve worked alongside our colleagues to better understand how to design effective approaches for getting buy-in for even the most forward-looking ideas. The need to build support and persuade isn’t unique to the United Nations, so in 2021, we’ll be launching a guide and curriculum so others can test these approaches.
Research and Publications
A collection of research, insights, and publications that try to understand how we can better communicate the complexity of innovation and displacement and shift worldviews and perspectives on UNHCR’s work.
Discover the latest stories and bright spots on innovation from the Strategic Communications team here: