What we do

UNHCR has been innovating since its inception. UNHCR Innovation Service is here to help facilitate and promote innovation further in your day-to-day work.

For an organization to progress and adapt to change, it needs to draw on the creativity, lessons learned, and failures that have already been made over the past 65+ years, and the hundreds of operations UNHCR has been involved in. We create safe spaces for experimentation to take place in field operations, as well as at Headquarters, whilst instilling a future-oriented approach into how we solve problems. Our team will support you in the process of experimentation within the organization (or outside), in addition to identifying low-cost solutions. We also assist in capturing and documenting how colleagues and refugees are already innovating around the world. 

Through the innovation process, we can pursue systems and organizational change to make UNHCR more efficient and impactful for persons of concern. Regardless – we’re here to help. Check out some of our services below.



As a service, we focus on adopting new processes and sustainable innovations by drawing lessons from our past experiences. We:

  • assist UNHCR staff to understand how innovation can improve the efficiency of the organization;
  • provide people with resources and methodologies through the Innovation Fellowship to incorporate innovation in their work;
  • believe anybody can be an innovator- you just need the right mindset to step outside your comfort zone.

Planning and Response

One of our objectives is to support our field colleagues, partners, and refugees, by adapting to to the challenges identified by operations and headquarters. We:

  • support thematic areas such as: Education, Energy & Environment, Data Science, Communicating with Communities, and Connectivity for Refugees;
  • develop guidance, tools, and tips to facilitate innovation in field operations;
  • provide support to operations in their planning processes;


Innovation opens opportunities for new modalities of partnership and ways of working within the humanitarian sector. We:

  • collaborate with NGO’s, universities, and private sector partners to diversify insights, tools, and expertise needed to maximise impact;
  • facilitate new collaborations in-house;


At UNHCR’s Innovation Service we capture and document how colleagues and refugees are innovating around the world. We:

  • aim to be transparent and informative;
  • assist in utilising numerous channels to share knowledge;
  • document promising practises and new ideas within the organization, including successes and lessons learned;
  • want you to share your idea, story, or promising practise with us.

Experimenting and Risk

UNHCR’s innovation service uses experimentation to better understand what works and what does not— allowing us to make smaller mistakes that we can learn from early on. We:

  • create safe spaces for experimentation;
  • support new ways of working with colleagues in headquarters and in the field;
  • embrace risk, test things out, and learn what works for whom, and where;

Ask Lauren: What we don’t do

Our colleague answers some of the most common questions we receive.

Q: Can you make my document more innovative?
A: Innovation can mean a lot of things! We don’t provide design services, but look to our resources to help you adapt your document. You may also want to reach out to our colleagues in External Relations.

Q: Can I apply to UNHCR’s Innovation Fellowship?
A: If you’re a UNHCR staff member or affiliate then absolutely! Unfortunately, we can’t support Fellows from outside the organization at this point. The 2018 Fellowship application will open later in the year.

Q: Can you try my product out?
A: Try the UN Global Marketplace for great procurement opportunities. Our office is already overcrowded with stuff! We need to clean it.

Q: Can you tell me if my idea is good or bad?
A: Your idea is probably amazing, but instead of us, submit your ideas on the UNHCR Ideas platform and the crowd will tell you!

Q: Do you provide coding services?
A: Although we don’t provide coding services, we do have some great thoughts on how you can use the innovation process for your work at UNHCR.

Q: Do you have any job openings?
A: Not right now – but stay tuned. All our job and internship opportunities are located on UNHCR Careers page and ReliefWeb. Currently, we are not accepting volunteers, but you should have a look at UN Volunteers.

Q: Do you do hackathons?
A: We no longer organize or participate in hackathons. We have realised our skillsets are best placed in the field.

Q: Can you support my thesis or academic studies?
A: We love that you’re interested in humanitarian innovation but we can’t financially support your studies. However, if you are working on a thesis related to humanitarian innovation, contact us below.

Contact Us

  • If you still have questions, please fill out the form below:
  • We receive a lot of emails and requests. We hope to respond to all emails but please be patient with us.