Katie Whipkey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
MSPPM ‘16 Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College
Andrej Verity (email@example.com | @andrejverity)
Oice for the Coordination of Humanitarian Afairs (OCHA)
Ignacio G. Rebollo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
M.A. ‘15 CICE - Professional School of New Technologies
B.S. ‘12 IE University - School of Architecture
Thank you to the following contributors:
• Lilian Barajas, UN-OCHA.
• Andrew Billo, UN-OCHA.
• Willow Brugh, Aspiration, Berkman Center for Internet &
Society at Harvard University, MIT Media Lab.
• Ian Gray, Consultant.
• Joshua Harvey, UNICEF Innovation Labs Kosovo.
• Heather Leson, PeaceGeeks, Qatar Computing Research
Institute, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.
• Roxanne Moore, DHN.
• Josiah Mugambi, iHub.
• Nuno Nunes, IOM.
• Shadrock Roberts, Ushahidi.
ESTABLISHING A HUMANITARIAN ENTREPRENEURIAL INNOVATION SPACE
KEY MESSAGES 02
PART I : THE BASICS OF INNOVATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND INNOVATION SPACES
DEFINING INNOVATION 04
HUMANITARIAN ENTREPRENEURSHIP 04
UNDERSTANDING INNOVATION SPACES 06
PART II : MODELS OF INNOVATION SPACES
CONSIDERATIONS FOR SELECTING A MODEL 08
EXAMPLES OF INNOVATION SPACES 10
CASE STUDIES 12
LESSONS LEARNT 13
PART III : ESTABLISHING A HUMANITARIAN ENTREPRENEURIAL INCUBATOR (HEI)
OUTPUTS AND VALUE PROPOSITION 17
THE BENEFITS FOR HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE 18
BENEFITS TO ORGANISATIONS AND ENTREPRENEURS 19
THE RISKS AND MITIGATING MEASURES 20
HOW TO BE A GOOD AGENCY FOR ENTREPRENEURS 22
SELECTING THE RIGHT MATCH 23
FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS 25
EVALUATION, SUSTAINABILITY, AND REPLICATION 26
part IV: ANNEX
EXAMPLES OF EXISTING INCUBATORS 28
EXAMPLES OF HUMANITARIAN INNOVATION 30
CHECKLIST FOR ESTABLISHING AN HEI 31
ENTREPRENEUR QUALIFICATIONS 32
EXAMPLE CONCEPT NOTE 32
FUNDING OPTIONS FOR ENTREPRENEURS 34
02 January 2016
• The humanitarian system as it stands is currently facing more pressure and potentially debilitat-
ing challenges with the increase of natural disasters and escalating conflicts. The growing gap
between number of afected people and suficient resources is one of the greatest challenges
to the humanitarian system.1
Costs are rising, amount of people afected is growing, crises are
lasting longer, and funding is decreasing.2 3 4 5 6
• Humanitarian entrepreneurship is a vehicle for humanitarian innovation that uses an experi-
mental approach to crisis management. Humanitarian entrepreneurship brings the ‘consumers’
(afected people) to the forefront by developing innovations ‘with’ and ‘by’ users rather than
delivering ‘to’ and ‘for’ them.7
• Innovation spaces are growing in popularity worldwide, including within international organisa-
tions, and they have many models including labs, hubs, hackerspaces, science/technology parks,
and accelerators.7 8 9 10
Although organisations should determine the model that fits best within
their organisation, this paper highlights an incubator programme because of its focus on local,
new startups in a shared space.
• The Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Incubator (HEI) would be a partnership between humanitarian
organisations and humanitarian entrepreneurs. Organisations host entrepreneurs within their
ofice and provide resources and insight to them as they develop and implement an innovative
product or service related to humanitarian response. This departs from a traditional incubator as
a stand-alone entity and instead enables deeper collaboration between humanitarian entrepre-
neurs and organisation staf.
• There are many benefits both to the organisation and the entrepreneur as well as many risks to
consider. Organisations should carefully determine the approach to take, how it would align with-
in the mandate and mission, needed resources, and mitigating measures for risks.
• An innovation space will not solve a long and complex history of humanitarian crises. It is one
potential option in the humanitarian innovation toolbox to work in tandem with other response
"What business entrepreneurs are to the economy, social entrepreneurs
are to social change. They are the driven, creative individuals who question
the status quo, exploit new opportunities, refuse to give up, and remake the
world for the better."
David Bornstein, Author
This paper aims to explore the idea of humanitarian organisations creating an innovation space. It will
discuss the role of social innovation within the context of humanitarian response as well as how organ-
isations can build a positive ecosystem for entrepreneurs. It should serve as a guidance document for
humanitarian organisations to set up their own version of an entrepreneurial innovation space to en-
able innovative collaborations.
This paper provides an overview of the concept and is in no means comprehensive and one-size-fits-
all. Each organisation must decide how to adapt this concept to its own organisation and continue
to do further research and analysis on each part of the implementation. The proposed model of the
Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Incubator (HEI) is a partnership between humanitarian organisations and
humanitarian entrepreneurs where organisations host entrepreneurs within their ofice and provide
resources and insight to them as they develop an innovative product or service related to humanitarian
response. The HEI is just one model and approach, but there are alternatives that are outlined in this
This paper will focus on the HEI because it is hypothesized and designed to address two issues facing
humanitarian response: the growing needs of the afected people and the ability of the humanitari-
an community to meet those needs, as well as the need for more direct collaboration between local
innovators and humanitarian practitioners.11
It serves two imperatives: to create organisational change
toward a culture of innovative practice and to enable communities to lead their own changes for opti-
The paper should be read with the understanding that an innovation space can be one
tool in the humanitarian toolbox to use alongside traditional methods and is not a standalone solution
to addressing complex humanitarian issues.
The primary audience for the paper is humanitarian response organisations across the globe, primarily
in locations that face constant crisis, who are looking for new and innovative ways to combat dificult
crises. It may also be useful to development agencies, policy makers, or other international organisa-
tions interested in implementing incubators and/or social entrepreneurship into their business model.
It is intended to foster a more robust spirit of collaboration and spur innovation amongst humanitarian
organisations, communities, and the private sector. For the purpose of this paper, the term ‘entrepre-
neur’ will be used throughout with the understanding that it represents one or more individuals, as
determined by the host organisation.
04 January 2016
The Basics of
Innovation is defined as “a means of adaptation and improvement through finding and scaling solutions
to problems, in the form of products, processes or wider business models” by UN-OCHA. It can be ap-
plied to any area, including humanitarian response, with varying degrees of impact either immediately
or incrementally over time. Innovations can be novel creations or adaptations of existing products or
services to a new context.3
Innovation can be described as a mindset that allows people to see beyond the present and into what
As people become increasingly aware of the gap between the needs and what is provided
by traditional sources, the drive to innovate becomes more prominent and humanitarian entrepreneurs
This gap is growing rapidly with the emergence of new technologies and greater scientific
Humanitarian entrepreneurship is a vehicle for humanitarian innovation. The concept is founded on the
joint principles of social innovation and social entrepreneurship, with innovation being conceptual and
entrepreneurship being an actionable item. Social innovation is defined in many ways, but largely refers
to the broad concept of generating new ideas that work to meet social objectives.7
It aims to resolve
existing social, cultural, economic, or environmental challenges by changing systems or inventing prod-
ucts that permanently alter some of the structures that gave rise to the issues.16
ship also has varying definitions, but the core philosophy is that it is driven by a combination of a social
and a financial return.17 18 19
It combines multiple disciplines and actors across the non-profit, private,
public, and international organisation sectors.7 16
Therefore, the best way to define a social entrepreneur
may be by their characteristics:20
1. Social mission: Having a mission to create social value20 21
and long-term, lasting impact for the
public good rather than a profit-driven mission.
2. Entrepreneurial attitude: Recognising and tirelessly pursuing new opportunities to serve the so-
cial mission by thinking through the lens of being uninhibited by financial constraints.20
3. Innovative: Having a strong culture of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning to combat
critical social needs.20 21
4. Financial independence: Having a financial strategy in place and taking calculated risks to reduce
potential (or ongoing systemic) harm, while aiming to maintain a sustainable business model.
5. Accountability: Having strong relations with the people and communities they serve. This close
relationship leads to heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes
Humanitarian entrepreneurs would embody these same characteristics with a goal to create, develop,
adopt, and integrate innovative, possibly profit-generating concepts and practices that create long-last-
ing humanitarian impact by making innovation a priority in relief and response tools.16 22
tions are generally designed with a specific community or crisis in mind, but could be adapted to be
used in other humanitarian crises worldwide.
Humanitarian entrepreneurship uses an experimental approach to crisis management. It understands
there are boundaries and limits to existing knowledge and therefore assumes the role of taking an ev-
idence-based approach to experimentation.7
Experimentation takes the form of hypothesizing about
new methods of tackling humanitarian challenges and obtaining efectiveness data before taking a
product or service to full scale.7
In order to innovate, humanitarian entrepreneurs take calculated risks
and accept the risk of initial potential failures in order to learn important lessons for improvement.7
Humanitarian entrepreneurship brings the consumers to the forefront by developing innovations ‘with’
and ‘by’ users rather than delivering ‘to’ and ‘for’ them, as it oten requires substantial development
of the product or service in the community it serves.7
Humanitarian entrepreneurs can innovate pro-
grammes, products, processes, and partnerships, all of which harness new ideas and technology to
meet the needs of populations afected by crises and have a strong focus on equity, eficiency, and ef-
06 January 2016
UNDERSTANDING INNOVATION SPACES
Innovation spaces are places that bring together people to co-work on ventures within a universi-
ty, for-profit or non-profit centre, hackerspace, company, or other organisation.24
They are typically
physical spaces but can occasionally take the form of digital communities. Openness, collaboration,
and experimentation are central to their working philosophy.12 23
Innovation space environments are
eficient and efective due to the ambient cross-pollination of ideas fostered by space sharing. They
assist innovators and entrepreneurs by fostering an encouraging environment and helping them to
understand and reinvent rules and best practices.
Innovation spaces can be known by many names including incubators, hubs, labs, co-working spaces,
science/technology parks, accelerators, or hackerspaces and all can function with varying diferences.7
Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, and there is contestation around definitions, but
there are some key diferences. For the purpose of this paper, the following definitions will be used:
• Incubators: Spaces designed for local and new start-up entrepreneurs.25
• Hubs: Communal centres designed to be self-organising, non-hierarchical, and enabling of innova-
tors through donor support.26
• Labs: Spaces where experimentation is tried “rapidly and iteratively”, where people learn from
each other, and where knowledge is contributed to a larger ecosystem.27
• Co-working Spaces: Shared ofice spaces that encourages creativity by interaction.12
• Science/Technology Parks: Complexes designed to support more mature entrepreneurial ven-
tures in a shared workspace.24
• Accelerators: Shorter programmes that quickly move startups from one stage to the next, oten
through funding in exchange for equity, and generally global in nature.25
• Hackerspaces: Less formal, “hobbyist-tinkering labs” that provide resources for technology-driven
An incubator has been chosen as the model for this paper because of its focus on local community
members and start-up entrepreneurs. There are other key characteristics of incubators that make this
model well-suited for the humanitarian community such as their funding and support services strategy.
Incubators do not directly fund entrepreneurs,25
rather they provide services including shared ofice
space, meeting rooms, shared support services, networking opportunities, trainings, events, business
support, and mentoring.23 24 28
Incubators also provide the support framework necessary to get entre-
preneurs’ innovations into the mainstream7
and move them toward becoming a self-sustaining busi-
Housing an incubator within an organisation could inject new ideas and energy into traditional
practices and should not place great additional financial strain on organisations.
Combining humanitarianism with entrepreneurship is a challenging concept for many.14
services are generally viewed as “global public goods” because they benefit not only the consumer,
but all governments and humanitarian actors.3
As such, humanitarian goods are largely believed to be
the responsibility of governments and international partners and many believe that they can only be
delivered by these closed and tightly regulated suppliers. By bringing in humanitarian innovators and
entrepreneurs into the space of humanitarian organisations through an innovation space, organisations
could bring together traditional and nontraditional actors and minimise this intuitive juxtaposition.
INCREASED DEMANDS ON THE SYSTEM
The humanitarian system as it stands currently is facing more pressure and potentially debilitating chal-
lenges with the increase of natural disasters and escalating conflicts.36
United Nations Secretary-Gen-
eral Ban Ki-moon has declared the growing gap between the number of people in need and suficient
resources as one of the greatest challenges to the humanitarian system.1
In the last ten years, the cost
of international humanitarian aid has more than tripled and the amount of people afected by human-
itarian crises has nearly doubled.12
Additionally, emergencies are lasting longer: 17
years is the average
period of displacement; and six countries over the past eight years have needed assistance every year.3
Funding is diminishing, but “the average duration of a humanitarian funding appeal has increased to
The increase in natural disasters in the past century has been enormous, with big disas-
ters taking larger amounts of aid resources.6
Additionally, social media is increasingly bringing attention
to and scrutinizing the actions of governments and aid agencies, so there is greater accountability and
greater means for citizens to communicate with these entities.7
HUMANITARIAN INNOVATION AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Innovation in humanitarian response is becoming more widely discussed amongst prominent hu-
manitarian organisations worldwide. UN agencies, NGOs, and other humanitarian organisations have
adopted formal innovation processes, labs, grants, staf, and other initiatives supporting innovation in
08 January 2016
humanitarian response through “grants and finance, research and development, and collaborations
Many organisations are adopting the approach of utilising new technologies, private
sector innovations, or collaboration with other organisations to improve the humanitarian system.3
Using technology has become more prominently promoted in the field to tackle increasing challenges
because these developments enable organisations to more quickly understand and address issues
efectively. New technologies also increase connectivity, build capabilities to interact with the frontline
population, address surge capacity needs, and more.
HUMANITARIAN INNOVATION AND NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Innovation incubators and hubs are increasing in popularity worldwide 29
and humanitarian entrepre-
neurship is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable and efective means of solving pressing
problems. Organisations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, USAID, UN OCHA, and more have created pro-
grammes promoting the concept and development labs have been started all over the world.5 8 9 10
Humanitarian organisations should be proactive in recognising this trend and stepping in to encourage
and collaborate in order to execute services more quickly. There are many entrepreneurs, particularly
in local communities, who have innovative ideas and are not currently in the humanitarian response
space whose energy should be harnessed.29 30
By using positive deviance, the practice of recognising
that locals have advantageous community knowledge, organisations can assist in capturing and accel-
erating the already existing community innovations as well as promoting new ones. Humanitarian or-
ganisations have been slow to make changes and to open up the system, so creating an entrepreneurial
innovation strategy could be an opportunity for addressing the increasing challenges.3
CONSIDERATIONS FOR SELECTING A MODEL
Fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment between humanitarian organisations and other
sectors is the primary objective of an innovation space. Organisations including UNICEF, MIT, NYU, and
standalone spaces such as Geeks Without Bounds and iHub have all established innovation spaces
with varying diferences. Organisations are encouraged to discover the model that works best for their
mission, resources, and organisational structure. The following are factors to consider when selecting
and building a model:
• Mandate: The organisation should carefully evaluate its mandate to determine how the model and
approach will link to the afected population. For example, the organisation could be seeking an
innovation space that creates products that solve set problems by using the best and brightest minds.
Alternatively, the mandate may move the organisation toward serving the most marginalised popula-
tions and allowing them to generate solutions to problems they identify.
• Location: Entrepreneurs can have a physical or virtual presence with the organisation. Physically,
they could have a space in residence or externally. The external space could be of their own finding
or provided by the organisation. Organisations can choose to have a space for a single entrepreneur
or establish a hub for multiple entrepreneurs. Alternatively, virtual collaboration could bring together
organisations and entrepreneurs in more of an information sharing relationship rather than a day-to-
• Duration: Contract or collaboration periods between the organisation and entrepreneur can vary be-
tween short term, accelerator-type programmes, longer-term partnerships, and casual collaborations
on an as-needed basis. Selecting a duration can be based on the type of entrepreneur selected and
the resources the organisation has available.
• Size: The size is dependent on the model, whether it is entrepreneur in residence or a separate innova-
tion space. Determining size means to decide how many entrepreneurs the organisation can support
in regard to physical space limitations, budgetary considerations, and staf support capabilities.
• Support/Budget: Organisations can provide a wide range of support to entrepreneurs including
financial, research, material or digital resources, mentorship, networking, etc. Putting together a robust
financial plan and conducting an evaluation of staf capacity to determine what resources can be allo-
cated is important for organisations to do before selecting a model.
• Type of Entrepreneur: An organisation can elect to collaborate with one or many entrepreneurs
from many diferent backgrounds and demographics. Entrepreneurs could be locals who can create a
stronger tie to the local community or internationals who can bring an external perspective. They can
be young and creative or older and more experienced. Organisations can pre-determine the type of
entrepreneur they want, such as a technology innovator for example, before starting the application
process or keep options open for any humanitarian entrepreneur. Also, organisations can choose to
sponsor newer startups or more mature businesses.
10 January 2016
tions Lab Kosovo
Location In the field. Pristina/Prishtina, Kosovo.
Incubator; entrepreneurs in residence
of humanitarian organisation.
Lab; established space for resident
entrepreneurs and staf and shared
space for afiliates.
Duration of in-
novators’ stay /
As determined by organisation; rec-
ommended two years.
3 weeks - 1 month of idea develop-
ment and 3 months of implementa-
Support Services Ofice space, networking, mentoring,
assistance finding funding, shared
Designated mentor, coworking space,
equipment, up to €2000 of funding,
trainings, access to legal, marketing,
product and engineering, technology,
strategy, and operational support,
and networking support.
Focus of Entre-
Innovative humanitarian relief prod-
ucts and processes.
Youth, technology, and communica-
Problem or Op-
- Growing gap between services need-
ed by afected people and services
organisations can provide.
- Need for more collaboration be-
tween local innovators and practi-
- Initially, a push for deriving innova-
tive solutions to problems.
- Reinvention to work with the most
marginalised youth in society to ad-
dress local issues.
Digital Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United
Community Lab; researchers and
entrepreneurs in residence
Part co-working space and part
incubator; established space for
Six months Goal is to sustain partnership as
long as possible
6 months - 1 year, renewable,
depending on the level of mem-
Mentorship in business devel-
opment, funding acquisition,
user experience and engage-
ment, and ethical usage of
Workshops, trainings, technology
installations, technology lending
library, technical support, grant
writing, residencies, and estab-
lishing connections with external
partners to provide further devel-
opment and training
Co-working space, networking,
shared resources, events, brain-
storming sessions, newsletter, jobs
board, web presence for entre-
preneur, ofice hours mentorship,
server space, library
Technology Robotics, technology, community
engagement, community empow-
- Conceived as a “help desk
for the world” then became a
- Restructured when hack-
athon projects were not being
completed to become an ac-
celerator for some hackathon
- Identified problem with research
being conducted for the purpose
of academic publication only.
- Established to create sustainable
community partnerships with
researchers and technological
- Goal to make robotics more
accessible to everybody.
- Originally founded as a part of
the Ushahidi strategy.
- Created to fill gaps in the tech
- Grown to include iHub Research
and the m:lab, iHub Consulting
and the UX Lab, and Gearbox with
BRCK and Sanergy.
12 January 2016
UNICEF INNOVATIONS LAB KOSOVO
UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo began in 2010 as a mechanism to utilise innovation to address
issues the organisation identified. Its focus was primarily on data and technology. Many models were
considered at the beginning including to physically and programmatically locate the lab within a
university or to be hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport. These models were ultimately
not chosen due to operational and political challenges and the constraint they would have on the reach
of the Lab into marginalised and insurgent (hackerspaces, advocacy, etc.) communities.
In 2013, the organisation made a fundamental shit in the lab’s approach to more closely align with its
mandate and become more focused on youth and social programmes. The lab decided to enable the
most marginalised youth in the country to be the innovators for their problems at the grassroots level
rather than incubating more advanced ideas from oten more privileged members of society. The lab
uses a human-centered approach to eliminate the barriers to problem solving in order to build capacity
within the target population. The strategy is for the Lab to serve as an intermediary between youth, in-
surgents, and authorities to translate the needs, wants, ideas, energy, and capacity of the community’s
youth and insurgents into the language and capacity of the authorities.
The Lab is looking to grow by scaling and institutionalising the programme for helping youth implement
innovations. This would be done through building support structures, growing the network of facilita-
tors, and moving the Lab into a technical assistance and quality assurance role. Additionally, the Lab is
considering growth as an incubator and providing engineering and development, design, manufactur-
ing, marketing, financial, human resources, management, and legal support to innovation for UNICEF
and for external partners and innovators that have shared objectives.
To date, more than 130 youth-led projects have achieved success. These projects have taken the form
of NGOs or social ventures and have achieved success based on the target and impact measurements
they set for themselves.31
iHub, Nairobi’s innovation hub for the technology community, was founded as a part of the Ushahidi
strategy and has grown into its own entity with 16,663 members as of 2015. It categorises itself as a
co-working space, investor and volunteer vector, and incubator.32
The government has planned for ICT
to contribute to 25% of Kenya’s GDP by providing support to entrepreneurs to start their own business-
es. iHub helps to achieve this goal, so it has a positive relationship with the Kenya ICT Board. A three-
month 2012 study on iHub found positive results on its contributions to its members and the commu-
nity. 100% of members reported appreciation of the space and the resources it provides and that they
have made new friends and connections. The highest satisfaction reported was for iHub’s environment
as being conducive, energetic, and collaborative. Other relevant findings include:30
• 50% of green and red members, which are members who are registered to use the physical space,
go to iHub daily and 40% go at least once per week.
• 95% report that their skills have improved or have gained new skills as a result of iHub.
• 38.5% began start-ups ater joining and 61.5% had a start-up before joining.
iHub’s success is in its ability to serve as a platform for innovators. It hosts over 120 events per year
including build nights, pitching competitions for start-ups, legal workshops, and more. It has also pub-
lished research, created infographics, brought in notable speakers, formed partnerships with universi-
ties and corporations, grown initiatives, and spurred start-ups.33
14 January 2016
Established innovation spaces have learned many important lessons regarding critical success factors and
barriers to success. These factors have been highlighted based on conversations with staf, consultants,
and afiliates of various innovation spaces worldwide.
MISSION AND MANDATE ALIGNMENT
UNICEF Innovations Labs are well-established and respected in the field. They have years of experience that
have led them to determine the most important success factors for a lab. First and foremost, ensuring the
lab’s mission matches the organisation’s mandate is critical. The lab must ask itself for whom are we solving
problems? The answer should determine with whom to solve problems. By working with the people who
are closest to the problems, the end product will be most relevant to what is needed on the ground. People
are experts in their own experience and the innovation space should facilitate ownership of the process.31
Overcoming institutional limitations and barriers has been an important barrier to success that has been
identified by many people. Institutions can be powerful and rigid, making innovation and social change
The key challenges are maneuvering the structural barriers in the system to achieve behavioural
Organisations could end up being detrimental to the entrepreneur if the entrepreneur is responsi-
ble to too many policies and procedures. The innovation space will be most successful if it keeps its bureau-
cracy out of the innovation space and resists being parochial. Also, if the strategic plans of the organisation
are too firmly rooted to allow space for innovative changes, there could be a problem making the most of
the innovation space. Innovators and entrepreneurs may have ideas that are mission-aligned but not strate-
gy-aligned, which could be a barrier to success if the organisation does not remain adaptable.34
There are many logistical considerations that are both barriers to success and success factors. Branding
becomes an issue when working with large organisations. It can be detrimental to local collaboration
because it perpetuates existing dynamics. It should be designed to be afiliated, but separate.31
licensing expectations should be clearly established. Despite being afiliated with an organisation, entrepre-
neurs should be given rights to license their innovations.35
Also, diversity should be prioritised. GWOB has
found that accepting teams with a balance of skills generates the greatest success.35
COMMUNICATION AND COLLABORATION
Communication between staf, locals, entrepreneurs, and experts is critical. It must be done clearly and
with everyone’s best interests at heart. Providing feedback to entrepreneurs and innovators regardless if
they are selected to be a part of the innovation space should be done. Oten those not selected will become
the strongest candidates to be chosen in the next application cycle.35
The opportunity for local entrepre-
neurs and innovators to work with experts can be an ideal match for success and the organisation should
serve as a facilitator for this collaboration.31
Many experts are already advising entrepreneurs through
contracted services or volunteer time. For example, researchers at Stanford give ten hours per month to
mentor entrepreneurs in humanitarian technology and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
worked directly with Deloitte experts for two months facilitate innovation.36
Also, the CREATE Lab builds
partnerships with experts to provide professional development and trainings to community leaders to
foster community empowerment. CREATE Lab believes in collaboration without an end date because
they found that in the past, when funding dried up and collaborations ended, communities were oten let
stranded and sustainable change was not achieved.37
The innovation space does not need to be a formal space with solely external people; intrapreneurs and
the operations team can be introduced into the space as well.34 38
Projects are oten isolated from the space
where innovation occurs rather than within operations, which creates a barrier for adoption and scaling
IOM has found that by embedding innovation and entrepreneurs within the operations team, adop-
tion of items/approaches developed is faster than those coming from the standalone hubs.38
Lab Kosovo has also identified resistance in innovation adoption by the central ofice as an issue due to the
separate nature of the lab.31
Intrapreneurs could be an option for the greatest cross-fertilisation of ideas
and approaches. Intrapreneurs are organisational staf who work most closely with the entrepreneurs and
who tend to be innovators or maverick-types themselves. This combination of internal and external staf
working closely together could be the best combination of factors for success.34
iHub has identified people as being the most significant success factor and barrier to success. Putting the
people who are involved in the space at the center of the strategy and engaging with them throughout
the process will result in the best end product for the community.39
UNICEF Innovations Lab Kosovo has
noted that having experts design solutions instead of community members who are embedded in the
context and doing research firsthand has been the primary source of project failures.40
a critical mass of the right people involved is important when starting an innovation space. Leadership
then becomes important to move toward creating a shared vision and mission. Leadership continues to
be important throughout and finding the right leaders who are willing to put in the time and efort without
necessarily immediate (if any) monetary compensation is a critical success factor. Having the critical mass
of people and leadership can be a matter of timing, so recognising that timing is an important factor can
help overcome potential barriers or provide the necessary boost to get the process moving.39
16 January 2016
The Humanitarian Entrepreneurial Incubator (HEI) would be a partnership between humanitarian organisa-
tions and humanitarian entrepreneurs. Any type of humanitarian organisation could participate including
international agencies, traditional and newer donors, INGOs, NGOs, or others. The proposed concept is
for humanitarian organisations to host entrepreneurs, either individuals or small teams, within their ofice
(headquarters, regional, or country) and provide resources and insight to them as they develop and imple-
ment an innovative product or service related to humanitarian response.
Although organisations should determine the model that fits best within their organisation, an incubator
programme is suggested for this concept because of its focus on local, new startups in a shared space. The
HEI is a new model and approach and has not been tested in practice. It is hypothesis-driven based on the
evidence from analysing existing models.
By having the entrepreneur in residence, it helps avoid the possibility of innovation happening in a silo,
which would discourage the imperative of changing the organisational mindset and the close collabora-
tion with the local community.12
It promotes change from the inside out, and the outside in. The intended
impact of the incubator is to foster collaboration and increase the efectiveness of relief operations while
minimising added costs to organisations by formally opening the door to the private, local entrepreneurs to
contribute to traditional relief eforts. This departs from a traditional incubator as a stand-alone entity and
instead enables deeper collaboration between humanitarian entrepreneurs and organisation staf.
FACILITATION OF RESOURCES
HIGH IMPACT HUMANITARIAN PARTNERSHIPS, OVERSIGHT, AND ACCOUNTABILITY
EFFECTIVE INFORMATION EXCHANGE ACROSS SECTORS
Education: Access to trainings, meetings, and events to gain
insight into how relief is being delivered to the community.
Funding: Assistance in obtaining funding via information about
diferent options (grants, loans, CSR, etc.), help completing
paperwork, and potential endorsement of application.
Network: Connections to professionals that will help the inno-
vation be well-received by the aid community, gain a sounding
board for ideas, and open up potential possibilities for invest-
ments or future clients.
Connections: Access to expertise, insight, and creativity and
the opportunity to make connections with other community
members through entrepreneur.28
Extra Hands: Extra help wherever needed in the event of a
sudden emergency or need.
Pilot: Once the product or service has been developed in the
incubator, the organisation can choose to pilot the innovation.
Adopt: Opportunity to utilise the innovation as a central part of
operations if desired, with the privilege of being the initial adopt-
ers of a revolutionary tool in humanitarian response.
Perspective: External perspective to current programmes,
dilemmas, or new situational developments.
Experimental: Opportunity to learn from the experimental
learning and innovation approach of entrepreneurs to develop a
more robust and successful solution in the end.12
Innovations: Chance to see a new innovation being developed
and learn from the entrepreneur about other innovations they
have discovered from research.
Control: Ability to maintain control over relief services through
monitoring the entrepreneur and terminating the contract as a
result of ineficiencies or damage to the population if necessary.
Accountability: Method to increase accountability to the desires
and needs of the afected people by demonstrating organisa-
tional trust in the community to innovate their own solutions.
Participatory: Community-centred response approach will
become increasingly participatory, transforming information
into new response mechanisms.
Access: Access to as much information as appropriate and ability
to participate in staf discussions.
Mentoring: Scheduled times for meeting and brainstorming
with staf members and receiving mentoring.
News: First-hand accounts of what is happening in the field,
news and updates, and new innovations and by other organisa-
tions in real-time.
Oversight: Structured and informed oversight between the
organisation, grant funder/investor, and impacted population by
a well-established provider of humanitarian services.
Contract: Commitment to resources and services for a defined
period of time through piloting and initial scaling.
Monitoring: Assistance in monitoring progress of innovation
process and accountability in adhering to a timeline and all
necessary protocols in service delivery.
18 January 2016
THE BENEFITS FOR
REINVIGORATE THE HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE SYSTEM
Innovators can think diferently than traditional practitioners because they have the space, and otentimes
the mindset, to think radically and to come up with new ideas.7
An incubator within an organisation will help
to question and restructure the barriers between the practitioners, protocols of the organisation, and the
local entrepreneurial community. There are innovative ideas that result from every emergency that oten
do not progress through life cycle assessment. Tapping into the diferent sectors to buy into and support
these innovative ideas can progress humanitarian response mechanisms.11
It will help make the shit from
the traditional coordination system to a functional ecosystem that prioritises collaboration, especially with
local innovators, by combining the internal and external perspective.3
FOSTER COLLABORATION AND SHARE OWNERSHIP
Humanitarian entrepreneurship places the responsibility of addressing needs in the hands of everyone
through the collective approach, rather than only a select group of experts.7
Collaborating with local en-
trepreneurs shares ownership with the community for creating their own solutions for improvements and
assists in reducing dependencies on humanitarian support.12
By bringing the private sector approach into
humanitarian services delivery, it opens up the market to utilise these new innovations worldwide. Entre-
preneurs can collaborate with each other as well to share lessons and ideas. The soon-to-be-launched
Innovation Exchange from UN-OCHA will be a platform for entrepreneurs and organisations to share ideas
and projects worldwide, minimise duplication of eforts, and receive advice and input through virtual, and
perhaps physical, networks that organisations can connect with as well.
CREATE BENEFICIAL COMPETITION
Entrepreneurship creates a source of “controlled competition”, which can encourage an increased amount
of contributions to the field.3 I
Additionally, it enables the market to come into play as many products deliv-
ered in the humanitarian sphere can have additional commercial uses.3
Humanitarians typically operate in
closed markets, but entrepreneurs can be encouraged to develop products or services that organisations
or afected people can purchase that are an improvement on what is already available. It could also be of
great benefit to local communities as the products and services will likely be produced and maintained in
the area, especially in crisis prone locations, which will grow the economic capacity of the region.
Failure is discouraged in the humanitarian response sector because raises concerns about ethics and ac-
, but it is an integral part of entrepreneurship and innovation.7 11
Incubators create a safe space
for risk taking. By finding a balance of accountability and risk taking, both organisations and entrepreneurs
can integrate ethically learning from failure into operating procedures. For example, UNICEF Innovations
I. Exemplified by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund’s WASH Challenge, the UN Foundation Global Accelerator, and
The Gates Foundation and Government of Canada Grand Challenges.
BENEFITS TO ORGANISATIONS AND ENTREPRENEURS
has ‘Failure Fridays’ where staf members share one failure from the week in order to encourage cyclical
Instituting these cultural changes enables organisations and entrepreneurs to be more innova-
tive and flexible, and therefore more able to provide efective services for the target population.
1. Having the ability to collaborate with inno-
2. Bringing in an external perspective to cur-
rent practices and work41
3. Having initial access to new and innovative
products that could make response more
efective and eficient
4. Being challenged to learn and adapt
5. Networking with other local entrepreneurs
6. Gaining financial savings from the reassign-
ment of recovery services or products being
allocated to the private sector
7. Having the ability to more quickly under-
stand the local systems and needs
8. Having input in the creation of new innova-
tions in the field
9. Gaining increased trust and respect by local
communities because a local entrepreneur
is directly involved in the shared space of
10. Creating more appeal to the private sector
and strengthening fundraising activities
11. Expanding reach of humanitarian relief ser-
vices beyond the crisis-impacted region due
to market forces of the private sector
1. Increasing likelihood of success
2. Having the ability to collaborate with hu-
manitarian organisation staf
3. Getting relevant and useful information
about the humanitarian situation in the field
4. Participating in the cycle of continuous
learning and adaptation
5. Having a very appealing and marketable
product because of its relevance and
6. Networking with UN, government, NGO, and
other related staf
7. Having access to ofice space at no cost
8. Participating in meetings and trainings to
inform product production
9. Having access to scheduled ofice hours for
questions and advice
10. Connecting with people who could become
11. Learning more about aid delivery in con-
junction with local language, culture, and
traditions, making their product or service
12. Fostering growth in local and regional econ-
omies through new job creation to produce
and promote the innovation
20 January 2016
THE RISKS AND MITIGATING MEASURES
Humanitarian organisations must be cognizant of the challenges involved in establishing an HEI. They
must approach risk wisely and take necessary precautions to mitigate.28
Very little academic research has
been conducted on the success of incubators on social entrepreneurs and social innovation has not been
tracked long enough to precisely measure economic impact.41 42
The research done on for-profit business
incubators in the United States has not produced favourable results, showing that businesses in incubators
do not have a high success rate once leaving the incubator and many never leave at all.43
Since this is a rel-
atively new and untested field, taking cautious steps and doing meticulous research will be of great benefit
to the organisation in implementation.
Risks Mitigating Measures
Uncertainty in innovation pro-
cess, community conditions,
and human behaviour.
• Monitor trial and error process and cyclical learning incorporation.
• Remember: the uncertain environment cannot be controlled, part of
Policy changes may need to
be instituted by governments
regarding the establishment
of new businesses or develop-
• Research local and federal laws in order to be informed of the proce-
Logistical constraints faced
by the organisation including
finding space, added costs,
legal issues, etc.
• Incorporate the entrepreneur into the plan for allocating workspace
and tell the entrepreneur upfront that there may be times when shar-
ing space will be necessary.
• Determine visa needs of the entrepreneur before making a final
• Factor in potential additional costs and resources in the initial incuba-
tor start-up plan.
staf resisting relinquishing
control over aspects of relief
• Emphasize that the relinquishment of some ownership will be re-
placed by the equally important role of facilitating innovation.7
• Put safeguards in place to ensure that the relinquishment of control
happens through a smooth and thoughtful transitional mechanism.
• Promote the push for innovation from the core of the organisation
rather than as an external injection with structured knowledge trans-
fer and incentives.12 31
Conflict of humanitarian prin-
ciples by involving private sec-
tor profit-making motives.18
• Make clear before the application process what criteria will be used
when selecting an entrepreneur.
• Select entrepreneurs who align with the mission of the organisation.3
• Train the entrepreneur in the expected principles of ethics and insti-
tute a code of conduct.
• Capitalise on the closed nature of the humanitarian market by dis-
couraging detrimental profit-making ventures.
Draining resources of the or-
ganisation in a time where all
staf are needed for delivering
• Schedule time where the entrepreneur can meet with staf members,
which is subject to change due to emergencies.
• Allow staf to work within their knowledge area without needing to
invest in new areas of expertise.3
• Ask entrepreneurs to take a hands-on role in the response delivered
by organisations if necessary.
Aversion by donors of having
an entrepreneur within a
because costs of failure are
high and approaches are
untested. 7 18
• Speak with donors before the entrepreneur arrives.
• Make it clear to all parties that the innovation will not be used in an
emergency setting until it has been appropriately piloted and tested
to ensure its robustness and usefulness.
• Inform donors of how the entrepreneur is being funded and that
organisation dollars are only sponsoring the workspace.
Exacerbation of problems
facing the afected people.3
• Ensure the entrepreneur has a financial plan and solid ethics in place
before being accepted into the incubator programme.7
• Require entrepreneurs to test innovations on a small scale in a rela-
tively controlled environment initially.41
• Create a plan before pilot is launched to manage any of the damage
that could result from a failure.
• Prioritise selecting innovators that come from the local community.
Duplication of already existing
• Require entrepreneur to conduct market research at the beginning of
the incubation period to identify all similar innovations worldwide.
• Hold entrepreneur accountable for any intellectual property viola-
tions or duplication of eforts.
• Provide a network of mentors for the entrepreneur to utilise for sup-
port and insight.
22 January 2016
HOW TO BE A GOOD
AGENCY FOR ENTREPRENEURS
The first and most important step in being a good agency for entrepreneurs is for the organisation to do all
of the necessary initial research to fully understand their role as a host. Entrepreneurs are the individuals
or small teams making the innovations, but the organisation is the backbone as it provides the mandates,
contracts, administration, and resources that can make or break the collaboration.45
Once that has been
established, there are a number of critical components of a good host organisation:
• Clarification of expectations from the onset: Have an initial dialogue that makes each partner’s ex-
pectations of the collaboration explicit, covering all aspects of the process including resources, ethics,
transparency, flexibility, ending a project, etc.45
The organisation must develop a code of conduct for
the entrepreneurial endeavour and require entrepreneurs to uphold the same ethical standards as
• Communication with staf: The organisation is responsible for making sure that all staf members
have the opportunity to provide feedback for how the incubator could work.41
Their buy-in will be the
most critical success factor for both the organisation and the entrepreneur, as they are the people on
the frontline in the field and in collaboration with the entrepreneur.45 46
• Desire to make innovation a priority: If the innovation agenda is not important to the staf, the entre-
preneur will not feel welcome in the environment and will be less likely to succeed.41
Just by having an
entrepreneur in residence will not guarantee the incorporation of innovation into organisational pro-
grammes. The organisation should create structured opportunities for knowledge and skills transfer
alongside incentives for staf to incorporate innovation.31 II
• Creation of an inclusive culture: It is important that organisations remember that success is not
solely dependent on their own competencies, so relinquishment of some autonomy and power of
practitioners is vital.7 46
Also, the culture must accommodate diferent personalities and work styles
to combat issues of understanding each other, a lack of predictability, and a diference in core
• Willingness to learn new skillsets: Aid workers may not have training in project management and
innovation, which relate greatly to working successfully with entrepreneurs. Organisations should
facilitate practitioners to take part in courses related to social innovation and entrepreneurship.7 III
such, the entrepreneur should be a self-starter since few staf members will have relevant knowledge
to make the best use of their skillsets and provide guidance.46
II. Adobe Kickbox is one example of an incentive.
III. There are a number of free courses online including one by Nesta called “Learn how to innovate”. There are also
MOOCs available, some of which result in certifications at the end, including one from the Wharton School on Coursera
called “Social Entrepreneurship”.
• Creation of systems for information sharing: Organisations must develop a more thoughtful system
for sharing and understanding the “roles, incentives, capacities, principles, financing, skills, knowledge,
mindsets, research and development, and resources” of all involved parties.3
• Prioritisation of diversity: Understanding that diversity can help inform of the varying needs of com-
munity members will have a substantial impact on humanitarian response.41
Keeping an appropriate
representation of gender and people from difering backgrounds is necessary. Research has found
that women actually benefit more from an incubator environment than men, so selecting women may
result in a greater likelihood of success.43
• Clarification of the rules and the reasons behind them: Innovation may oten result in a breaking of
the rules. It is important that organisations and staf understand the rules of the humanitarian re-
sponse system so they can best know which rules are vital for the health and wellbeing of communities
versus which exist due to tradition and are ready to be modified.47
• Education on technical jargon: Humanitarians constantly use industry-specific jargon that could be a
barrier to entrepreneurs. Using too much of this language without giving entrepreneurs the opportuni-
ty to learn it could hinder the creation of relevant innovations.47
• Communication with staf: Mentorship is a critical component of the incubation process, as it
incentivises and encourages the entrepreneur by making the learning journey collective. In addition to
mentorship provided by organisation staf, organisations should facilitate connections with external
mentors, in person or virtually, for business development and innovation development. Also, organ-
isations could facilitate connections with local hubs or incubators to ensure the pulse of creativity is
provided for the entrepreneur.
SELECTING THE RIGHT MATCH
The organisation must invest time and energy in selecting the right match to host within their ofice space.
The following are factors to consider when choosing an entrepreneur:
• Does the entrepreneur’s mission fit within the mission of the organisation?
• Does the organisation feel good about having an afiliation with the entrepreneur?
• Can the organisation learn from the entrepreneur and adopt learnings into their best practices?
• Does the organisation see value in what the entrepreneur is proposing?
• Do the value systems and personality types of organisation and entrepreneur mesh?
• Will failure(s) happen gracefully without detrimental damage to the afected people?
24 January 2016
Entrepreneurs should be selected based on three key criteria:
The first and most important step in being a good agency for entrepreneurs is for the organisation to do all
of the necessary initial research to fully understand their role as a host. Entrepreneurs are the individuals
or small teams making the innovations, but the organisation is the backbone as it provides the mandates,
contracts, administration, and resources that can make or break the collaboration.45
There are a number of
critical components of a good host organisation:
1. Organisational alignment with the entrepreneur’s mission and values and the ability for the organisa-
tion to support the entrepreneur for the necessary amount of time and needed resources.
2. Efectiveness of the idea to deliver humanitarian relief in a more eficient manner than alternatives
3. Entrepreneur’s plan for financing the idea through the scaling process, which should be in alignment
with organisation’s purpose and systemic betterment.
Organisations should aim to only accept entrepreneurs who have already defined the problem they wish to
address and have some ideas for research and development.3
Also, selecting someone who is a self-starter
is essential until the point when the HEI is more well-understood by staf and established within the organi-
The organisation should also ensure that the entrepreneur will have the funding to continue for the agreed
upon contract time, whether they are grant-funded, self-funded, or have an investor. Organisations can
choose to accept an entrepreneur that is not already funded and assist him or her in obtaining funds as well
as long as the entrepreneur can ensure personal financial sustainability for long enough until other funding
The HEI should be established wherever it adds the most value, whether that is at headquarters or in
regional or country ofices.46
If the innovation relates to broad humanitarian response delivery, the organ-
isation’s headquarters could serve as the incubator. Applications should be lodged through the ofice that
will host the innovator. Any applications lodged through headquarters should be channelled to the proper
regional or country ofice locations. The application process will be facilitated by ofices wishing to partici-
pate with regular correspondence back to headquarters about developments. Headquarters must sign of
on the selected entrepreneur for approval upon selection.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the needs of the community as well as the entrepreneurial
climate. Successful organisations will find a match between the services they already provide with the
needs of the local entrepreneurs.48
Entrepreneurs already beginning the start-up phase of their innovations
would be ideal candidates to encourage to apply. Organisations should select a candidate that truly serves
the most pressing needs of the community rather than a candidate that may have a terrific idea but lacks a
suficient market for their innovation.48
For the organisation to be successful implementing an HEI, it must be willing to use some resources for its
success. The major costs the organisation would incur include the following:
• Ofice Space: The organisation would need to have dedicated space for the entrepreneur. This may
detract from the space that current staf utilise and could require that the ofice reorganise, restructure
flexible work hours, or relocate to a bigger facility.
• Staf Time: The entrepreneur would be entitled to regular meetings with staf to discuss ideas, gather
information, and ask questions. Staf must also train the entrepreneur on business practices, codes
of conduct and ethics, and other ofice operations. Organisations can determine how much formal
staf time they wish to allocate to entrepreneurs for meetings and services beyond basic operational
• Application Processing: Staf would need to create application materials and a website (where
appropriate) dedicated to applying, to spend time answering questions via phone or email during the
application process, to read applications and select recipients, and to process all necessary paper-
work to get the entrepreneur ready to begin.
• Resources: Entrepreneurs will be using resources available in the ofice including ofice supplies, desk
supplies, printers, and other equipment. There may be other costs involved such as visa fees or other
unexpected needs. The organisation should consider maintaining a flexible budget to account for
unexpected costs and for adopting innovations if they are deemed useful.
The entrepreneur would be responsible for all personal costs including transportation, accommodation,
etc. as well as all costs associated with innovation aside from aforementioned organisation-sponsored
resources. Upon completion of contracted time with the organisation, the entrepreneur will incur all future
business costs. Organisations can elect to absorb some of the ideas of the entrepreneur if there is appropri-
Organisations choosing to establish an HEI could view their financial obligations as an investment in
humanitarian innovation and potential future cost savings. This investment could return dividends if the
entrepreneur develops an innovation that could be useful to the organisation. For example, the organisa-
tion could utilise the product or service developed, which dramatically increases eficiency or efectiveness
of relief delivery. More eficient or efective relief delivery results in cost savings. Alternatively, the innovation
could shit a service that was previously provided by organisations into the private sector, therefore remov-
ing the cost of that service from an organisation’s budget.
IV. UNICEF developedthePrinciplesforInnovationandTechnologyinDevelopmentasbest-practiceethicsguidelinesthat
26 January 2016
"There can be no innovation without evidence; unless we can measure the
impact of pilots and have metrics standards for measurement for what suc-
cess or failure mean, then attempts to innovate are likely to be dead-ends,
and potentially even harmful."
Dr. Alexander Betts, Director, Humanitarian Innovation Project. Humanitarian Innovation Conference 2014.
Routine evaluation of a new humanitarian entrepreneurship strategy is essential for all organisations. An
evaluation should estimate the alternatives of what would have happened without the incubator to the
entrepreneur, organisation, and afected people. The community should be involved in defining the impact
measures and providing input for a comprehensive and authentic assessment.11
Both the organisation and
entrepreneur should complete summative assessments of the implementation at the conclusion of the
contract to complete the feedback loop. The organisation does not assume oficial responsibility for the
evaluation of the entrepreneur’s product itself, as this should be done by the entrepreneur and external
mentors. Continuing the original plan is not a measure of success for entrepreneurial actions.
Humanitarian organisations may learn over time that some of the practices that are currently the responsi-
bility of the agency to perform can be done more eficiently and efectively through humanitarian entre-
preneurs. Agencies may begin a process of task-shiting some current practices to the private sector as
promising approaches develop.7
Innovation is oten very focused on the initial prototype or process development and faces dificulties with
sustainability. Social innovators use the term ‘valley of death’ to describe the time following the pilot when
the project is no longer brand new, but before the project can survive on its own and begin the process of
Therefore, it is crucial that organisations can continue to support entrepreneurs through this ‘valley
of death’ period until they are mature enough to be self-sustainable through the market. Organisations and
entrepreneurs should use this time to determine if the innovation is truly useful and worthy of support if it
continues to struggle to be sustainable.
V. The organisation should also decide if the entrepreneur will receive an email account in order to access the address
book, intranet, etc. or if they will be expected to use their own. If given an organisational email account, training should be
provided on how to present themselves externally using the account. [Médecins Sans Frontières, “GIS Support for the MSF
Ebola Response in Guinea 2014,” 2014, Logistics Department Case Study, 1st Edition]
VI. The Red Cross utilises hotlines, logbooks, SMS systems, and suggestion boxes supplemented by television, radio, and
print communication to collect information from the community. Utilising multiple channels has allowed them to reach a
wider diversity of community members including the disabled and elderly.
The organisation could create guidelines for a standard structure based on lessons learned from the
evaluations for other ofices to use when establishing their own HEI.28
Also, if the innovation is deemed
successful, organisations should assist the entrepreneur to replicate the project in other locations where it
may be applicable.7
The organisation may want to consider coordinating with ofices in other countries to
continue the partnership with the entrepreneur in a new location. This could be done in a variety of ways
including the innovator actually moving or the organisation assisting in identifying other local community
members to replicate or franchise the business. Additionally, information and templates could be produced
and published as open access for others to use, or through a platform such as RED Innovation, to continue
to support innovators worldwide.11
The next challenge ater setting up an HEI or other innovation space would be to broaden the scope and
scale of the concept. It has the potential to grow if successful by becoming larger within an organisation or
by an organisation setting up an incubator connected to, but no longer inside its walls, that supports a va-
riety of local entrepreneurs. The scope could broaden by supporting not only humanitarian entrepreneurs,
but development entrepreneurs as well. Protracted crises have become the norm and natural disasters can
destroy development instantaneously, so the humanitarian and development communities have become
inextricably linked and must be considered simultaneously.44 9
It is important that organisations remember that an incubator will not solve a long and complex history of
humanitarian crises. It is one potential option in the humanitarian innovation toolbox to work in tandem
with other response mechanisms. Also, it is not immediate as impact is oten slow to manifest.12
bination of the organisation and the entrepreneur could work toward creating the best possible solutions
for the community. Setting realistic goals for the program and investing the proper amount of time and
resources into it would be vital to its success.48
In sum, humanitarian crises are recurring, protracted, and increasing. Simply put: humanitarian organi-
sations cannot manage it alone. A fundamental shit is needed in how the most vulnerable people living
in fragile contexts are supported.50
As humanitarians worldwide engage in dialogue about changes to the
humanitarian system, there is an opportunity to transform the way in which organisations respond, by
adopting innovative practices that foster collaboration and ultimately contribute to building capacity. The
growth of innovation spaces could signal a positive change that communities, entrepreneurs, and organisa-
tions are teaming up to make humanitarian response even better.
28 January 2016
EXISTING INNOVATION SPACES
There are numerous examples of innovation spaces in existence worldwide. While they have similarities
in their approach to problem solving and innovation, they have vast diferences in terms of methodology,
services, and products.
A number of websites exist that compile incubators, hubs, co-working spaces, and more regionally and
around the world. Reference the Global Coworking Map, Hubs in Africa, Coworking Wiki, Global List of Virtual
Business Incubators, infoDev, and the Global Innovation Exchange for more examples.
CENTER AFFILIATION FOUNDED LOCATION
BANDWITHBARN N/A 1998
Hub for technology inno-
Center for Knowl-
edge Societies’ and
2012 New Delhi, India
User-centered program to
address health systems
CENTER FOR SO-
CIAL INNOVATION N/A 2003
and NY City, USA
Social enterprise for any
N/A Pittsburgh, USA
Social innovation and
deployment of robotic tech-
nologies through sustainable
ENCHANTED FARM GawadKalinga 2011
Farm for sustainable devel-
opment centers and social
entrepreneurs from the
BOUNDS N/A 2010 Digital
programme for digital hu-
Ushahidi 2010 Nairobi, Kenya
Part co-working space, part
vector for investors and VCs,
and part incubator for tech
CENTER AFFILIATION FOUNDED LOCATION
N/A 2005 60+ Locations Innovation lab, business
INNOVATION LABS UNICEF 2010 10+ Locations
Varies, ranging from health,
product development, re-
porting, technology, youth,
InSTEDDiLAB N/A 2008
Social and technological
lab for health, safety and
JOZIHUB Praekelt Foundation 2013
KENNISLAND N/A 1998
Identify innovators, maxi-
mise knowledge develop-
ments, share knowledge,
and translate innovations
into practical interventions
DISTRICT N/A 2005 Toronto, Canada
Convene partners to assist
entrepreneurs focusing on
work, learning, health, and
INNOVATION N/A 2013
New York City,
Design-led platform to assist
organisations to innovate
UN and the Ministry
of National Develop-
ment and Planning
2012 Jakarta, Indonesia
lab for applying data and re-
al-time analysis techniques
to social development
Lahore University of
ManagementScience 2013 Lahore, Pakistan Lab for social innovation
CENTER FOR SO-
N/A 2009 Adelaide, Australia Increase innovation internal-
ly in organisations that focus
on child abuse and neglect,
and ageing and caring
U.S. GLOBAL DE-
USA and global
Co-creation lab to develop
solutions for extreme pover-
30 January 2016
Kinetic Six and Motorola
Concrete Canvas Shelters
Liter of Light
Distribution Truck Bodies
Delivering as One
Global Alliance for
World Bank, and GFDRR
Nippon Steel and
CHECKLIST FOR ESTABLISHING AN HEI
The following is an example of the necessary steps in establishing an HEI. Each organisation should adapt as
necessary to the model chosen to suit the organisation.
o Determine if opening an innovation space would add value to the organisation.
o Select appropriate model and approach for the incubator space.
o Evaluate resources of organisation to incubate entrepreneurs (location, size, staf time and expertise, bud-
get, resources, etc.).
o Obtain necessary approvals from headquarters and country or regional ofices.
o Create a budget.
o Establish application committee.
o Create an application, process and guidelines, timeline, and accompanying materials.
o Determine mandatory and preferential selection criteria.
o Communicate opportunity widely through a marketing campaign and targeted networking strategy.
o Read applications and discuss with committee, conducting interviews if necessary.
o Ensure candidate meets minimum mandatory and preferential selection criteria (individual or small team,
community member, humanitarian response knowledge, and has defined the problem).
o Design an onboarding process for the entrepreneur including providing trainings.
o Create ofice policies for enabling the success of the entrepreneur (ethics, information accessibility, resourc-
es, mentoring, networking, funding assistance, etc.).
o Incorporate best practices for being a good agency for entrepreneurs.
EVALUATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
o Establish system for ongoing evaluation of entrepreneurial progress, mission alignment, and organisation’s
learning cycle and begin as soon as incubator is launched.
o Create feedback loop between entrepreneur and end-users on innovation to improve the operation.
o Provide summative assessment of the implementation at the conclusion of the pilot.
o Be mindful that the innovation is scalable and ensure it can be self-sustaining before ending the contract
32 January 2016
Organisations must determine the qualifications of the entrepreneur prior to beginning the application pro-
cess. The qualifications will be highly dependent on the approach and model chosen by the organisation.
The following is an example of recommended qualifications for an entrepreneur using the HEI model:
EXAMPLE CONCEPT NOTE
When drating a concept note, it is crucial to remember that the local context is at the core of innovation.
The model of incubation is country and context dependent, so modifications to all aspects of the concept
note will be necessary to reflect these specialisations. Organisations may adopt varying diferences in
models and these diferences should be reflected in objectives, scope, tasks, and costs. The concept note
should be no more than two pages in length.
Humanitarian response in [country] as it stands currently is facing more pressure and potentially debili-
tating challenges with the increase of [natural disasters or escalating conflicts] leading to a growing gap
in funding available. Innovation in humanitarian response is becoming more widely practiced amongst
prominent humanitarian organisations worldwide including UN agencies, NGOs, and other humanitarian
organisations. Partnerships have been formed with the private sector, donors, universities, and others to
further move forward the innovation agenda. Innovation incubators and hubs are increasing in popularity
worldwide and humanitarian entrepreneurship is increasingly recognised as a valuable and efective means
of solving pressing problems. Humanitarian entrepreneurship brings the consumers to the forefront by
developing innovations ‘with’ and ‘by’ users rather than delivering ‘to’ and ‘for’ them. Addressing the needs
of all people afected by an emergency requires a comprehensive process that places importance of coordi-
nated eforts by all parties that can assist.
The proposed model of the HEI is a partnership between [organisation] and humanitarian entrepreneurs
where [organisation] will host entrepreneurs within its ofice and provide resources and insight to them as
they develop an innovative product or service related to humanitarian response. [Organisation]willwork
1. To create organisational change toward a culture of innovative practice.
2. To enable communities to lead their own changes for optimal impact.
3. To foster collaboration between [organisation] and local community innovators and entrepreneurs.
4. To increase the efectiveness of relief operations while minimising added costs to [organisation].
SCOPE OF THE PROJECT
• Develop a policy framework and code of ethics for humanitarian entrepreneurs within [organisation] to
enhance humanitarian response eforts.
• Set up a formal framework for incubation including all resources that [organisation] will allocate.
• Develop an operational mechanism (including necessary operational infrastructure) to foster collabo-
ration between [organisation] staf and entrepreneur.
• Engage local community innovators and entrepreneurs to increase public awareness of the HEI.
• Establish a feedback loop between [organisation], entrepreneur, and local community to gauge efec-
tiveness of incubator and innovations and to make continuous improvements.
OUTLINE OF NEAR-TERM TASKS
• Finalise the concept paper and obtain the concurrence of main stakeholders such as [stakeholders].
• Select appropriate model and approach for the incubator space and evaluate resources needed incu-
bate entrepreneurs (location, size, staf time and expertise, resources, etc.).
34 January 2016
• Set up a governance framework for the management and sustainment of HEI in [country]. This frame-
work will include a set of policies and ethical guidelines to govern the work process and communica-
tion between [organisation] headquarters and [country ofice].
• Establish entrepreneur qualifications and application process.
• Identify local potential partners, innovators, and innovations in [country] to pilot the concept and
Upon acceptance by critical partners of the concept note, a detailed workplan and budget will be devel-
oped. It is expected that initial technical, financial, and human resources support to the establishment of
the [country] HEI will be provided by [organisation] headquarters and [country ofice].
Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to look broadly for funding. Funding options include grants, loans,
crowdfunding, corporate philanthropy, investors, or donors.
UN-OCHA has launched the Innovation Exchange, designed to be a platform for sharing innovative ideas
knowledge, and resources related to innovation across OCHA’s network. One resource that will be included
is an updated list of funding opportunities available to support humanitarian innovation. In addition, the
Exchange will assist with funding proposals and applications. USAID has launched a similar network called
the Global Innovation Exchange to provide these resources.
The following is a list of potential grant funding opportunities for entrepreneurs:
ELRHA and ALNAP; host-
ed by Save the Children
for each area
from £20,000 -
Varies across the diferent
grants available for each
challenge area; all awarded
through the HIF Grants Panel
OCHA Policy Devel-
opment and Studies
Up to $4,000
Encourage and support
original research and writing
on issues and trends relating
to humanitarian needs.
Given yearly with a specified
Provides a mix of loans and
grants to small-medium
enterprises in developing
countries, focuses particularly
on agriculture and women
Oxfam staf identify opportu-
nities on ongoing basis,
investment committee anal-
yses applicants, and board
makes final approval
UK Department for Inter-
£30,000 to £10m
Open to ideas from any sector
and any country provided that
the innovation targets those
living on or under $5, or prefer-
ably, under $2 a day.
Ofers grants, loans (includ-
ing convertible debt), and
equity investments; applica-
tions on an ongoing basis
UK Department for Inter-
Up to £100,000;
and more than
Uses online collaboration to
source ideas, research and in-
sights before testing promising
concepts with end users.
10 challenges over 5 years
with 3-5 challenges funded
Four stages with
Supports the most promising
solutions that demonstrate
cost-eficiency and the poten-
tial to scale up for develop-
ment issues worldwide.
Applicants can apply at
any stage, and those who
have received funding at a
prior stage must compete to
advance to the next stage
For small businesses that
promote broad economic
prosperity or address develop-
ment challenges in the areas
of food security, health, and
Open call for innovation con-
cept papers under the GDA
Annual Program Statement
for each chal-
Focus on defining problems,
identifying constraints, and
providing evidence based
analysis using self-perpetuat-
ing systems rather than one-
of inventions or interventions.
Varies across the diferent
grants available for each
36 January 2016
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